KulluDusshera is a seven day long extravaganza celebrated in Dhalpurmaidan in Kullu. KulluDusshera is different from the Dusshera festival celebrated all over the country as it starts on the day of ‘Vijaydashmi’- a day on which the festival concludes elsewhere. Apart from this, the KulluDusshera doesn’t involve burning of effigies of Ravana and others. In fact a pile of dried bushes and wood is burnt as a symbol of Lanka’s burning.
The history of this festival dates back to 1636 when the then king Jagat Singh installed Raghunathji on the king’s throne. The story that goes behind this gesture is that the king was cursed by a peasant that whenever he would eat rice, they will appear as worms while his water will appear as blood. A Brahmin suggested the king that if he would protect lord Raghunath’s idol from Ram’s kingdom, he would be able to escape his fate. So the desperate king sent out a Brahmin to Ayodhaya. On getting a perfect opportunity, the Brahmin stole the idol and left for Kullu. The angry locals traced the Brahmin near the banks of river Saryu. The Brahmin accepted the charges and narrated the whole story of the distressed king.
It was difficult for Ayodhaya people to part with their beloved Raghunathji, so they tried to lift the idol but were unable to do so while the Brahmin was able to lift the idol with ease. So Ayodhaya people let the Brahmin go with the idol which was then installed in Kullu. Raghunathji was declared as the Supreme God of Kullu kingdom. As soon as the king drank the charnamrit of Raghunathji, he became free of the curse. The KulluDusshera is celebrated as a mark to this day.
The festival starts with an elaborate procession in which the idol of Raghunathji is taken in a ratha. One the first day of the festival, the Godess of Manali- Hadimba comes to Kullu. The goddess is taken to the palace where she blesses the royal family in a grand manner. Then Raghunathji and Hadimba are placed in a beautifully decorated chariot. After getting a signal from Mata Bhekhli, the rath is pulled with the help of ropes to a spot where it is going to stay for the remaining six days of the festival. Hundreds of Gods and Goddesses take part in the procession making the entire procession a spiritual experience for everyone. This goes on for five days. On the sixth day, all the palanquins of Gods are assembled at the place around the rath of lord Raghunathji. The rath is then pulled to the bank of Beas river, where a huge pile of dried bushes and wood is burnt. This ritual signifies the end of this grand festival. The idol of Raghunathji is taken back to the place where it was originally installed.
The festival has been accredited with the status of international festival and thus attracts a large number of locals as well as foreign tourists. The festival presents a great opportunity for local as well as other artisans to showcase their goods and create business opportunities.