In Kullu Valley, 534 gods live with people, says new book

Shimla: They travel, play, get angry and demand penance. They are the 534 “live” gods and goddesses of the picturesque Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh, says a new book.

“Here in the land of gods the ‘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 by the Kullu administration after a year-long research and field work.

According to “A reference book on Kullu Devtas” released by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh earlier this month, the gods “live” with the people. They “speak” to their followers and tell them what to do. They have families and relatives who join them in celebrations.

“We have tried to compile a list of all gods and goddesses worshipped in the Kullu Valley and their locations,” Kullu Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kanwar told IANS. He said this was the first compilation of the Kullu deities by any organisation or individual.

Kanwar, the man behind this herculean task, said renowned writers, historians, state revenue staff and the Devi Devta Kardar Sangh, which comprises representatives of the deities, were involved in the compilation.

The chief minister, who released this book at the closing ceremony of the week-long International Kullu Dussehra festival in Kullu town Oct 9, said it would help explore the area’s fascinating world of oral traditions and culture.

Every year, over 250 gods and goddesses assemble for the Kullu Dussehra, a centuries-old festival, which begins on Vijaya Dashami, the day the festivities end in the rest of the country.

Going down memory lane, the octogenarian chief minister, in his foreword in the book, said he fondly recalled that as a member of parliament from Mandi in the 1970s he used to dance the whole night in front of the tents

of the assembled ‘devtas’ during the Kullu Dussehra.

“The dance continued from dawn to dusk with hundreds of people swaying to the divine music. Such is the spirit of Dussehra,” he wrote.

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.

The gods accept invites of their followers and move to various locations at 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 year 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.

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. No one can lift the ‘rath’ o palanquin of the deity if he/she is not willing.

Kanwar said the book was just an attempt to understand the symbiotic relationship between the humans and the divine.