Te­lan­gana ham­let of 300 to host 12 mil­lion dur­ing tribal fes­ti­val

Hindustan Times (Gurgaon) - - Nation - Srini­vasa Rao Ap­pa­rasu srini­vasa.ap­pa­rasu@htlive.com

HY­DER­ABAD: Te­lan­gana has scaled up its am­bi­tion to show­case one of the largest tribal con­gre­ga­tions in Asia once ev­ery two years at Medaram, a small ham­let in Jayashankar Bhu­pala­pally dis­trict.

Medaram, home to about 300 Koya trib­als, hosts the bi­en­nial Sam­makka-Sar­alamma Jatara, a four-day fes­ti­val that hon­ours a le­gendary tribal mother-daugh­ter duo who at­tained mar­tyr­dom while fight­ing the army of Kakatiya kings in the 11th cen­tury. Peo­ple re­vere Sam­makka and her daugh­ter, Sar­alamma, as god­desses. The fes­ti­val be­gins Wednesday and the ad­min­is­tra­tion is wait­ing for a sea of hu­man­ity to de­scend on Medaram, about 250km north­east of Hy­der­abad.

“In 2016, the foot­fall for the jatara was around nine mil­lion. We ex­pect it to cross 12 mil­lion this year,” said dis­trict sub-col­lec­tor VP Gau­tam.

The fes­ti­val at­tracts trib­als from the Dan­dakaranya for­est belt en­com­pass­ing Te­lan­gana, Andhra Pradesh, Ma­ha­rash­tra, Ch­hat­tis­garh, Odisha, and Mad­hya Pradesh, and draws thou­sands of non-trib­als as well.

“A ma­jor­ity of the vis­i­tors is non-trib­als who come to un­der­stand tribal life, cul­ture and out of de­vo­tion,” said Gau­tam.

The fes­ti­val is also where trib­als de­cide wedding en­gage­ments, set­tle land is­sues, dis­cuss pro­tec­tion of trees and na­ture, and bring their prob­lems to the govern­ment’s no­tice.

This year, the govern­ment has set up a mu­seum at the venue to dis­play tribal cul­ture. “We are fo­cus­ing on brand­ing so that it can get na­tional fes­ti­val sta­tus and also UNESCO recog­ni­tion,” said Gau­tam.

The fes­ti­val gen­er­ates around ₹5 crore in cash through ‘hundi’ col­lec­tions. Of this, one-third is paid di­rectly to the 30-odd tribal priests who per­form the rit­u­als.

“Money is also gen­er­ated from al­lied ac­tiv­i­ties such as ton­sur­ing heads, sale of co­conuts, jag­gery, park­ing fee and rent from food courts. It goes to lo­cal trib­als,” said Gau­tam.

The fes­ti­val’s rit­u­als are in­vi­o­lable. “We don’t al­low any new cul­ture into it,” said tribal priest S Cha­la­ma­iah.

The jatara be­gins on the full moon day of Magha, as per Hindu lu­nar cal­en­dar, when priests bring Sar­alamma from Kan­nepalli vil­lage, about 2km from Medaram, and in­stall her on a gadde (raised plat­form or throne) un­der a fig tree. The next day, Sam­makka is brought from Chil­kalgutta (a nearby hillock where she is be­lieved to have at­tained mar­tyr­dom) and in­stalled on an ad­ja­cent throne.

Sam­makka and Sar­alamma are not in the form of idols but rep­re­sented through boxes of ver­mil­lion and turmeric tied to bam­boo sticks. There are smaller plat­forms for Sa­makkka’s hus­band, Pagi­didda Raju, and Sar­alamma’s hus­band, Govin­dara­julu, who are also be­lieved to have died in their fight with Kakatiya kings.

An­i­mal sac­ri­fice is an in­trin­sic part and con­sump­tion of liquor is a cus­tom here, ac­cord­ing to Ran­ganath, a lo­cal jour­nal­ist. “Thou­sands of an­i­mals are sac­ri­ficed and of­fered to deities. Devo­tees also of­fer jag­gery equal to their body­weight to the deities.”

HT PHOTO

Hun­dreds of peo­ple have al­ready ar­rived in the vil­lage ahead of the con­gre­ga­tion that gets underway to­day.

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