Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Medaram "Samakka Sarakka" Jatara - A Tribal Festival

Medaram "Samakka Sarakka" Jatara :-

Sammakka Sarakka is a huge festival of Telangana people that marks the fight of Sammakka and Saralamma (a mother and daughter) with the powerful rulers against an unfair law. It is a 3 days festival starts at Medaram in Tadvai mandal that held once in 2 years. It is a major festival/Jatara after kumbh mela that attracts millions of people all over the country. 

The population of the little forest village at Medaram in normal times never exceeds 300. Suddenly, during the month of February it rises to over 3500000! Millions of devotees come from all over Andhra Pradesh and neighbouring states like Orissa, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

Medaram jatara begins on the fullmoon day also known as suddha poornima day of the Magha masam. It is January-February months that coincide with Magha month of Hindu lunar calendar. The tribal deity Saralamma or Sarakka would be brought from Kannepoyinapalle village to the jatara venue. The next day another deity Sammakka, considered to be mother of Saralamma, will be brought from the adjoining Chilakalagutta. The deities after brought to the venue, are traditionally installed on a platform under a tree, called 'Gaddi' (raised platform or the throne). 

Coconut and jaggery are the main offerings to the deities, though animal sacrifice is a common phenomenon at the jatara. Some of the devotees who vowed to offer 'Niluvetthu Bangaram' meaning gold weighing equivalent to their personal weight, offer same weight of jaggery as a substitute for the gold. 

After Kumbha Melas, it is the Medaram jatara or Sammkka-Saralakka jatara that attracts large number of tribals, non tribals to get congregated at one place. This fair festivity is held once in two years (bi-annually) with more than ten million people taking part. 

Until 1998, the only way to reach Medaram was by a bullock cart. In 1998 the state government declared the 1000-yr old festival as official and laid down a motorable road.

The undeterred resolve, honesty, uprightness and courage of two Girijan women, Sammakka and Saralamma, pitted against the might of cruel kind, symbolizing in short the spirit of the girijans in the face of odds, forms the sprit of the bi-annual Sammakka Saralamma jathara held in forests of Medaram in Eturnagaram mandal in Warangal district. This is the biggest Girijan festival held here. Medaram is a small village in the forest. Here Sammakka Jathara is celebrated once in two years on a very large - scale for three days before Magha Purnima Sammakka is a tribal goddess and the patrons and the priests are Koyas (A caste in tribals). All the tribals of Mulugu area and the thousands of other Hindus congregate there during the celebrations. There is no permanent idol of the deity. 

A 50-acre forest expanse would be used for the purpose, which is situated 110 km from the Warangal district headquarters on the banks of river. The jathara begins on Magha shuddha Purnima and continues for four days. 
Offerings are made to the goddesses with jaggery. About four lakh devotees worshipped the deities in the 1996 jathara. Though the State government realized the importance in 1952, it did not take any concrete measures to popularize it till 1982. 

This is installed on an earthen platform raised under a tree. Animals are sacrificed and vows are redeemed, intoxicants are widely used. Hundreds of people who are often possessed by the goddess come there dancing ecstatically throughout their journey. The special offering to the deity is jaggery, which collects, in huge piles. Those who fulfill vows offer jaggery equal to their weight and jaggery is distributed as prasadam. More than 2lakh of people congregate every day. They came in motorized vehicles, bullock carts, on foot in thousands causing an unprecedented traffic jam from Medaram whose tail could be traced 26 km away towards Warangal. 

Men and women attired in their best and many swathed in turmeric turned up for the jathara. For tribal youth, it was a no-holds-barred celebration. They reached the Sammakka Sarakka "gaddhelu'' (platform) dancing to the tune of drums with gay abandon while elderly people tried their best to have darshan. A large number of tribal men and women behaved as if "possessed'' by the tribal goddesses. 

People believe that Goddesses Sammakka, Saralamma fulfill their desires with their divine and miraculous powers. Issueless Couples visit to pray the goddess to bless them with children. Many pilgrim pay their promises made to goddess during the Jathara, by offering Jaggery, calf's, coconuts and donations in cash etc. Pilgrim bath in the Jampanna stream to get purified and absolve from sins.

