For those of you who know that the Kumbh Mela, a popular Hindu pilgrimage held periodically across the north-west trail of India, is the world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims.
But you probably haven’t heard of Sammakka Saralamma Jatara, a biennial, four-day tribal festival celebrated in Medaram, a village in the Warangal district of Telangana. It attracts a tribal population of pilgrims only second in number to the grand Kumbh Mela. According to The Hindu, the number of pilgrims attending the festival may have touched the 1-crore mark in 2014.
But unlike the mythological significance attached to the Maha Kumbh Mela, this tribal festival has a nugget in history that once again puts the powerful role of women during the Kakatiya period in Warangal, on a pedestal.
According to legend, Samakka was a tribal chieftain who along with the Koya tribes fought valiantly against the imperial army of the Kakatiya kings during the early 13th century, a martyr. The tribals, since then, treat Sammakka and her daughter Sarakka as their deities.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Sammakka Saralamma Jatara is the use of vermilion and turmeric power on bamboo poles to represent the two goddesses instead of idols. According to The Wire, “animals are sacrificed, liquor is drunk and the community that gathers there does not conform to prevalent ideas of Hindu religious gatherings. There is no set iconography for the goddesses. Bamboo poles smeared with vermilion and turmeric powder represent Sammakka and Sarakka. These poles are erected on earthen platforms for worship. They represent nature, the power of the feminine divine and reinforce ancient ideas of sacredness.”
Remembering Their Goddess: Telangana’s Sammakka Jaatara
It was in the year 1998, the Sammakka Jaatara was declared as a state festival by Andhra Pradesh government. A large number of devotees from a number of states including Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odessa, Maharastra, Karnataka and Jharkand flock to Medaram for this occasion.
An effort is being made government to acquire the national festival status for Telangana’s Samakka Jaatara next year. Every year, the Jatra is held in the month of February 12 to 15, 2016. You can experience the synergy at the ongoing festival in case you’re in Warangal and travel to Medaram, which is just 90 kms away. You can also experience the heritage and culture of Warangal while you’re running by attending the Go Heritage Run happening on the 11th of March.