By: Vijayshree Kurumilla
The most vivid memory of Bathukamma for me goes back, to the time, when I was seven years old. We had our summerhouse in a village, near Mulug, in Warangal. If I have to describe the memory of that day, I have to first describe the setting of the house. It was in a forested area and the house, had one and half acre of fields behind it. Beyond the fields there was a bund lined with Tamarind trees and if you slide down the bund, there was a lake. You could see mountains and tall palm trees, when you looked, from the banks of the lake. It was heavenly, to gaze at that lake.
In the fields, corn grew; gently swaying to the breeze, but it was our neighbour’s fields which were the most colourful. They grew vegetables-Brinjals, Chillis and Tomatoes, while Marigold, and Zinnia added the dash of colour to it. On that day, we went to their fields to pick the marigold flowers of various hues, besides Seetha jadalu, and Gunugu puvvu. Thangedu puvvu, grew wild everywhere, while Katla puvvu grew near the banks of the lake. Every house had a Bottle gourd, Ridge gourd, Ash gourd creepers, but only my neighbour had the Pumpkin creeper. We picked our Gummadi puvvu, from their house. Susheela, was the name of our neighbour.
My mother would get busy in the kitchen roasting, the groundnuts and the sesame. She would powder them along with jaggery and make small balls. Peanut-jaggery, Sesame-jaggery, dry coconut-jaggery, roasted and powdered corn and jaggery balls, comprised our offering. In the evening, after the Bathukammas were laid, I followed Susheela, when, she led the procession of women and girls, to the banks of the lake, which I described above. Since we were the only ones, coming from Hyderabad, in that village, I was treated like a little princess who presided over the festivities.
The women placed their Bathukammas, on the shores of the lake and as Susheela took the lead in singing, they joined in and began their slow circling movements, clapping, bowing and rising, like a wave, as they moved around. I do not know what they sang about, then, but they were not happy songs, nor were they sad songs, but a mixture of both. The evening would melt into night and the moon and stars would appear in the dark skies and yet, the women, continued singing and I sat their enraptured by that moment.
That moment is captured in my mind and never went away, even after everything vanished. After Bapu died in 1995, the house along with the land and the fields, were all sold in 2001 and Susheela died a decade ago. Somehow, in the city, I could never recreate that moment and slowly, Bathukamma became only a formality in my life.
Things slowly began to change with the revival of the Telangana movement and Kavitha from Telangana Jagrithi, brought back Bathukamma into the limelight, in a big way. I heard Allamsir, Rasamayi, Deshapathi Srinivas, Nandini Siddha Reddy, speak about, the various legends connected with the festival on T news, and also, their own memories of it. My own memory came back to haunt me, as it seemed to get recounted by so many others. Then, Namasthe Telangana came into our lives bringing with it, the Sunday magazine, so aptly entitled, ‘Bathukamma’. I read every article, and every song, related to that festival, published in it.
But it will take only a child, to revive the actual moment again, in one’s life, I think. My little niece is in love with it. It must be the blood of her ancestors calling or our success in being able to, recreate a bit of the old magic.
After many years of passing through all kinds of experiences in which rediscovering Telangana identity was a major one, I look forward to Bathukamma now, in its truest sense. Bathukamma is the time for bonding of all women, sharing their agonies and happiness with the other women and singing about the same. The songs carry in them, the pathos of years of suffering and at the same time, gratefulness for whatever little they have been blessed with and also, awareness, that we are one link, in this web called life and in this web, everything connects and we connect with nature, which lies at the centre of this web.
Women have been the hardest hit, right from the time of the revolution, the 1969 movement, the Naxalbari movement and the latest Telangana movement. There must be countless women out there, who must have lost a child, or a brother, or a father, or a husband and may have been, struggling through their lives, carrying the burden of the family on them.
In putting together flowers which grow wild in Telangana, we wish to encapsulate that everything borne by this earth is beautiful and that wild and common should be celebrated and not looked down upon. This is our culture and so different, from others who worship only the cultivated ones. If connecting to the earth is barbarian, as some would like to call everything related to Telangana as, I would say, that whether you are civilized or savage, one day, you will return to the same earth.
Bathukamma has now, become some kind of a precious legacy for all of us, to hold on, close to our heart and bask in its glory.
With the presence of my niece, there are three generations of women, celebrating Bathukamma, at my home. I feel a sense of oneness enveloping us, something which will keep us strong in battling life and all its hardships, and ready to find some sweetness and stability, in all its rough seas.
I try to sing from the Bathukamma magazine, and find, in the printed words, those familiar sounds, echoing from the villages, from the fields, and from the lakes, reflecting their purity and innocence. Like the gentle breeze caressing you, they touch a chord within you and you feel like continuing even if in, an off tune way and even if everyone, would like you, to stop singing. I look at my niece, clapping and bowing, and singing, ‘Bathukamma, Bathukamma, uyyalo’, and I go back in time, when I was presiding like a little princess on that day, near a lake and the women sang their hearts out.
They would only let go, of Bathukamma with a heavy heart and some would wipe a tear, from their face. Yes, they had been singing the stories of their lives and somehow the stories of all of them, seemed to become unified in that song of Bathukamma. I find it hard too, when it is time to let go of it, as if, it would be ages, before the bond forged on this day, would be revived and recreated yet, again.
What Khalil Gibran wrote in ‘Prophet’ about Joy and Sorrow is worth, reproducing here-
‘When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.’
Here is wishing all the women of Telangana, happiness, and hope mingled with joy, in celebrating something unique, soulful and spirited as Bathukamma. May this bond of Bathukamma, survive many ages and refresh anew, with each passing generation.
Telangana has been blessed with Nature’s bountiful and Bathukamma, is our way of saying thanks to Mother Nature.
Katla puvvu whispers of the time, spent near the lake
Gunugu puvvu reminds me of days, running amongst the fields
Gummadi puvvu draws me to the well, where it crept dangerously close to its walls
Poka banthi, thurka banthi, patnam banthi, seetha jadalu, a rainbow of colours, amongst the green fields, tell me that they miss me
Thangedu puvvu smiles knowingly at me,
They are all my old friends and I meet them all, on the Bathukamma day
I cannot sing to them, for I know of no songs, but my heart fills with a throbbing pain,
That I will know not, those happy days spent with them, where I learnt most of my lessons
Well met! my friends say to me, as I gather them together
Take comfort! they say to me, as I go back in time,
Until we meet again, another year from now.
Bathukamma is that timeless and ageless weaver of magic,
Flooding us with memories of priceless moments spent close to the earth.
Only our wise ancestors could think of such a festival, which celebrated
Beauty in the wild, harmony with Nature and bring all the women together
To forge, this eternal bond of Bathukamma.