Tommorrow the 9th of Nov, Himachal Pradesh will be facing the 13th assembly election. As the state is preparing for the important day, the kardars or the managers who take care of the local deities are busy carrying out a custom known in local parlance as loon and lota.
The kardars in the higher regions of Shimla, parts of Solan, Sirmaur, Kullu and Mandi, just a day before are carrying out the traditional custom of loon and lota (putting salt in water kept in a small brass pot). It is a practice which is being followed by ages, in which the deities instruct and help the followers to choose the right candidate. This practice has actually become a ritual where the religion is dictating regional politics.
This ritual was followed in the ancient time to solve the disputes and extract the truth from a person. Gradually the custom became to be used as a political funda to garner electoral gains. This somehow influences the strong believers in the hill areas to pledge their votes to members of the royal hill clans in the name of the local deity. The locals are also made to believe that if they don’t vote for the royal politician they will have to face the wrath of the deity.
The land of Gods (Dev Bhumi) as Himachal is often called is still ruled by the deities and each town and village has its own devta. They are treated just like families or say they also familial relationships, just like humans, and often visit each other. They also have a retinue of attendants looking after their daily needs kardar (manager), kayath (cashier), pujari (priest), goor (medium/oracle).
When the electoral process was introduced in Himachal Pradesh the initial response of its people was to seek advice from the devtas. It is not just before the elections that the deities are invoked, this is a common practice followed by the locals of Himachal Pradesh before any important event. The selected candidates are also a part of this procession.
While some people believe in these customs blindfolded, but the old practice is fading with time with the spread of education and internet. Shailendra Kalia, a press reporter revealed that “a devta would still make a prediction when asked, but a follower of Congress would interpret and retell it as a prediction of his party’s victory, while a BJP supporter would tell otherwise.” He also said that even today the royal blood is considered to be related to the the devtas and hence the people vote the royalty and there is no dearth of it in Himachal.
If the previous results are seen Himachal has alternatively voted for BJP and Congress, the victory of Congress candidate Virbhadra Singh may be accustomed to him being a royal blood but if the BJP candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal nails the victory than what is the call of these voters who follow the instructions of the devtas?