Tribal Fair Begins In Telangana


(MENAFN- IANS) Hyderabad, Feb 21 (IANS) Sammakka Sarakka Jatara, a tribal fair, kicked-off in Telangana's Mulugu district as scores of thousands of devotees paid obeisance to tribal deities.

The four-day event got underway with the customary arrival of Sarakka's image from Kannepally village which was placed on a platform in Medaram. The image idol covered in red cloth was brought in a vessel laden with vermilion and turmeric powder.

The unique rituals began late Tuesday as the tribal priests huddled into a small temple at Kannepally located four kilometres away from Medaram. They offered prayers for hours invoking goddess onto them before coming out of the temple. The deity was accorded traditional honours by a group of tribal priests and district officials.

Over 2 crore people are expected to visit the Jatara over the next one week. Officials said about 50 lakh devotees have already visited Medaram since the last few days.

Authorities have made elaborate arrangements for the event. About 14,000 police personnel have been deployed for the smooth conduct of the festival.

The arrival of Sarakka signified the official beginning of the largest tribal festival, also known as Medaram Jatara,

Braving the crowds who tried to touch the priests carrying Sarakka, the police rope party escorted the priests who virtually sprinted towards the altar at Medaram. Scores of men and women in wet clothes slept across the path wishing the priests to walk over them as they considered it as a good omen.

The devotees took a holy dip at Jampanna vagu before proceeding to Kannepalli village. The priests also wade through the stream avoiding the bridge as is their tradition.

Believing that a dip in the Jampanna vagu heals all the diseases, people vied with each other to make their way towards the rivulet.

The police had difficulty in escorting the tribal priests bringing deity Sarakka everybody tried to touch the priests.

Following the custom, the state government officials accompanied the tribal priests all through the way.

The full-scale Jatara will begin on Wednesday evening when the tribal priests bring the deity Sammakka from Chilkalgutta hillocks and for one day on Thursday both the deities adorn the altar. It is considered the most auspicious day for the devotees.

The idols of Sarakkaa's father Pagidigidda Raju and husband Govinda Raju will also be brought to Medaram.

Mulugu District Collector and Superintendent of Police and other officials were overseeing the rituals and smooth conduct of festivities.

Devotees, both tribal and non-tribal, from different parts of Telangana and other states like Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka are participating in the four-day fair.

Devotees belonging to different states and speaking different languages throng the forests to pay obeisance to tribal goddesses. The unique rituals include devotees offering jaggery to the deities.

The TSRTC expects to transport about 50 lakh people operating 6,000 buses while the rest are expected to arrive by scores of private vehicles.

The state government has allocated Rs 110 crore for the conduct of the grand event. Various departments have made elaborate arrangements.

Police and revenue departments have installed 700 CCTV cameras.

The police have also made arrangements for parking of 10 lakh vehicles at 40 places around the village.

Adivasis living in forest fringe habitations in several states along the river Godavari congregate once in two years to celebrate the valour of legendary warriors Sammakka and Sarakka.

The tribals treat them as goddesses and hail their bravery in trying to protect them. Belonging to the Koya tribe, the mother-daughter duo died while fighting against the Kakatiya Empire about eight centuries ago.

The legend is that Sammakka and her daughter Saralamma fought against levy of taxes on tribals during drought conditions by the then Kakatiya rulers.

Tribal king Medaraju was ruling the tribal habitations on the banks of river Godavari and was supposed to pay a royalty to the Kakatiya king. However, due to severe prolonged drought, Medaraju failed to pay a royalty. Treating it as defiance, the Kakatiya king invaded the region. Fighting with the Kakatiya army, Medaraju and all kin died. His daughter Sammakka and her daughter Sarakka, also known as Saralamma, too died in the fight.

According to local lore, Sammakka who was fatigued went above the Chilukalagutta hillocks and disappeared. The Adivasis who reportedly went in search of her only found a casket of vermilion under a bamboo tree.

Once every two years, the tribal priests offer prayers at the bamboo grove and bring a casket of vermilion and bamboo stick wrapped in red cloth symbolising Sammakka, whom they consider their deity. After three days, they take back the deities and leave them in the forest until the next Jatara.

The poor tribals offer jaggery of their weight considering it to be gold. They also offer red blouse pieces, vermilion, and turmeric to the deities in large quantities. They take a little part of the same as prasadam from the altar back to their homes.

Devotees also take holy dip in Jampanna Vagu, a tributary of Godavari river. Jampanna was the tribal warrior and the son of tribal Goddess Sammakka who was killed in a war with Kakatiya Army. The tribals believe that a dip in the stream washes off their sins.

The South Central Railway (SCR) will be operating 30 special train services to meet the pilgrim rush between February 21 and February 24.

Special trains are being operated from different places to Warangal station, which is the nearest railway station to reach Medaram.

The Tourism Department has introduced helicopter services for pilgrims from Hyderabad. Passengers can avail VIP darshan, including a round trip, at a cost of Rs 28,999 per person. Additionally, an aerial view ride over the fair is priced at Rs 4,800 per individual.

According to Tribal Welfare minister Seethakka, President Droupadi Murmu will visit Medaram on February 23. Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan and Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy will also attend the fair the same day.

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