Monday, February 13, 2006

Sammakka Sarakka

Its that part of the year in Medaram when the beloved goddesses of the tribals visit them. Its that time when the forest is tranformed into a cosmopolis. Its that time when all the buses in Telangana head towards Medaram. Its that time when people are weighed in bangaram(jaggery) which is offered to the Gods. Its that time of the year when countless bullock carts march towards the jungles of Medaram. Its that time of the year when there are 60km long traffic jams in Warangal. Its that time of the year when my grandmother prays for me.

Its time for the largest tribal congregation in the universe. To give you an idea of how big this really is
In 2004, 6 million people attended the festival.Thats more than the population of Hyderabad city.In the same year it was estimated that 2 million Hajj pilgrims participated in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. And Vatican received 3 million visitors in the whole year. It is the second largest religious congregation after the Maha Kumbh Mela which happens once in 12 years.

Inspite of being such a large scale festival it has rarely received any support from the government. Medaram is a remote place in the Eturunagaram wildlife Sanctuary, a part of Dandakaranya, the largest surviving forest belt in the Deccan. It is spread over five states and numerous tribes inhabit it. Things havent changed much there since the Kakatiyan times about 1000 years ago. Until very recently the only way to reach Medaram was by a bullock cart. Apart from the four days of the biennial festival, there is not a soul moving there. It was a desolute place with no road or transportation.It was only in 1998 that the govt of AP declared the 1000 year old festival as official and laid down a transportable road.

The lack of involvement of the govt has, however, helped the festival retain its own spirit. Sammakka Sarakka jatara is an indeginiuos tribal festival with no vedic or brahmanic influence. Goats and hens are sacrificed in thousands and there is a lot of liquor going around. The rituals performed during the festival unfurl the tribal spirit in its purest form. The very fact of the survival and thriving of this ancient tribal festival, in the face of several adversities, is a testimony of the indomitable resolve, honesty, uprightness and courage of the Girijan.

7 Comments:

Blogger vishk said...

Police had a tough time controlling the surging crowds. According to the Joint Collector, C. Parthasarathi, over 6,000 officials had been drafted for the festival duty, including 4,000 policemen. A control room has been set up where the District Collector and other senior officials are camping.

However, these arrangements gave way in the face of a sea of humanity. Pilgrims coming from Hanamkonda were put to a lot of convenience as vehicular traffic came to a standstill for more than four hours near Tadvai and Pasra. It took more than nine hours for the pilgrims to reach Medaram from Warangal.

The Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, who reviewed the arrangements, said 11 persons were admitted in a local hospital after they fell ill while 10 others were under treatment after taking an overdose of alcohol. He said the APSRTC operated 1,638 buses carrying about 1.70 lakh passengers while 136 hand pumps were installed for providing drinking water to pilgrims.


So boss, this particular jaatara like all other festivals is supported, and probably is popular because of, government support and government financing of infrastructure.

What adversities does it face, except the adversities of nature? Why treat it as something unique compared to all other Hindu festivals? The problem is, we have this romantic view of village life and of villagers. We think they are innocent and oppressed, as opposed to urban people.

This is one of the reasons why you find it so easy to exalt this jatara, but write pejoratively about Hinduism and milk abhishekams, the evolution of Hinduism, etc.

12:46 PM  
Blogger vinay said...

"He said the APSRTC operated 1,638 buses carrying about 1.70 lakh passengers while 136 hand pumps were installed for providing drinking water to pilgrims."

The govt declared it a state festival sometime in the last decade and did build some infrastructure. But its hardly sufficient. Imagine 136 handpumps for 6 million people??????I wouldnt go there, will you? and 1600 odd buses for 1.70 lakh people. thats hundred people per bus. i wouldnt travel in them either.

"vehicular traffic came to a standstill for more than four hours near Tadvai and Pasra. It took more than nine hours for the pilgrims to reach Medaram from Warangal."

doesnt that show that the govt hasnt done enough. Most people just take these tribals for granted. They wouldnt even let their pets get into those buses but expect the tribals to be happy with the meager facilities provided.

And yeah I do think they are innocent. atleast I never hear of them encroaching or oppressing others. They are very often denied basic human dignity and rights.

Remember the death of Suryanarayana the engineer who went to Afghanistan. Do you know a week before that AP police shot two villagers in their own village. That guy knew the risks involved in going to the taliban land and made a conscious decision but for the villagers it was their home. And the people who are supposed to protect them actually killed them.

Every govt official went out of the way to condole the Engineer's death but hardly anybody bothered abt the Indian citizens killed in India by an Indian Law keeping force.

3:19 PM  
Blogger Isha Reddy said...

Amusing

4:47 AM  
Blogger Nagaraja said...

Nice post. I didn't go because of animal sacrifices, but maintaining the spirit through Kakatiya times is really great!

2:01 PM  
Blogger sherry said...

thousands of goats are sacrificed...?For what?
I did not know that 6million ppl attended it and that it is probably the 2nd biggest religious festival...hmm...but with goat blood all around and all the liquor...how is it better than you and I get sloshed and you eat chicken and i eat manchuria ;)

And what's the relation between an engineer getting shot in Afghan Vs 2 villagers getting killed by police....you have to condemn both and cannot comment on Mass Psychology and Media writing differently abt both these issues....probably the villagers did condemn when it was published in the local Eenadu or Vaarhta...but probably the national news media did not take it to the 100million ppl...that example was unrelated...while i condemn both equally...i agree that there are many systems that need to be filtered of 'bad' ppl...there needs honesty and integrity within all of us and inculcate the same...well, wish we had a Jatara for that!!!

9:51 PM  
Blogger Vinay Deshineni said...

"how is it better than you and I get sloshed and you eat chicken and i eat manchuria ;)"

Yup, how can it get better than it dude. its exactly the same. the way I look at it, its more of a native tribal's carnival ala Mardi Gras. The Gods are only an excuse to have fun. Well Indians traditionally shared all their fun with the Gods. which is why you have temples built in all the scenic valleys of the Himalayas, which were the hot vacation spots. Vacation and pilgrimage were synonymous for the most part.

And the death's, the difference is basically you getting drunk and driving under influence, causing an accident and the cop getting drunk and crashing into you, when you are following all the speed limits and road signs. you could have helped yourself in the first case, not in the second.

7:18 PM  
Blogger JK said...

Great to know! gud work!

Vjy Rapaka

11:02 PM  

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