'Proud to Carry on Ancient Rituals': Descendant of Royal Family in India's Himachal Pradesh

Beas River, Kullu Valley - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.10.2021
Revered as living Gods, hundreds of idols of 'devtas' (the deities) are brought to Dhalpur Grounds annually in the Kullu District of India's Himachal Pradesh state. They are decked up in their finery, along with their retinue, for a week-long Dussehra festival, which celebrates victory of good over evil.
Tucked away in the mighty Himalayas, the ancient kingdom of Kullu continues its centuries-old rituals; they are performed by the scions of the royal family in the hilly state of Himachal Pradesh to this day.
Famed around the globe for their fascinating display of traditional splendour, these festivities are based on a legend that is over 350 years old now. It talks of the powerful King once pulling the chariot of Hindu God Lord Raghunath as a penance for his wrongdoings. Centuries later, his descendants continue the tradition.
Maheshwar Singh, the direct descendant of Jagat Singh, told Sputnik that he is "proud of the fact that due to the blessings of the Gods of the Kullu valley, we are still maintaining traditions that began in 1660. No change has been made to the traditions and that is what makes the festivities in Kullu so significant."
The beginning of Dussehra in Kullu District dates back to the regime of Raja Jagat Singh, a powerful King, who ruled Kullu princely state from 1637 to 1672. Even today the chariots of the deities are decorated colourfully and are part of the main chariot procession of Lord Raghunath, also known as Lord Rama, taken out amid the beats and rhythm of folk instruments.
Singh is the current owner of the highly revered Lord Raghunath Temple. He is also a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician and served four terms in parliament.
"The only difference is that earlier the deities used to participate in the festival representing the land that my ancestors had given to them. But now, after the country's independence (from the British), the tenants have become the owners of the land and the government also pays to cover their costs for participating in the festivities," the former parliamentarian told Sputnik.
Talking about the ancient legend that binds the royal family till today, the scion of the Kullu dynasty said, "My ancestor, King Jagat Singh, devoted himself to Lord Raghunath and declared himself the servant of the Lord. This devotion continues and today worshipping Lord Raghunath is part of my daily ritual as well."
The Legend
What makes the elaborate festivities in Kullu Dussehra more alluring is the fact that they are based on a legend that people of Kullu Kingdom have believed in since ancient times.
Raja Jagat Singh was once informed wrongly by some people about a man living in his kingdom who owned precious pearls. The man was vastly learned and the pearls he possessed were only of knowledge.
When harassed by the king to hand over his precious possession, the man committed suicide along with his family. But he cursed the king, who developed leprosy and suffered hallucinations soon after the man's demise.
When all cures failed, the king was advised by a saint to fetch a particular idol of Lord Raghunath (another name of Lord Rama) from Ayodhya city and then drink the water with which the idol's feet would be washed.
The saint's prophecy turned out to be true: the king' health recovered completely.
Then, the king (Raja Jagat Singh) declared that he and his future generations would remain the servants of Lord Raghunath. He pulled the chariot, bearing the idol of Lord Raghunath to the Dhalpur Grounds in Kullu, for public worship before the annual Dussehra festival.
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