This year residents of the district will miss the "presiding deity" of the area, Raghunath, when they celebrate Basant Panchami, the Hindu festival that highlights the coming of spring. With the police unable to trace the stolen Raghunath idol, the erstwhile ruler of Kullu Maheshwar Singh will now take a final call on whether to celebrate the festival or call it off.
Basant Panchami is marked with traditional fervor with idols of deities from the region being paraded on the Dhalpur ground, where thousands of people gather. The festival is celebrated in a unique manner in Kullu with the locals throwing dry colours as idols of Raghunath are brought on chariots.
This year the festival was supposed to start on January 24. During the celebrations, which are similar to those on Holi (another Hindu festival) celebrated in Vrindavan. Maheshwar, the scion of the erstwhile rulers of Kullu, is seated on a palanquin and takes part in the carnival of colours together with the locals.
Earlier the festival was celebrated at the Ragunath temple in Sultanpur, but three years ago the venue was moved to the Kullu's Dhalpur ground, the venue of the popular Kullu Dussehra. However, this time the theft of the Raghunath idols and other antiques from a temple located within the royal palace has cast a shadow on the festivities.
Basant Panchami has been celebrated every year by residents since the time when the former ruler of Kullu, Jagat Singh brought an idol of Raghunath from Ayodhya.
"We're really worried about the theft of the Raghunath idols. A decision on this year's Basant Panchami celebrations will be taken shortly," Maheshwar said.
Pradeep Kumar, a local, said it was a tough time for residents of Kullu district who celebrate the event with fervor every year. "This time we're feeling sad as we won't get to see Raghunath idols."
Most residents share his views and have become anxious about the celebrations. They are also cursing the police for its failure to crack the idol theft case.