The seven-day long international Kullu Dussehra is a mega festival in the state of Himachal Pradesh celebrated this month. It starts on the sacred day of Vijay Dashmi. It is believed to be the harbinger of prosperity and signifies the victory of good over the evil. Some writers of India and abroad have visited the hazardous Kullu and Lahaul valley which was virtually high mountain and snow locked valleys of Kullu and Lahaul Dr Hira Nand in his book Kullu and Lahaul Spiti has written that next to Kashmir and Kangra, Kullu and Lahaul Spiti valleys were perhaps most ancient and beautiful among the Punjab Hill states.
Swedish scholar Dr A.V. has also dwelt at length on beauty of the mystic valleys of Lahaul, Kullu and Spiti valleys. The Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsiang had visited India in AD-630-44 and made mention of Stupa erected by king Ashoka in the middle of these mystic valleys 187 miles from Jalandhar to commemorate the visit of Lord Buddha there. The history of Dussehra Festival festival dates back to the rule of Raja Jagjit Singh in the seventeenth century. He had installed the idol of God Ragunath on his thrown as a mark of penance when calamities had befell on him and he had accorded to God Raghunath the status of a ruling deity of the panoramic valleys now known as the vales of hill gods and goddesses.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh had elevated the status of Dussehra Festival to an international carnival. Legend has it that after returning from pilgrimage Maharishi Jamdagni went to his hermitage at Malana carrying on his head a basket full of eighteen images of different gods. On the highest pass he was struck by a high velocity violent storm and the basket was blown to the winds scattering all the 18 images at different places. People picked up the images and started worshiping them. It is said that Kullu and Lahaul valleys were very prosperous those days and free trade was going on among the people of China, Tibet and the northern hill states of Punjab. The green tea from Kangra and Mandi was supplied to China and Tibet in large quantity till 1962 when Chinese aggression on India embittered relations between the two countries.
Raja Jagjit Singh ruled the panoramic and the most prosperous state of Kullu and Lahaul Valley in the seventeenth century. According to history a small happening cast a shadow of gloom on the king. It is said the arrogant king came to know that an ordinary poor peasant, Durga Datt, was possessing invaluable pearls with strange powers. King ordered Durga Datt to hand over the pearls to him or get hanged. Realizing his inevitable end the frightened farmer burnt himself to death cursing the King that the water he (king) will drink will turn into blood and his food, rice etc, will become living worms in his food plate.
The horrified king, it is said, fell on the feet of Brahamins and tantrists begging to salvage him from the divine curse. Meanwhile a holy man appeared and ordained him to atone for his sin and get an image of Shri Raghunath from Ayodhya and installed him on his throne, the Raja sent a team of Brahmins to Ayodhya to bring the image of Shri Raghunath. They stole it, but were caught on the bank of Saryu river. A strange thing happened. The image, it is said, became very heavy when traken towards Ayudhia, but became lighter when taken towards Kullu. Finally it was taken to Kullu and installed on the thrown of the Raja.
Since then the festival of Dussehra is being celebrated with religious ferver and fanfare. The decorated image of Lord Raghunath is taken to the sprawling Dhalpur Ground and installed there. All other Gods from Kullu and the adjoining Mandi villages which converge of the Mela ground bow before Lord Raghunath as a mark of respect.