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Valley of Gods
in Himachal Pradesh is called the Valley of Gods. The name comes from the
rich culture of ritualistic worship and the exhaustive list of gods
worshipped. Each village has a local god and festivities attached to him or
her. A photo exhibition on the Kullu valley was jointly sponsored by the All
India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, the Embassy of the Republic of Poland
and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in November 2003. The
exhibition was part of the golden jubilee celebrations of the diplomatic
relations between India and Poland. Virendra Bangroo from IGNCA and
Krzysztof Stronski, a Polish scholar teaching in University of Delhi, had
taken the photographs. The exhibition was inaugurated by H.E. Ambassador of
the Republic of Poland to India Dr. Krzysztof Majka, at the AIFACS gallery
in New Delhi.
is worthwhile mentioning that the first Indian art exhibition in Poland was
organized by AIFACS in 1954 with the delegation of five Indian eminent
artists: late Shri Barada Ukil, late Shri K.K. Hebbar, late Shri N.C.
Bhattacharya, late Shri Kamal Sen and late Shri Harkrishan Lal.
photographs were arranged in three segments — 1. the landscapes and the
scenic beauty; 2. temples and shrines and 3. the colourful festivals. An
aesthetic ambience was created with hanging pine cones. The central
attraction of the gallery was the replica of a palanquin studded with golden
umbrellas, jewellery and the masks decorated with flowers.
number of gods worshipped in Kullu are around 300. Each village has a god,
in some villages there may be two or more. The forms of worship are
different and unique. Here the gods act as moving beings rather than being
statues fixed within the temple. Each god has his own temple but they are
generally devoid of any idol.
are represented by ratahas
(palanquins), studded with metallic mohras
(faces), adorned with variegated cloth lengths and flowers, and lifted on
the shoulders by two men. Women have hardly any role to play in the affairs
of the gods. The rathas are
accompanied by band of deity’s musicians, attendants, followers and
carriers of symbols of royal or divine artefacts etc. The rathas
often move in a leisurely manner, meeting with friends, etc. besides
actually speaking through the medium of gurr
(priest) and answering various queries of the devotees.
gods of Kullu can be classified into three. The first are the ancient rikhis and pious women of epic character. The second type belong to
the Naga (serpent) class and the third tribal chiefs and heroes.
Karadu, Tharah Narayan
is a famous saying in Kullu about the gods: tharah
karadu, tharah narayan. Narayan, of course, stands for Vishnu who is
worshipped as a god in many villages. Tharah literally means eighteen, but
scholars have interpreted it in several ways: as multitude or an auspicious
number, etc. The term karadu
similarly has been given several meanings but its origin can be easily
traced in the Sanskrit word karanda
is a great centre of naga worship.
An entire class of the gods belong to this category. The nagas
worshipped in Kullu are the offspring of baski
or basu as the ancient serpent
king is commonly called by people. The total number of nagas worshipped in Kullu is estimated to be over 70.
Ram is an epic character. He is believed to have visited Kullu much before
the founding of the kingdom. He settled five villages here, one of which is
Nirmand, on the right bank of Satluj, where he is revered even today as a
god. He must have reigned supreme before the advent of Raghunathji.
Interesting ancient traditions and customs like Bhunda festival, celebrated
every twelve years with which the legend of human sacrifice or animal
sacrifice is also connected, survives at Nirmand.
is one of the mightiest deities of Kullu. His abode is Malana, a remote and
secluded village. This aloofness enables him to maintain independence for
himself and his subjects. There are several other abodes of Jamlu, either
representing himself or some other minor god of the same name, in the
district. Jamlu is said to be a brother of Gepang, the god of Lahaul.
is independent in that he neither pays tribute to the Raghunathji temple in
Sultanpur, nor attends that temple, nor pays his respects on the Dussehra,
as most of the other Kullu deities are compelled to do. Jamlu does not have
his own ratha but his relics in
the form of musical instruments are worshiped and displayed on festive
is the chief deity who presides over Dussehra festival and other gods come
in Dussehra and pay homage to him.
is said that once all the gods of Kullu, numbering around 360, attended the mela but the number kept on dwindling with the passage of time. In
the last decade the number was reported to be around 120 – 130.
statue of Raghunathji was brought from Ayodhya during the reign of Jagat
Singh in the middle of 17th
century. At the same time Vaishnavism was also introduced in the state.
proceedings of Kullu Dussehra start only in the presence of the goddess
Hadimba. The Hadimba Devi reaches Kullu all the way from Manali on the first
day of Dussehra. The moment she reaches Kullu, the palanquin of Raghunathji
is brought out to the festival square and put in the ratha.
She is very much revered in Kullu and also called the grandmother of king of
other deities also come to pay homage to Raghunathji in his temple in Kullu.
Around four o’clock in the afternoon all the deities being carried on the
palanquins gather on the main festival square. Some of them enter the square
rocking frenziedly and the devotees holding them rejoice, singing and
dancing often going into a trance. The ratha
with Ragunathji is pushed forward by fervent crowds towards another square.
All the deities follow their master. This is how the festival begins.
Copyright IGNCA© 2003