More than 5 lakh people are expected to visit the ongoing week-long International Kullu Dussehra Festival, which will continue till October 11. On October 5, its opening day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first PM to participate in this centuries-old, annual festival in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu and pay obeisance to the Lord Raghunath deity. The festival, marked with a range of religious and cultural events, draws visitors from across the country and abroad.
With just some weeks to go for the Himachal Assembly polls, the Kullu festival seems to have turned into a major canvassing stage for the political parties, including the ruling BJP and the principal Opposition Congress, given the massive footfall at its venue. Their leaders and workers are reaching out to various gatherings accompanying deities besides regular visitors as part of their election campaign.
“We are holding public meetings every day. Functions have also been organised as part of the festival in order to interact with more people. The support of the senior leaders has been crucial. Our priority is to make the festival a success and the party is committed to it,” said the BJP’s Kullu in-charge Bhim Sen.
The BJP has deployed its workers at the rally arena to help people set up their tents and procure rations, and to guide them for various utilities. They are holding meetings, which apart from engaging in religious preachings are showcasing the Jairam Thakur-led party government’s various “accomplishments”. The district party leaders are supervising this entire exercise.
The local BJP units are looking to capitalise on PM Modi’s Kullu visit. With the festival being rooted in religious celebrations, the BJP rank and file are trying to amplify the PM’s claims that the saffron party has done “immense work” for “Devbhoomi” Himachal.
On the road to Kullu from Shimla through Jhalori Pass, the posters of Modi and Jairam could be spotted at many places along the route, including on roadside slanting walls and shop shutters.
As regards the Congress, the festival seems to have become a key poll campaign platform for its sitting MLA Sundar Singh Thakur, who is expected to be fielded by his party from the constituency again. Sundar could be seen meeting people at various events at the festival venue, soliciting their support for his bid in the upcoming polls.
Like every year, the Kullu Dussehra festival is being held at Dhalpur Ground, which is witnessing a congregation of over 300 deities brought from Kullu and other places in decorated palanquins. The district has been divided into 21 sectors, with each being managed by a magistrate.
The festival is being celebrated in line with the “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsava” theme, officials said. A performance by the “Harmony of the Pines”, the Himachal Police orchestra, has been slated for the Amrit Mahotsava night. Performance troupes from Russia and Ukraine have also been roped in for shows during the festival. “This will be a grand affair since the festival has been opened to the public on such a scale for the first time since the Covid pandemic. There is a sense of excitement among locals, especially after the inauguration by the PM. The entire district has been divided into sectors for administrative purposes and we are facilitating several things in order to make the festival a success,” said Kullu SDM Vikas Shukla.
The Kullu administration would provide subsidised ration to various deity groups for the entire duration of the festival. The officials will also arrange for tents and firewood required for various rituals. Many shop spaces at the fair ground have been auctioned by the administration at the rate of around Rs 22,000 each, which will yield it a revenue of Rs 10 crore.
A Nati dance event will also be organised towards the closing of the festival, which would see the participation of thousands of people.