In the wake of the Himachal Pradesh high court's ban on animal sacrifice at religious places, the people of Lahaul and Spiti put an end to the age-old tradition of sacrifice and substituted it with coconut offerings to mark the beginning of 'Kesamdhor', once-in-three-years yatra of Raja Gepan- the presiding deity of the Lahaul valley.
After over a week of uncertainty, Raja Gepan accepted the coconut offerings following persuasion by 'Harook' (servitor) and 'devta'.
Raja Gepan, who came out of his temple in Sissu village after three years on October 17, began his yatra after 'Dev Milan' (divine get-together with other deities) at Gonchaling near Gondla village in valley.
Earlier, the devta committee had decided to give up the yatra, following night-long oracle session with 'Gur' of the lord on October 11, where 'devta' disapproved of a break from the tradition of sacrificing a lamb.
On beginning of the 'Dev Milan' on October 17, 'Harook' and 'devta' committee of Raja Gepan have pleaded their inability to carry out the sacrifice of lamb to greet the lord at the portals of the temple, citing the High Court ban on animal sacrifice to the will of the lord. “The devta has finally accepted our request and agreed to the coconut offering instead of sacrifice lamb,” the devotees said.
However, uncertainty still shrouds the sacred two-month-long yatra.
“Raja Gopan's go ahead has made sure the continuation of yatra for the time being. However, devotees will have to persuade Goddess Boti to not insist on animal sacrifice when the yatra halts at Jahalma to pay obeisance to Devi Hidimba,” said Dr Baldev Singh Negi, project officer at Indian Institute of Himalayan Studies (IIHS), Himachal Pradesh University. who has been documenting the yatra.
The next decision will be taken when the yatra reaches at Jahalma after 7-8 days, said Negi quoting the 'Harook' of the Devta as having said that the devotees will persuade Devi Boti to accept coconut offerings.
According to the tradition, animal sacrifice is mandatory when Devi Boti pays obeisance to the Devi Hidimba at Jahalm and when the yatra reaches temple of Devi Mrikula at Udaipur. Earlier devotees use to appease Raja Gepan by sacrificing animals at every village where the yatra halts.
The high court had banned the animal and bird sacrifice at public places and places of worship in the state in an order passed on September 1. The Kardar Sangh of Kullu and chief representative of Lord Raghunath, Maheshwar Singh, have moved the Supreme Court against the high court ban on animal sacrifice.