Where Diwali is dark and a month late

The country celebrated Diwali Wednesday, but there are some pockets in Himachal Pradesh where the festival of lights is celebrated almost a month later. Reason? Locals believe the news of Lord Ram's return to Ayodhya reached late in these parts.

Diwali traditionally celebrates the triumph of good over evil and is widely believed to mark the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after vanquishing the demon king Ravana. However, in some pockets of Himachal Pradesh, the festival is locally known as Buddhi Diwali (or dark Diwali).

Even the village of popular World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) wrestler The Great Khali will celebrate the festival a fortnight later.

Prem Parshad Pandit, member-secretary of the Himachal Predesh temples committee, told IANS: "There are certain pockets in Sirmaur, Shimla and Kullu districts where Diwali celebrations start later. This time the celebrations will start Nov 25 ('amavasya', new moon day or the dark fortnight of a lunar month)."

Buddhi Diwali is mainly celebrated in Ani and Nirmand in Kullu district, Shillai in Sirmaur district and Chopal in Shimla district. It's considered a festival of animal sacrifice.

During the three-day festival, locals dance and sing folklores related to the epic Mahabharata. It's also associated with the battle of the Mahabharata as it is said to have started on the first day of Buddhi Diwali.

In Kullu district, the festival is celebrated to commemorate the killings of demons Dano and Asur who resided there in the form of snakes. Hundreds of goats, sheep and buffaloes are sacrificed.

As per the tradition, villagers take animals to a nearby temple where the sacrificial ceremony is performed on 'amavasya'. The severed heads are offered to the gods and deities and each animal's body is taken home for cooking. The feast is shared among villagers.

Sheela Devi, an octogenarian residing in the Shillai area, said: "We never celebrate Diwali when people in other parts of the country are celebrating. During the festivity, we buy new bangles, sweets, clothes and decorate our houses."

"But animal sacrifice is an important ritual. The sacrifice of reared livestock ensures round-the-year prosperity and protection from natural calamities," she added.

Khali, who also reached his ancestral village Dhirayna in Sirmaur district last week from the US, said he would celebrate Buddhi Diwali.

"This time, I will participate in the Buddhi Diwali celebrations after seven years. Though we are not celebrating Diwali, some of my fans invited me to attend the Diwali celebrations in Nahan (district headquarters) and I would participate," Khali told IANS.

Khali -- one of the world's tallest wrestlers at over 7 feet and weighing 190 kg -- grew up in Dhirayna village, some 200 km from state capital Shimla.

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