Dussehra (which was last Sunday, October 15) marks the end of the Navaratri festival, a nine-day celebration honoring the various aspects of the Divine Mother. Also known as Vijayadashami or Victory Day, Dussehra is celebrated with great enthusiasm all over India, though it’s celebrated differently in different parts of the country, according to the local traditions. The festival in Kullu is certainly one of the most extraordinary and colorful celebrations.
In North India, Ramlila is the highlight of Dusshera, while in South India, it’s the triumph of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura that is celebrated.
Dusssehra goes on for a whole week in the hill town of Kullu, in Himachal Pradesh. Dieties from around 200 temples in the region are brought on colorful panaquins to the maidan in Kullu, to pay respect to the reigning deity of Kullu, RaghunathJi (Lord Rama). The procession is fabulous, but I recommend finding a vantage point above the crowd for this one. The palanquins are rocked wildly back and forth as the contingents from each temple greet each other, or rather, as they have the dieties greet each other. I narrowly escaped getting whacked in the face with one of the panaquins when it unexpectedly came through the crowd instead of the designated route. Luckily, I managed to grab the arm of a friendly police officer who was standing in front of me, who kindly pulled me to safety. This is not something I would recommend in general. He could have just as easily clobbered me with his stick, and many probably would have.
This is the chariot that’s taking RaghunathJi to a special tent that has been set up as his temporary abode for the week.
Raghunath’s tent was far more opulent than that of any of the visiting deities, and he had a steady stream of visitors as well.
Each of the dieties is brought by a group of men who set up camp around the maidan for the whole week. These men were engaging in a little impromptu dance.
I was happy to have been able to experience this festival, but if I go again, I think I’ll find myself a rooftop to watch it from. The crowds were way too intense.