Photo: Australia Telangana Forum members celebrates Bathukamma in Sydney
By: JBS Umanadh
Most people in Telangana region in Andhra Pradesh look forward to September and October as it is a festive season and a great occasion for family reunions.
Though many festivals are celebrated during the two months, Batukamma festival is unique to Telangana and it is undoubtedly an icon of cultural identity for the people of the region. Many similar festivals might be held in other parts of the world, but none of them can match the vibrancy of Batukamma, which is performed during the latter half of monsoon and much before the onset of winter.
During a normal monsoon, rains would have filled lakes and wild flowers of various hues would have bloomed all across the uncultivated and barren plains of the region. The most abundant of them are flowers “Gunuka” and “Tangedi”. There are others like Banti (marigold) and “Nandivardhanam” used for decorating the Batukamma.
Several seasonal fruits too play an important role. Seetaphalamu (custard apple) is a great tasting fruit that grows in the wild with little water and is often called the poor man’s apple. Then there is the staple food of semi-arid Deccan, the corn also known as jonna and mokka jonna waiting for harvest.
The festival begins a week before the grand “Saddula Batukamma”, which is observed two days before Dasara. Married women usually come to their parents’ homes and breathe with fresh air of freedom to celebrate the colours of flowers. For one whole week, they make small Batukammas (flowerpots), play around them every evening and immerse them in a nearby water pond. Then the last day is the most fascinating. On that day, men go and pick flowers like Gunuka and Tangedi.
They bring home bagful of flowers and the entire household together makes big Batukamma. The flowers are carefully arranged row after row in a taambalam in circular rows and in alternate colours. Bigger the size of Batukamma it is better. White Gunuka flowers are coloured using water paint and Batukamma gets colourful circular layers of them with Tangedi in between. Then prayers are offered to it by placing it in front of the deity in the home.
As evening approaches, women, dressed colourfully in their best attire and with lots of ornaments, place Batukamma in their “vaakili” (front yard). Women of neighbourhood also join and all of them gather in a large circle around it.
They sing songs by going around it forming a beautiful human circle of unity, love and sisterhood. They all sing in chorus after a lead singer starts and the rhythms of the folklore songs reverberate in the neighbourhood sounding the uniqueness of Telangana cultural identity.
After playing around the Batukammalu, before the onset of dusk, women carry them on their heads and go in a procession towards a bigger water lake of the village or town.
The procession is extremely colourful with the decorations of women and the Batukammalu. They sing folklores in chorus throughout their journey and streets resonate with them. Finally, when they reach the water pond Batukammalu are slowly immersed in water. They continue with playing and singing for sometime. Then they share “maleeda” (a dessert made with sugar or raw sugar, ghee and corn bread) sweets among the family members and neighbourhood folks.
Why is Batukamma celebrated?
There are several legends around it. One of the prominent is that of a girl who committed suicide due to atrocities of a landlord and then the people of the village blessed her by organising a festival. The other one is also about a girl who ended her life but due to family disturbances. It is a festival associated with women and them remembering the girl who ended her life and blessing her to live long (Batukamma).
They pray to mother goddess Gowri that they should not face any difficulties and that their husbands live longer and their families prosper.
Also, Batukamma is a great celebration of preservation of nature’s harmony. It is the season of blooming flowers and overflowing ponds that Batukamma festival comes and it celebrates the inherent relationship between earth, water and human beings. During the preceding week, women make ‘Boddemma’ (mother goddess) along with Batukamma and immerse it in the pond. This helps reinforce the pond and helps it retain more water. The flowers used in Batukamma have a great quality of purifying water and such flowers, when immersed in abundance in the pond, have the effect of cleansing the water and making the environment much better.
Telangana Jagruthi, a cultural wing of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, has organised a nine-day Batukamma Jatra from October 15 and is led by Kavitha, daughter of TRS supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao. Kavitha is visiting each one of the districts in the Telangana region and encouraging women to celebrate Batukamma in large numbers in an effort to rekindle the spirit of Telangana.
The jatra began from Khammam, Warangal, Adilabad, Karimnagar, Medak, Nizamabad, Nalgonda and Mahbubnagar and will culminate at Tank Bund in Hyderabad on October 23.
Courtesy: Deccan Herald