: Kullu: Women dressed up in traditional attire perform 'Nati' folk dance during International Dussehra festival celebrations in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh on Oct 24, 2018. .. Image Source: IANS

Kullu (Himachal Pradesh), Oct 25 : The centuries-old weeklong Kullu Dussehra celebrations, which began on 'Vijaya Dashami' -- the day they ended in the rest of the country -- concluded on Thursday as over 225 assembled deities started returning to their respective areas amid beating of drums and playing of 'shehnais'.

The Kullu Dussehra celebrations once again ended without the sacrifice of animals, the practice to appease gods that was followed for centuries, but banned by the High Court in 2014. Instead of animal sacrifice, blood donation camps were organised.

"The festival ended peacefully and the assembled deities have started moving back to their respective areas after performing the Lankadahan ceremony," a festival organiser told IANS.

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and his Cabinet colleague Govind Thakur presided over the concluding ceremonies.

The Chief Minister announced to increase 'nazrana' (honorarium) paid to local deities participating in Dussehra by five per cent and the distance allowance by 20 per cent.

The Kullu Dussehra festivities came to an end as the chariot of chief deity Lord Raghunath, being pulled by thousands of devotees, returned to the Lord Raghunath temple here.

The festival dates back to the year 1637 when Raja Jagat Singh was the ruler of Kullu. He invited all local deities in Kullu from various temples to perform a ritual in honour of Lord Raghunath during Dussehra.

Since then, the annual assembly of deities from hundreds of village temples has become a tradition.

The administration has been inviting the deities ever since the rule of princely states came to an end and giving a honorarium to the 'kardars' (attendants to the deity concerned) for participating in the festival.

Unlike other places, effigies of Ravan, Meghnad and Kumbhakaran are not burnt in the ceremony.

Instead of animal sacrifice, the local administration held blood donation camps for people during the Dussehra celebrations to contribute to the betterment of society.

"The idea of a blood donation camp was to highlight the prevalence of the spirit of victory of good over evil during Dussehra," People for Animals Trustee Gauri Maulekhi said in a statement.

Every year the festival attracts scores of tourists, especially foreigners, and researchers to know more about resident 'gods' and 'goddesses' of the Kullu Valley.

During the festival, transactions worth millions of rupees took place.

Kullu and Kinnauri shawls, handicrafts, carpets and dry fruits were the major attractions.

The picturesque Kullu Valley is known for its local demigods and ancient traditions that govern the lives of the ethnic communities.

Every village has several resident 'gods' and 'goddesses' who are invoked as living deities.

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