Legend has it, that many centuries ago, the king of Kullu had solicited the divine presence of Lord Raghunath from the priests of Ayodhya in order to reverse a fatal curse that had been bestowed upon him. He was granted his wish in the form of a smaller idol of Raghunath with the condition of placing him upon the throne of Kullu, whom the Raja and his progeny would indefinitely serve as the Lord’s humble servants. Grateful and relieved, the Raja readily accepted these terms and opened his gates to Lord Raghunath, who was situated in a consecrated space in his palace compound and thus began the exemplary ritualistic observances of Dussehra at the Kullu palace hosted on behalf of Lord Raghunath by the Raja of Kullu himself.
Every year, the Himalayan Devbhumi heralds Dussehra with one of the festival’s rarest celebrations in the country. Presided by the erstwhile reigning family of Kullu, the Dussehra festivities in Devbhumi commence with all three hundred deities of the valley congregating at the Kullu Palace.
On the day of Dussehra, every deity is joyfully decorated, placed on holy palanquins and carried to the palace by the temple priests and devotees by foot. The various festive entourages are accompanied by reverent drums and local trumpets known as narsinghas. Upon their arrival, each entourage is welcomed by the ceremonial King, after which it proceeds to ordain the blessings of Lord Raghunath at the family’s Raghunath temple that is situated adjacent to the palace.
This day-long procession comprises of around three hundred divine entourages being carried into the Kullu Palace as well as the Raghunath temple. At the end of the day, all the deities are taken to the town’s Dhalpur grounds, wherein they set up a ten day-long camp and mela to celebrate the victory of good over evil. Furthermore, Devbhumi’s Dussehra is rare in two particular regards : –
One, it is the only Dussehra celebration that does not revolve around burning Ravan’s effigies, but rather, around a grand Rath Yatra led by the valley’s two presiding deities i.e., Kullu’s Lord Raghunath and Manali’s Goddess Hadimba. Two, it marks one of the rare instances wherein the two grand epics i.e., the Ramayana and the Mahabharata converge in a fascinating synchronicity.