Deities under ‘house arrest’ for Kullu Dussehra finale

October 13th, 2008 - 11:01 am ICT by IANS  

Kullu (Himachal Pradesh), Oct 13 (IANS) Two important local deities of Himachal Pradesh have been placed under ‘house arrest’ to prevent their followers from participating in the finale of the centuries-old Kullu Dussehra festival because every year the two sides clash with each other.The district administration has imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code and asked the followers of Shringa Rishi and Balu Nag not to bring the deities for the concluding ceremony of the week-long Dussehra festival Wednesday.

“For the past many decades the followers of Shringa Rishi and Balu Nag have been clashing over the superiority of their deities. Fearing the same this time also, we have imposed restrictions regarding the participation of the deities during the Lankadahan ceremony,” Kullu Superintendent of Police Jagat Ram told IANS.

The unique, colourful Kullu Dussehra festival begins when Dussehera festivities end in the rest of the country. This year, the festival began Thursday.

The origin of the weeklong festival dates back to 1637 when Raja Jagat Singh was the ruler of the valley. He had invited all local deities to perform a ritual in Lord Raghunath’s honour.

Since then, the annual assembly of the deities has become a custom. However, over the years, rivalry among followers of various deities has led to violence.

“The rivalry between the followers of Shringa Rishi and Balu Nag has its roots in a three-decade old dispute,” Prem Sharma, director of Himachal’s Department of Language, Art and Culture, said.

“As per tradition, the idol of the superior deity is carried on the right side of the chariot of Lord Raghunath during the concluding ceremony. For many decades, Shringa Rishi used to occupy that place.

“After 1971, Shringa Rishi boycotted the ceremony over some dispute for 11 years. During that period, Balu Nag, who is considered the incarnation of Lord Rama’s brother Lakshmana, took that spot. Later, when the conflict among their followers grew stronger, both stopped participating in the festival,” Sharma said.

“Now when they have again started participating after a gap of 18 years, tempers rise among the followers during the ceremonies. In an attempt to prevent violence, the administration has restricted their movements,” he added.

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