Devotees look for divine intervention to pacify the anger of gods and goddesses over not allowing them to participate in the just concluded weeklong Kullu Dussehra festivities in Himachal Pradesh amid the coronavirus pandemic outbreak.For this, a rare congregation of deities has been called at the historical Lord Raghunath temple here on November 16 to religiously request them to forgive the mere mortals for 'first-of its-kind' restrictions imposed on them during the festival that dates back to 1637."Many deities expressed their anger for not allowing all the deities to mark their presence during the festival," Maheshwar Singh, chief representative of Lord Raghunath, Kullu Valley's chief deity, told IANS on Monday."So we have decided to invite all the gods and goddesses, whosoever is participating in the Kullu Dussehra festival, for the Jagati Puch on the Annakut festival (November 16) to pacify their anger and request them not to do any harm," he said.Singh, the scion of the erstwhile Kullu estate, said, "After the abolition of the princely states, the district administration has been inviting the deities for the Dussehra festival. But for religious issues, we are authorised to invite them and obey their orders."As per tradition, events like 'Jagati Puch' -- a grand convention of gods and goddesses -- are held only in extraordinary situations.It was called last in September 2014 to decide to go through a high court order prohibiting animal slaughter at religious ceremonies.Before that, it was called in February 2006 to decide the fate of a Himalayan Ski Village project promoted by Alfred Ford of Ford Motor Co.
For the Jagati Puch, the invitation is sent to oracles who speak for the gods -- and they publicize what they claim to be divine verdicts.Singh told IANS that over 200 deities are expected to 'assemble' in the Lord Raghunath temple.He expressed anger over the way restrictions like Section 144 was imposed by the Kullu administration to prevent the assembly of deities and their followers during the Kullu Dussehra that culminated on October 31.Going by the tradition, the chariot of chief deity Lord Raghunath is wheeled out by tens of thousands of devotees from the historical temple in Sultanpur here on the first day of Dussehra or Vijay Dashami, the day when the festivities end in the rest of the country.The assembled deities, normally range up to 250, accompany the chief deity during the procession. They all stay in Dhalpur ground till the conclusion of the festival.This time the administration allowed only seven prominent deities to participate in the festivities. However, a few of them had reached the venue and participated by violating orders.Also restricted was the movement of devotees during the chariot processions -- a maximum of 200 persons who tested negative for Covid-19 were allowed to join in with adherence to strict health protocols.Challenging the orders, Singh said the administration had hurt religious sentiments. "When deities have the right to participate, imposing ban on old-age religious traditions is interference in religious affairs. Also we can't stop devotees from their participation in religious activities," he said.
According to a reference book compiled by the Kullu administration, there are 534 'living' gods and goddesses in the Kullu Valley, which is popularly known also as Devbhoomi or the land of gods."Here, 'devtas' or gods command and the people obey. The gods here are not idols and enshrined in the temples; they are alive," says the 583-page book compiled after a year-long research and field work.The gods "live" among the people and "speak" to their followers and tell them what to do. They have families and relatives who join them in celebrations.The book says the affairs of the Kullu gods are managed by the 'devta' committees that comprise a 'kardar' or manager of the temple, the 'gur' or oracle, musicians and a priest. It says every year over 250 gods and goddesses assembled for the Kullu Dussehra.The gods accept invites of their followers and move to various locations as per their wish, says the book. Sometimes they decide to undertake a pilgrimage. Some do so after one-two years, others do so after 30 to 40 years and some embark on special pilgrimage after hundreds of years.The 'devta' summons the 'gur' and speaks through him. The oracle goes into a trance and connects with the deity. The deity's wish spreads and its followers are ready to obey the sacred command.One member of each family has to join the deity's procession. No one can lift the 'rath' or palanquin of the deity if he/she is not willing.The book says the long and tough journeys are to be performed on foot. It takes days, even months. Strict rules and rituals have to be followed. The deity sets the time and pace of the journey.