Kullu (Himachal Pradesh) [India], Feb. 2 : Nestled in the lap of the majestic Himalayas, Kullu is a veritable jewel in the crown of Himachal Pradesh that celebrates the festival of colors, Holi for 40 continuous days till the actual date of Hindu festival.
The pre-Holi festival of Basant begins in Kullu with the procession of the palanquin of Local deity Ragunath.
This is a festival to preserve over 400-year-old tradition. People of Mahant (Preist) community go to the villages celebrating the festival till the actual date. On the occasion of Basant Panchami, people from different villages of Kullu gather at Raghunath temple-manifestation of Lord Ram.
Raghuntah is the principal deity of the Kullu region and pre-Holi festival begins with a procession led by the scion of Kullu royal family that start from temple complex to Dhalpur ground.
The Kullu Royal family scion is the chief devotee of the Raghuntah deity. The head of Kullu royal family, Maheshwar Singh who is also a legislator from Kullu assembly segment, says the pre-Holi festival is being celebrated from over 400 years.
"While Dushhera is the main event of the region, pre-Holi festival is the second auspicious one," he said.
After Singh, other Mahants of the region offer colour to the deity, prior to colouring other people present there.
Elaborating about significance of the festival, he says this festival is marked to commemorate meeting of Lord Ram with his brother Bharat in exile.
One member of the Mahant community represent Lord Hanuman and apply saffron colour on his body and later plays the role of Hanuman, thereby facilitating the meeting of Rama and Bharat.
A full act is carried out depicting Ram-Bharat meeting. In epic Ramayana, when Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya on the culmination of 14 years of exile, Bharata handed over the crown of Ayodhya to him.
The people celebrate this occasion by throwing colours at each other. Priest of Raghunath Temple, Ekadshi Mahant says the troops of saints travel from village to village and celebrate even over a month prior to actual date according to Hindu calender.
The villagers from Kullu, Bhekhli,Lagvalley,Seobag, Bhuntar, Naggar, Manikaran, Kharal valley and Diyar villages of the region gather to celebrate the historic festival here.