The BATHUKAMMA festival or Panduga is one of the most unique festivals of Andhra Pradesh especially of Telangana region celebrated mainly by the women. Celebrated during Navarathris it honours goddess Gouri on the name of Bathukamma. In Telugu, ‘Bathukamma means ‘come alive Mother Goddess’. Bathukamma panduga, teh spring festival, is the second largest festival after Dasara or Vijaya Dashami in Telangana Region. Celebrated during Durga Navaratri, the 9-day festival will conclude two days before Dussera.
During the festival, Goddess Gauri is worshipped in the form of Bathukamma. Women seek her blessings for prosperity and a good year. Colours, flowers and water are all intrinsic to the festival and the goddess herself is not one rooted in a shrine but turmeric and placed on top of conical flower arrangements that signify both life and eternity in their colours. The goddess is created each year and immersed duly on the 10th day of the festival in local water bodies. There was a distinct grandeur and to a lesser level still is that one can only associate with a festival of the nature, where fun and frolic is the order of the day. This largest festival of Telanagna region, Batukamma festival was started centuries ago and still celebrated as grand cultural event in this region.
This year Bathukamma festivities began on October 7th, as per lunar calendar the Bhadrapada Amavasya, also known as Mahalaya Amavasya. During the same period, young girls also observe Boddemma festival that marks the ending of Varsha ruthu whereas Bathukamma festival indicates the beginning of Sharath ruthu. The 9-day festivities will culminate on Chaddula Bathukamma festival on Ashwayuja Ashtami, popularly known as Durgashtami.
Batukamma is a beautiful flower stack, arranged with different flowers usually in seven concentric layers in a conical mound. The flowers used for making Bathukamma are unique seasonal flowers, most of them with medicinal value. The men folk of the house go into the wild plains and gather local flowers called Gunuka, Tangedi, Lotus, Alli, Katla, Teku flowers which bloom in this season in various vibrant colours all across the uncultivated and barren lands. Women prepare Bathukamma with the flowers leaving a little length base, some dip in colours, some scented and arrange them on a wide plate or wooden plank and stack them up in a conical mound and decorate them with a Pumpkin flower on top of Stack.
On this final day of Bathukamma, immersion of Bathukamma (Bathukamma visarjan) in water bodies is celebrated with utmost devotion and enthusiasm through out Telangana region.
Women participate in the festival with great fervour dressing up in their best, wearing traditional Silk Sarees and jewellery while young girls wear Langa-Oni (Half-Saree) the traditional attire of young girls of the region. The women gather in large numbers along with their Bathukammas in their locality place them in the middle and dance around them while singing soul stirring Bathukamma folk songs. Synchronising steps and claps in unison provide a splendorous look to the festivities.
The songs are more of the stories of common woman, her dreams, her responsibilities, plights sung spontaneously most of the time. Some times the songs describe just the beauty of the nature and some times reflect the socio-economic and political conditions of the region. Interestingly most of the songs are sung spontaneously.
After singing and dancing, Bathukammas are set afloat in lake or river. Lakes with floating Bathukammas in the evenings are a visual treat. On the occasion, the women exchange Turmeric and Kumkuma (Sindhur) which married women consider most auspicious.
On the culmination of Festivities, Maleeda, a prasadam made of jaggery, is prepared and distributed among the women. People wishing to watch Bathukamma festival being celebrated in its true sense and full glory must visit Warangal Fort which is about 150 Kms from the state capital Hyderabad on its last day before festival of Dussehra.
It has also legendary mansions in the history of the Region. There is a legend about Bathukamma festival mentioned in Telugu books. Daksha performed a Yagna and invited everyone but his youngest daughter, Gauri, who married to Lord Shiva against his wish. Against Shiva’s will, Gauri went to the Yagna and insulted along with Lord Shiva. She was unable to tolerate the insult and sacrificed her life by setting herself ablaze. Wishing to bring her back, women present her flowers and make turmeric idol of the Goddess and sing and dance around the idol of Bathukamma.
Another legend of Batukamma Festival is also mentioned in one of the historical texts scripted in Telugu. Centuries ago, King Dharmangada of Chola Dynasty used to rule South India. He was childless for many years after marriage. After performing many pujas and rituals, his wife gave birth to Goddess Lakshmi. Baby Lakshmi survived many accidents. So, her parents named her Batukamma Since then, Batukamma festival is celebrated by women in Telangana region.
M S Lakshmi, Correspondent, RNU, Hyderabad