Celebration of life is an ongoing affair in Himachal Pradesh, the ‘Land of Gods’. Numerous fairs and festivals celebrated here reflect the rich cultural and traditional inheritance of the people, which they have been maintaining since epochs. Kullu Dussehra is one of such famous festivals, which has maintained its unique identity over the years not only in the state but also in the country and is celebrated in an entirely different and traditional manner.
This festival is different from rest of the country because Dussehra celebrations commence in Kullu when they conclude in other parts of the country. Another unique feature of Kullu Dussehra is the absence of burning the effigies of the evil demon-king, Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarna and son, Meghnath. The valley is aptly known as the "Valley of Gods" and Dussehra is an occasion when about 200 gods and goddesses of the valley converge at the venue of celebration and the divine ambience gives a feel of heaven on the earth itself. This sight is unparalleled and found nowhere in the country or abroad.
Dussehra at Kullu commences on the tenth day of the rising moon, i.e. on ‘Vijay Dashmi’ day itself and continues for seven days. The history of Kullu Dussehra dates back to the 17th century when the local King Jagat Singh installed an idol of Raghunath Ji on his throne as a mark of penance. After this Raghunath Ji came to be known as the ruling deity of the Valley. More traditionally, over two hundred deities converge on Kullu for unusual Dussehra Celebrations and pay homage to Lord Raghunath ji while music and colour fill the "Silver Valley".
On the first day, the idol of Lord Raghunath ji saddled on a gaily-attired chariot and attended by village gods mounted in colourful palanquins is pulled from its fixed place in Dhalpur Ground to another spot by big ropes. The local people regard the pulling of ropes sacred. This forms a huge procession. On the following days in the mornings and evenings, gods are invoked and paraded. On the sixth day, Mohalla, the assembly of gods takes place. The multihued palanquins of gods around the camp of Raghunath ji present an impressive and rare sight. On the concluding day, the chariot of Raghunath ji is taken to the banks of Beas where a pile of wood grass is set on fire, which symbolizes the burning of Lanka. Raghunath ji is taken back to his temple and Dussehra festivities come to an end with all grandeur in a dignified manner.
People remain busy in singing, dancing, selling and buying during the seven days. Traders from various parts of the valley set up stalls of woolen clothes, shawls, caps, blankets and other items are also displayed. Government departments and private organizations also set up temporary stalls based on their line of work and development activities.
Himachal Pradesh government has accorded the status of International festival to the Kullu Dussehra, which attracts tourists in large numbers from home and abroad. The festival is also celebrated as an International Cultural Festival and best cultural troupes from various states and countries enthrall the audience in the evenings at Kala Kendra, an open-air theatre situated near Dhalpur ground. Cultural Troupes from Tamil Nadu, Goa, Karnataka, Gujrat, Maharashtra, Rajsthan and Sikkim states would perform in the mega event this year besides local troupes from entire State. Famous playback singers Mahalaxmi Aiyer, Kumar Shanu and Shaan, Punjabi Singer Mikka, Qawwali Singers Arshdeep Kaur and Ehsaan Bharti, famous artist Lalit Pandit and popular budding artists Toshi, Himani Kapoor, Sonali, Chetan Rana would entertain the audience during the cultural nites during the festival
Another main attraction of the festival would be the presentation of Ramayana in the form of Opera for the first time this year. The endeavour is aimed at preserving this great Indian legacy, traditional folk songs, instrumental music besides adding glamour and vibration to the event.
The state government has made special arrangements to maintain law and order during the week long event and an officer of the rank of Inspector General has been deputed besides eleven senior police officers and 1250 police personnel for ensuring peace and holding the event successfully. District administration has made elaborate arrangements to facilitate tourists and the devotees etc. accompanying the gods and goddesses.