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ARTICLE : The Largest Tribal Religious Congregation at Sammakka Sarakka Jathara
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Tuesday, 01 April 2014 06:09


The Largest Tribal Religious Congregation at Sammakka Sarakka Jathara

Sammakka Sarakka Jathara or Medaram Jathara is the largest tribal religious congregation in the country. The biannual Jathara takes place at Medaram village of Tadvai Mandal in Warangal district, in Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. Approximately one crore devotees are expected to take part this time at the Jathara to be held between February 12 to 15, 2014.

A little festival of tribal’s in a small village has become a major pilgrimage in the last six years. This festival is held to get the blessings of goddesses Sammakka and Sarakka. It's believed that in those 3 to 4 days of the Jathara, goddesses’ real presence is felt. With the Jathara nearing, arrangements at Medaram village have also been picking up speed. It might be noted that about 80 lakh pilgrims had taken part in the Jathara last time.

The Sammakka Jathara was declared as a state festival by Andhra Pradesh government in 1998. Devotees in large number from neighbouring districts and different states including Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odessa, Maharastra, Karnataka and Jharkand participate at the Jathara. People offer bangaram (gold) in the form of jaggery of a quantity equal to their weight to the goddesses and take holy bath in Jampanna Vagu (stream). It is a festival with no Vedic or Brahmanic influence.

Jampanna Vagu is a tributary to River Godavari. According to the history, Jampanna is the tribal warrior and the son of Tribal Goddess Sammakka. The Jampanna vagu took his name as he died in a battle fighting against Kakatiyan Army in that stream. The Jampanna vagu is still red in colour believed to be with the blood of Jampanna (Scientifically the red colour of the water is attributed to the soil composition). Devotees believe that taking a holy dip in the red water of Jampanna Vagu reminds of the sacrifice of their gods who save them and also induces courage into their souls.

The actual festival begins in the month of Magha, on Sudha Pournami (full moon day) evening when Sarakka (in the form of 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 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.

Hundreds of people who are often believed to be possessed by the goddess come here dancing ecstatically throughout their journey. People believe that Goddesses Sammakka, Saralamma fulfill their desires with their divine and miraculous powers.

Couples visit to pray to 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. Pilgrims take bathe in Jampanna stream to get purified and absolve from sins.

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.

According to a tribal story, in the 13th century some tribal leaders who went for hunting found a new born girl (Sammakka) emitting enormous light and playing amidst tigers. She was taken to their habitation. The head of the tribe adopted her and later she became the saviour of the tribals of that region. She was married to Pagididda Raju, a feudatory tribal chief of Kakatiyas, who ruled Warangal area. She was blessed with 2 daughters and one son namely Sarakka, Nagulamma and Jampanna respectively.

After sometime, there was a severe drought that lasted for years and as a result the mighty Godavari River dried up.   Pagididda Raju didn't pay tribute to King Pratapa Rudra. In turn king Pratapa rudra sent his army to subdue the tribals and collect the tribute. Then a War was fought between tribal chief Pagididda Raju and Kakatiya army on the banks of "Sampenga Vagu" (Jampanna Vagu). The Koya army fought valiantly but could not withstand the well equipped Kakatiya army.

Though fought valiantly Pagididda Raju, his daughters Sarakka, Nagulamma, son in law Govinda Raju lost (husband of Sarakka) lives in the battle. Later Jampanna also dies in Sampenga Vagu (after renamed as Jampanna Vagu in the memory of his heroic fight against well trained Kakatiya army).

Upon hearing this news Sammakka also enters war and fights and causes lot of damage to Kakatiya army. Surprised by her Bravery and Valour the Kakatiya Prime Minister visited war ravaged Koya kingdom with proposal of peace and offered Sammakka a place in the emperor’s harem as the chief queen.  Sammakka turned down the offer and resolved to continue the fight to avenge the dead.   The battle continued and Sammakka was seriously wounded.

Sammakka told her people that as long as they remembered her, she would protect them.  Then, she cursed the Kaktiya dynasty to perish and with that wounded body proceeded towards Chilakala gutta and disappeared in the forest.

The grieving Koyas searched for their queen all they found were a red ochre box (a container of vermilion), her bangles and the pug marks of a huge full grown tigress, exactly the same place where she was found as an infant by the koyas. The Kakatiya dynasty came to an end very soon. Since then the Koyas, Waddaras and other Indian tribes and castes have been holding festivals in memory of Sammakka and Sarakka regularly.


 

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