The centuries-old Kullu Dussehra, one of the biggest traditional, religious and cultural festivals of the country, began today in the Kullu Valley of Himachal Pradesh with the arrival of over 250 deities.
The six-day-long celebrations began on "Vijaya Dashami", the day when the Dussehra festivities end in the rest of the country.
A total of 292 deities from the Kullu Valley were invited to participate in Lord Raghunath's "rath yatra" which marks the beginning of the Kullu's unique festivity, Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kanwar, who is the chief organiser of the festival, told IANS.
He said governor Urmila Singh inaugurated the festival by participating in the "rath yatra" of Lord Raghunath, the chief deity, that saw the presence of thousands of locals and tourists.
When the chariot of Lord Raghunath was wheeled out of the temple amid beating of drums and playing of trumpets, other assembled deities accompanied the chief deity.
The deities from many villages will remain gathered here during the festival and will pay obeisance to Lord Raghunath - as Lord Ram is known in the Kullu Valley.
The origin of the Kullu Dussehra dates back to 1637 when Raja Jagat Singh was the erstwhile ruler of the valley. He invited all local deities to perform a ritual in Lord Raghunath's honour. Since then the assembly of the deities has become a custom.
It is the only festival in the country where such a large number of deities are assembled at one place.
The administration has been inviting the deities ever since the rule of princely states came to an end.
Unlike in other places, effigies of Ravan, Meghnad and Kumbhakarna are not burnt here to mark the Dussehra.
The festival, instead, will conclude with the Lankadahan (the burning of the Lanka) ceremony on the banks of the Beas river Oct 20. All the assembled deities will participate in the ceremony before being carried back to their own temples.
The picturesque Kullu Valley is known for its local demigods and ancient shamanistic traditions that govern the lives of the ethnic communities.
Every village has several "resident" gods and goddesses - who are invoked as living deities.
The conduit between the mortals and the deities are the "gur" - the traditional shamans of Himachal, who form the core of the communities' spiritual sustenance. The "gur" mediates between the people and the gods.