The Covid-19 scare is all set to overshadow the traditional ‘Godly show’ at internationally famous Kullu Dussehra festival in Himachal Pradesh this time.

Keeping with Covid guidelines, the district administration has drastically restricted the participation of deities as well as the devotees accompanying them at the week long festival beginning on 25 October in Kullu town.

Against the assembly of over 250 deities on Dussehra from the entire district in Kullu every year along with thousands of devotees, the administration has allowed only seven deities to participate in the ‘Dev Milan’ at Kullu Dussehra festival this year. Only 50 people have been allowed to accompany the palanquins of deities, who will have to get their Covid test done first.

“Only those deities, whose presence is mandatory to perform the rituals at the festival, have been invited this time due to Covid,” said an official.

Local deities Bijli Mahadev and Mata Hidimba have been invited to the festival among other few.

“It has been decided in a meeting with ‘Dev Samaj’ representatives that only seven deities will attend Dussehra. There would be no cultural shows and no commercial activity or exhibitions during the festival,” said Education minister, Govind Singh Thakur, who heads the Kullu Dussehra Festival Committee and is MLA from Manali.

The Dussehra Committee did not extend an invitation to all the deities this year and will not pay ‘Nazrana’ (honorarium) to them on Dussehra.

“The local businessmen are not excited about the Dussehra in 2020 as Covid has smashed all their hopes of availing this yearly opportunity to make money within a week, with thousands of tourists thronging Kullu to watch the unique ‘Dev Milan’ at the festival,” said Peru Ram, who runs a food joint in Kullu.

Kullu Dussehra, which has been given the status of international festival by the Himachal Pradesh government, is all about the show of Gods, where the divine powers actually turn guests to the mundane authorities.

It is the biggest tradition, religious and cultural festivity in Kullu district.

It begins in Kullu when Dussehra ends in other parts of the country with the burning of effigies of Ravana, Kumbhkaran and Meghnath on Vijayadashami.

The environs in Kullu just turn mesmerising at the beginning of the festival with over 250 deities, decked up with sparkling ornaments and dazzling attires queue up to bow before Lord Raghunath, principal deity of the area.

It is spectacular to watch the local deities on decorated palanquins and their ‘kardars’ ( representatives) and workers covering a two-three day journey through the remote belts of Kullu district on foot to reach the town, a day before the festival. As per the tradition, all the deities live in earmarked tents for seven days to be part of the sacred ceremony.

The local deities have a strong influence on the lives of hill folks. The people have extreme faith in the deities for day to day activities and they do not defy their orders, fearing the wrath of these ‘living’ Gods.