Kullu, January 24
A large number of people attended the traditional Rath Yatra on the auspicious occasion of Basant Panchami at the Dhalpur ground here today.
The stolen idols of Lord Raghunath, along with four others, including those of Ganesha and Hanuman, were recovered last night.
Cleansing and reinstalling rituals were performed on the temple premises at Sultanpur in the morning and later the idols were brought in a beautifully decorated palanquin from the Raghunath temple and placed in a wooden chariot at Dhalpur.
The rath was pulled by thousands of devotees from the northern end of the Dhalpur Maidan to the camp temple in the middle of the maidan, as was done during the world famous Kullu Dusehra festival.
The tradition is believed to have survived since the mid-17th century. However, it was revived of late in 2009 after a span of 48 years.
While earlier the celebrations witnessed the congregation of a few residents only, this year huge crowds turned up for the occasion after the news of the recovery of idols spread like wildfire.
A local resident here said such enthusiasm was generally witnessed during Dusehra and thousands of people had gathered to catch a glimpse of the priceless idols.
Local MLA and Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP) president Maheshwar Singh, the scion of the erstwhile royal family, who is also the “chharibardar” (chief caretaker) of Lord Raghunath had earlier clarified that the celebrations would have been carried out with the idol of Goddess Sita and other Yantras, even if the stolen idols had not been traced.
He also expressed satisfaction with the efforts of the police in tracing out the idols and had hoped for the recovery, negating the urgency to build a replica for Basant Panchami celebrations.
A large number of people attired in traditional colourful dresses participated in the function. A man dressed as Lord Hanuman ran around brushing people with his sindoor (vermilion)-laden body.
According to local people, the touch of Hanuman is considered auspicious. Some youngsters even chased him to have a touch for good fortune.
The recovery of the idols had removed the uncertainty that loomed over various religious functions and festivals after the idol of Lord Raghunath was stolen, since the religious ethos of the valley revolves around the chief deity. There was an atmosphere of gaiety and fervour throughout the day.
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