History, Mythology and practices:-

According to a tribal story, about 6-7 centuries ago, a group of Koya Indians traveling through the dandakaaranya found a little girl playing with tigers. The head of the tribe adopted and named her Sammakka.  She married the headman of a neighboring village. Saaralamma was her daughter.  The Koya Indians were a tributary to the Kakatiyas, who ruled the country of Andhra from Warangal City between 1000 AD and 1380 AD.  Once, the Koyas assisted the Kakatiyas in a war.  After sometime, there was a severe drought that lasted for years and as a result the mighty Godavari River dried up.  Koyas didn’t have even food to eat.  However, the Kakatiyas insisted on the payment of taxes.   The Kakatiya emperor sent his forces to teach the Koyas a lesson and collect taxes and the Koyas had no option but to resist.  After a bitter war, the Kakatiya Prime Minister visited war ravaged Koya kingdom. By then most of the Koya chiefs had fallen in battle.  The Prime Minister proposed peace and offered Sammakka a place in the emperor’s harem as the chief queen.  Samakka turned down the offer and resolved to continue the fight to avenge the dead.  The battle continued and Samakka was wounded.  Samakka told her people that as long as they remembered her, she would protect them.  Then, she cursed the Kaktiya dynasty to perish and disappeared into the deep forest. The Koyas searched for their queen and found only a red ochre box, her bangles and the pug-marks of a huge tigress.  Soon after, Muslim invaders destroyed the Kakatiya dynasty.  Since then, the Koyas, Waddaras and other Indian tribes and castes have been holding festivals in memory of Sammakka and Saralamma regularly. 

There is no permanent idol of the deity.   It is said that a Koya boy who gets a vision before the festival, searches in the forest for a week without food and sleep and finally brings the goddesses in the farm of two vermilion caskets tied to a piece of bamboo, one representing the main deity Sammakka and the other her daughter Saarakka or Saaralamma. The actual festival begins in the month of Magha, on Suddha Pournami (full moon day) evening when Saaralamma would be traditionally brought from Kanneboyinapalle, a village in the forest, and installed on a gaddi (the throne or platform), an earthen platform raised under a tree.  Animals are sacrificed and intoxicants such as liquor are widely used. 

Hundreds of people who are often possessed by the goddess come there dancing ecstatically throughout their journey.  The special offering to the deity is jaggery.  Some offer jaggery equal to their weight and distribute.  It is a rare opportunity to witness some ancient practices especially pabba, Shiva sathi (sathi means lady) and Lakshmi Devaras.  Shiva sathis are women who go into trance and bless the childless women to have children and the process of that blessing is called pabba.  The belief is that those who had the blessings of Sammakka-Saralamma through the words of Shiva sathis would have children.  Children get their heads tonsured. Young girls accompanied by their parents performed special prayers with the help of Shiva sathis and Lakshmi Devaras to get suitable husbands. 

On the special day - Maghasudha pournami :-

The actual festival begins in the month of Magha, on Sudha Pournami (full moon day) evening when Sarakka (in the form of a vermilion) would be traditionally brought from Kanneboyinapalle, a  neibhouring  village in the forest, and placed on a gadde, an earthen platform raised under a tree. 

By next sunset,the main goddess Sammakka (in the form of a vermilion) will be brought  from Chilukalagutta. There are two gaddes (platforms) Separately one for goddess "Sammakka" and other for goddess "Sarakka".  They are represented by bamboo sticks smeared with turmeric and vermilion (Pasupu and Kunkuma). Since time immemorial, there is a huge tree standing on Sammakka gadde. 

When the priests bring out the ochre box and other relics from a hidden forest location, there is great tumult with frenzied beating of drums, blowing of trumpets and full throated yells. It is said that during the festival a huge tiger prowls around peacefully. Offerings are coconuts and jaggery. They are piled at the foot of the trees..

On Festival day:-

This tiny village located in the thick forest area witness surging crowds start a week before the festival. Hundreds of private and Govt vehicles will be engaged in transporting countless number of pilgrims flocking the venue of historic Sammakka Sarakka jatara site. The Gaddelu, the sanctum sanctorum of this jatara site, will be filled to maximum and the devotees continue to throng the venue. The whole of Medaram village will be lit up for the celebrations. Hundreds of shops and petty business enterprises come up all over. The pilgrims will be  seen spread over 9 km around the venue. Temporary dwellings  spring up presenting a spectacular sight.

How to Distance Medaram Sammakka saralamma jathara Temple:-

145 km
730 km
450 km
237 km
520 Km
232 Km
652 Km
90 Km


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  3. Thanks for sharing such helpful information.