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
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.