India | Himachal Pradesh

Bhunda

A festival reminiscent of human sacrifice



Bhunda is held every 12th year in and around Nirmand in the Nurpur Valley of the Sutlej. It is celebrated in honor of Devi Ambika. The Bhunda is a ritualistic remnant of human sacrifice. The ceremony is observed in the area comprising sixteen villages in the outer Saraj area of Kullu and the bordering fringes of Shimla. The ritual is associated with the mythological demon "Behund," who was killed by the Goddess Parvati.

The highlight of the festival is the life and death action of the 'Bheda,' the person undertaking the sacrificial enterprise. One end of a rope would be pegged to a high cliff and the other, deep down in a ravine. With the village deity and the villagers as witnesses, the Bheda would slide down. He could die if the rope broke and he descended to a fatal fall. If he died, his family would never want again, and if he survived, he would be a rich man. Today however, all the safety precautions are kept - nets and mattresses and the presence of the police and state administration.

Preparations for a Bhunda begin months in advance. Firewood, ghee and grain are gathered in the temple's 'Bhandara' (store). Offerings in the form of cash, jewelry and grain are collected for the Bheda.



Updated on 7th December, 2005

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