Kullu: The week-long Dusshera festival got off to a spectacular start here with the traditional rath yatra of principal deity Lord Raghunathji from Sultanpur Temple to Dhalpur Maidan, even as Dusshera and Navratras festivities concluded in rest of the state.
Over 200 local deities of Kullu Valley arrived here to pay obeisance to Lord Raghunathji.
"More than 200 deities have arrived and more are expected in the next few days," said Kullu Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kanwar, who is also the chairman of the Organising Committee of the festival.
Himachal Governor Urmilla Singh was the chief guest at the inauguration function and attended the colourful cultural programme.
Devotees were seen participating in the event with enthusiasm and fervour, vying with each other to pull the ropes of the rath (chariot), which is considered auspicious.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has urged the 'kardars' (caretakers of the deities) to maintain the dignity of the deities and cautioned them against carrying the deities on roads to collect money from people.
Kullu Dussehra is different from Dussehra in other parts of the country as effigies of Ravana, Kumbhkaran and Meghnath are not burnt here, and instead 'Lanka Dahan' is done on the penultimate day of the festival while five animals and birds are sacrificed on the bank of the Beas, as part of rituals which are centuries old.
However, there is anxiety this time as Himachal Pradesh High Court has put a ban on animal sacrifice in any place of religious worship.
The start of Kullu Dussehra festival dates back to 1637, during the regime of Raja Jagat Singh, who invited all local deities in Kullu to perform a ritual in honour of Lord Raghunath. The idol of Lord Raghunathji was brought from Ayodhya and kept in Sultanpur Temple in the palace. The tradition has continued even after the abolition of princely states.
Meanwhile, effigies of Ravana, Kumbhkaran and Meghnath were burned all over the state to mark the triumph of good over evil. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh was the chief guest at the main Dussehra function at Jakko in Shimla.
Also, the nine-day-long Durga Puja at the local Kali Bari Temple concluded with the immersion of idol of Godess Durga at Tatta Pani.