Kullu – Himachal Pradesh
Kullu is famous for its Dussehra festival and for beautiful shawls. It is a fairly nice place situated at 1,219m (4,000 ft). Most travelers will not stay here very long. A good place to buy shawls is Akhara Bazaar.
You can get a permit for Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti at the District Magistrate’s Office at the Maiden at Dhalpur, in back of the Dhalpur bus stand. It is better to get the permit in Kaza or Rekong Peo, so as not to waste any of the seven-day permit.
Raghunathji (Rama) Temple
The Rama Deity in this temple was originally brought here by Raja Jagat Singh from Ayodhya in 1651. The king had been advised by a priest to bring the deity to this place, as penance to get rid of a curse for causing the death of a local Brahmin, that was turning his food into worms. After this event the local Raja considered himself the viceroy of Sri Raghunathji. This is the presiding Deity of the Kullu Valley and Raghunathji is the main deity of the Dussehra Festival. The temple is located on a hill overlooking the city.
Bijli Mahadeva Temple
To get here, you go up the hill by following the small road opposite the Kailash Cinema, which is near the bus stand. The temple is behind the Kullu Raja’s Rupi Palace. It is open in the morning and after 5 pm.
This temple is located 8km by road southeast of Kullu. When its 20m (65 ft) flagstaff attracts lightning, it is said to be an expression of divine blessing. When the flagstaff is struck by lightning, the Siva-linga inside the temple is broken to pieces. It is then put back together with sattoo (a paste of roasted gram and wheat powder) and butter. Located at 2,438m (8,000 ft), you reach it by a hard 5km climb. From here there are great views of the Himalaya Mountains, Kullu Valley, and Parvati Valley. There is a very basic temple guesthouse.
The Vaishno Devi Temple is 4km north of Kullu on the road to Manali. It is a small cave with a deity of the goddess Vaishno Devi (Durga). To get to it is a steep climb.
The Jagannathi Devi Temple is 4km from Kullu in the village of Bhekhli. It is a hard climb. There is a good view over the town from the temple. You can take a taxi round trip to here for Rs 300 or an auto-rickshaw for less.
The Basheshar Mahadev Temple is 15km south of Kullu in Bajaura. It has fine stone sculptures.
This interesting festival takes place in October or early November. At this time, the Deity of Raghunathji (Lord Rama), the presiding Deity of the valley, is brought down to the valley for a week. The other 200 or so gods in the valley are brought on their chariots to Lord Raghunath to offer their worship to him. One high point of the festival is the arrival of Hadimba from the Dunghri temple in Manali.
The Deity of Raghunathji is brought on a chariot from Rupi Palace to the middle of Dhalpur Maiden in a huge procession. The Raja and his family then circumambulate Lord Raghunathji. Jamlu, the village god of Malana, views the festival from a hill on the other side of the river and does not take part.
The last day of the festival celebrates the defeat of Ravana by Lord Rama, who is also known as Raghunathji. Raghunathji is taken to the bank of the Beas River, where a huge pile of wood and grass are burnt to symbolize the burning of Lanka. There are folk dances and music performances and a general festival mood.
This festival begins on Vijaya Dashami and lasts for seven days. Vijaya Dashami is the day that Dussehra normally ends in the rest of India. As this is an extremely popular festival, you have to book accommodation as far in advance as possible.
Bus Some buses can be booked in advance at the bus station. It is best to get on the bus at the station and not at Dhalpur Maiden, because by the time the bus gets to the Maiden there are often no seats left.
There are direct buses to Delhi (16 hr), Dharamsala, Chandigarh (12 hr, 270km), Mandi and Shimla (9 hr, 235km). There are four public buses daily to Dharamsala. There is a HPTDC A/C super-deluxe bus to and from Delhi. Other luxury HPTDC buses go to Manali, Dharamsala, Chandigarh and Shimla.
There are regular buses between Kullu and Manali. Buses on the main road take less than two hours, but buses that go on the east side of the river, the Naggar side, can take 3½ hours. You get buses that go on the Naggar side of the river at the bus stop in Akhara Bazaar. They depart every couple hours. There are buses to Manikaran every half-hour. You can take a bus to Bhuntar and another bus from there to Manikaran.