ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Temporary Camps of Local Deities during Kullu Dusshera: showcasing connections between deities and their devotees


chaudhary sujata - McGill University, School of Religious Studies, MOontreal, Canada


28 – South Asian sacred spots: Nodal Points in Webs of Connections


 In an annual gathering of more than 300 deities in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh temporary camps are built in the centre of Kullu valley to celebrate the festival of Dusshera for a week, the preparations for which begin a month in advance. Celebrated to honour the supremacy of lord Raghunath; state deity of the region since the 17th century, Kullu Dusshera is an event of religious as well as of cultural importance. One of the main attractions of the festival are different village deities and their palanquins which are carried by the Haryans/followers from different villages to temporarily stay in tents/camps that are allotted in advance by the office of district administration only to those deities who are registered in the official records.  These temporary shrines even though house palanquins are temporary shelters are ritually important sites for the followers of each deity and serve as “nodal points” for strengthening relations among them.  These networks and associations between Haryans become extremely important during festivals that are occasions to showcase the supremacy of each village deity. The bonds of interconnectedness are important during Dussehra where there is often a competition between the followers of respective deities to be seen more powerful and economically stronger than others. This paper elaborates on the spatial importance of temporary Dusshera camps of village deities and describes the network of relationships they strengthen.