Dushhera is a widely celebrated festival in India. Held a few days before Deewali, Dushhera is recognised to remind ourselves that good always triumphs bad. This is the day when Lord Ram had killed Ravana in the battle. Stories from Ramayana are depicted in diverse ways across different states. While most of the country celebrate Dushhera by burning the effigy of Ravana, some pray Lord Ravana for his immense knowledge; valley of Kullu celebrates Dushhera in an entirely different manner and is famous worldwide for its unique approach to the festival.
For those who don’t know, Kullu is a valley of Gods. Situated in the heart of Himachal Paresh, Kullu is said to be home to 300+ Gods and Goddesses and all of these deities are said to devote themselves to the highest of Gods – Lord Raghunath (Ram). Raghunath temple has an ancient golden idol of Lord Ram which was brought to Kullu by then King Jagat Singh in 1660. The story goes that the king was cursed and in order to break that curse, he had sent a Brahmin to steal the golden idol from Ayodhya and when people from Ayodhya chased the Brahmin, they couldn’t lift the idol and bring back to Ayodhya. On the contrary, it became lighter on its way to Kullu. Hence, idol was installed in the temple and since then, during the ten days of this festival, Gods and Goddesses come in palkis to seek blessings from Lord Raghunath and on the tenth day, the idol is taken from the temple and kept in the famous Dushhera Maidan. These palkis are not regular carriers but made of wood and iron, they are beautifully decorated with cloth, flowers and jewellery and each palki looks different from the other. People sing and dance all the way and make this encounter more entertaining.
Dushhera Maidan is a huge ground and hosts a massive celebration of Dushhera. Organised more like a fate, from shops to rides, this seven day celebration has it all. More than 10,000 police men are deployed to take control of the crowd and despite more than 4 lacs visitors a day, there is no rush, stampede or mismanagement at the place. Out of all the major events I have seen, Kullu’s Dushhera by far is the largest and most peaceful festival to witness.
On Dushhera’s morning, you can either visit the temple and come to the ground with the rally which usually takes 3-4 hours else you can visit the temple, come to the ground, enjoy the food and again the visit the Lord Raghunath once he is settled in his little kiosk in middle of the Dushhera ground. Men and women welcome the Lord with prayers which are usually sung in Hindi or Pahadi and perform daily rituals till the day he is taken back to the temple.
Unlike other parts of the country, people of Kullu don’t burn effigy of Ravana. Their purpose is not to show the concept of good triumphs evil but to praise and admire the wisdom of Lord Ram which he had carried in his lifetime and inculcate a culture which celebrates peace over hatred.
My advice: Reach at least a day before. Figure out your accommodation in Bhuntar or somwhere near Kullu Bus stand, visit the temple a day before Dushhera to understand the schedule. You can choose to stay away from Kullu in case you don’t find relevant accommodation but make sure you can easily access local bus services from your area.