Following the Himachal Pradesh high court order, the age-old practice of sacrificing animals on the conclusion of Kullu Dussehra, a centuries-old festival, came to an end, as coconuts substituted animals (a buffalo, a male sheep, a fish, a crab and a chicken ), which are offered to appease gods and goddesses, at the culmination of the week-long- festivities here on Thursday.
Amid tensions, which had gripped the Kullu town since morning, devotees and kardars (representatives) of deities prepared for “Lanka Dehan” (burning of Lanka). Stuck between the high court ban on animal sacrifice and the age-old rituals, erstwhile ruler of Kullu, Maheshwar Singh, and head of Devi Devta Kardar Sangh, Dhot Ram Thakur, along with others persuaded Goddess Hadimba not to accept animal sacrifice that resulted in an end to the age-old tradition.
Tension writ large on the crowd which gathered at famous Dhalpur ground, as the Devi Devta Kardar Sangh had not made their stand clear till noon. Kardar Sangh's uncertainty had compelled the district administration to escalate the security in and around "Lanka Baker” -- the venue where final rituals are performed, while cops guarded the Dhalpur ground.
As many as 228 deities had congregated to participate in the international Kullu Dussehera, which kicked off on October 3. Members of the Kullu royals, including Maheshwar Singh and his younger brother Karan Singh were also present at the “Lanka Baker” when Goddess Hadimba was offered coconut instead of animals.
Even as the rituals passed off peacefully, the Kardar Sangh and Maheshwar Singh announced to continue with the legal battle over the ban on animal sacrifice at the places of worship. On Wednesday, Supreme Court had upheld the high court ban on animal sacrifice. It also issued notice to the state government, seeking their view point.
“Let this year’s Dussehra pass off like this. We will see next year” said Maheshwar Singh, chief caretaker of Lord Raghunath, principal deity of region. He added, “Dev Samaj will continue its fight to protect centuries-old traditions to save our culture and traditions. For now, we will abide by the HC order.”
“This time, rituals were performed in accordance with permission from the deities, but Dev Samaj will fight for its rights in coming days,” he said.
The district administration, which had made elaborate arrangements to prevent the animal sacrifice, too, heaved a sigh of relief. “We convinced the Kardar Sangh (representative of the deities) not to indulge in slaughter of animals and they assured us in this regard,” Kullu deputy commissioner Rakesh Kanwar said.
The festivities at Dhalpur ground started in 1661 during the regime of Raja Jagat Singh. Since then, hundreds of deities from different parts of Kullu region assemble here for celebrations. After “Lanka Dehan”, the deities begin their journey for their native temples located in different villages. Dussehra culminates by pulling up of the chariot carrying Lord Raghunath to his seat inside the temple located close to the Dhalpur ground.