The week-long Kullu Dussehra festivities ended on Monday, with over 200 assembled deities starting their journey back to their temples in beautifully decorated palanquins amid much trumpeting and drum beats.
Kullu Dussehra, unique to this Himachal Pradesh town, is a centuries-old festival and celebrations begin on 'Vijaya Dashami', the day when the festivities end in the rest of the country.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh presided over the closing ceremony and announced an increase of five percent 'nazrana' or honorarium for the caretakers of the assembled deities for participating in the festival.
"The life of people of the state revolves around its local deities and they are part of every household. We need to preserve the customs and culture, as our identity exists because of our traditions and culture," the Chief Minister said.
"All the assembled deities have started moving back to their respective areas after performing the 'Lanka Dahan' ceremony. Overall, the response of the public was good and the festival ended peacefully," an official told IANS.
The Lanka Dahan ceremony is performed in the evening on the banks of the Beas river.
The Dussehra festivities came to an end with Lord Raghunath, the chief deity of the Kullu Valley, returning to the 17th century temple here on the chariot pulled by thousands of devotees.
The festival dates back to 1637 when Raja Jagat Singh was the ruler of Kullu. He invited all local deities in Kullu from various temples to perform a ritual in the honour of Lord Raghunath during Dussehra.
Since then, the annual assembly of deities from hundreds of village temples has become a tradition.
The administration has been inviting the deities ever since the rule of princely states came to an end and has been doling out a honorarium to the 'Kardars' -- attendants to the deity concerned -- for participating in the festival.
Unlike other places, effigies of Ravan, Meghnad and Kumbhakaran are not burnt here.
Every year, the festival attracts scores of tourists, especially foreigners, and researchers to know more about resident 'gods' and 'goddesses' of the Kullu Valley.
In the picturesque Valley, 534 gods 'live' with people, says a 583-page book compiled by the Kullu administration after a year-long research and field work in 2014.
According to "A Reference Book on Kullu Devtas", the gods 'live' with the people. They 'speak' to their followers and tell them what to do. They have families and relatives, who join the the villagrs in celebrations.
The book says the affairs of the Kullu gods are managed by the 'Devtaa Committees' that comprise a 'Kardar' or manager of the temple, a 'Gur' or oracle, musicians and a priest.
The gods accept invites of their followers and move to various locations at their wish, says the book. Sometimes they decide to undertake a pilgrimage. Some do so after one or two years, others do so after 30-40 years and some embark on special pilgrimage after hundreds of years.
The 'Devta' summons the 'Gur' and speaks through him. The oracle goes into a trance and connects with the deity. The deity's wish spreads and its followers are ready to obey the sacred command. One member of each family has to join the deity's procession.
The book says the long and tough journeys are to be performed on foot. It takes days, even months. Strict rules and rituals have to be followed. The deity sets the time and pace of the journey. No one can lift the 'rath' or palanquin of the deity if he/she is not willing.
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