Asia’s biggest tribal fair kicks-off in Telangana

Hyderabad (IANS)┬áMedaram Jatara, Asia’s biggest tribal fair, kicked-off in Telangana’s Mulugu district as thousands of devotees paid obeisance to tribal deities.

Also known as Sammakka-Sarakka Jatara, the fair 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 Wednesday 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.

The arrival of Sarakka signified the official beginning of the largest tribal festival. Braving the surging 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 in large numbers vied with each other to make their way towards the rivulet.

The police had difficulty in escorting the tribal priests bringing deity Sarakka as every inch of the space was occupied and 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 Thursday evening when the tribal priests bring the deity Sammakka from Chilkalgutta hillocks and for one day on Friday 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 Krishna Aditya, superintendent of police SSG Patil, 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, Chattisgarh, 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.

As many as 1.25 crore people are expected to visit the Jatara. The TSRTC expects to transport nearly 30 lakh people operating 4,000 buses while the rest are expected to arrive by 3.5 lakh private vehicles.

Officials said in view of Covid-19, many devotees already visited Medaram to offer prayers.

An estimated four lakh devotees have already visited Medaram during the last few days ahead of the Jatara.

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.

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