The Mighty Medaram Jatara
Medaram Jatara is a bi-annual forest festival from Telangana, India. The largest tribal congregation or jatara (10 million people) in the world.
Medaram Jatara is a bi-annual forest festival from Telangana, India. The largest tribal congregation or jatara (10 million people) in the world. This festival is one of the most revered tribal festivals that happens in Telangana state during the 2nd week of February. Those who have experienced it as a child will never forget their experience. Although, for the last 20 years living in US has made me miss this festival during the festive season but I never missed attending it once during the season while growing up in India. (Photo Courtesy: R Madhu Gopal Rao)
In few words, this festival brought everything to everyone in a family. It is the celebration of our culture by the people of our region. It is a place of devotion, camping, party, celebration and many more. My recollections were that this would be a Sunday to Sunday week-long camping trip in the forest and everything is an exploration along with paying respects to the two tribal gods. We would talk about the stories of our trips to Medaram for months even after the festival is completed.
Camping Tents were made impromptu with bamboo, saris and sheets. Bamboo at one point was abundantly available surrounding the temple and the temple was right in the middle of the forest. As the night falls, camp fires and songs across the whole forest will keep it lively. Food made with fire from the wooden logs and sticks collected from the forest tasted better than anything you ever ate at home. In this carnival type setting, kids can't wait to buy the toys they made plans forever. Many will recollect the story of Medaram Jatara and how it all started. The story of the valor of mother and daughter duo, whose names were Samakka and Saralamma is remembered. The tribal leaders and fierce fighters who stood up against the rulers for their unjust laws and taxes that were levied on the tribals. During this struggle against the ruling kingdom, they sacrificed their lives,
Often, we would look around to run into a Koya tribe person to hear the first hand account of the stories of the jungle and the festival proceedings. They mention that the hill is fully protected by wild animals and tigers and no one ever dares to venture in the conscious mind. They would mention about the hill called chikalagutta where on the day of the festivals falling on a Wednesday and Thursday, head priest from the tribal family (Same family for generations) would go in an unconscious state to bring the deity from the hill into the temple premises in the form of a turmeric powder after performing rituals and puja.
Over the years, deforestation around the surroundings of the temple premises for kilometres now has been made a flat land. But back in the day, it was fun to camp and tent under the forest trees. We thought we were lucky enough to go for a week-long trip but when you listen to the parents and grandparents stories about going to Medaram on month-long trips on bullock carts it was as exciting as scary as we would ask them what if the wild animals came to attack them. They often responded that they would make sounds with drums and sing songs to keep the animals away while going thru the forests. Often, they will carry the journey in the night and rest in the day for the ox to recover and relax for the long road ahead. Along the way, they would stop and cook and rest a little before the next day starts. They would travel for a week before they would reach their destination. Medaram place part of the Etunagaram forest which still falls under Warangal district is 150 km or 100 miles from Warangal city which is my hometown.
The journey itself from Warangal which is my hometown would take them a week to go to Medaram and week to come back from Medaram. Usually, they would camp out for weeks in the Medaram forest. What can you ask for as a vacation during those good old days five decades ago, a road trip for a month in the forest with the whole community and neighbours celebrating and enjoying time with family and community will give them a good recharge. Many stories were told every year and some were repeat stories and some were new and kids always wanted more and more and the interest never ended. One such story is about the appearance of a tiger on the road right in front of the caravan of the bullock carts. As the kids wait curiously to know what happened next, the elders tell them how immediately some village elders prayed to the goddess Samakka and Sarakka to help them and the tiger disappeared calmly into the forest without harming anyone. The miracles of the goddess and the powers are often talked about by the elders.
As the pilgrims reach their destination in Medaram, they run into a tributary of water called Jampanna Vaagu (Originally called sampangi vaagu) where supposedly the son of Samakka took his last breath. People take a holy dip to clean themselves of any evils and supposedly induces courage in their souls. Once you cross this water tributary and enter into the Medaram area, some of the people who are supposedly touched by the goddess go into this semi-conscious mode. All the people surround them and ask their questions and doubts about the deity to find solutions. Undoubtedly, they truly believe and pray the goddess to fulfil their unfulfilled prayers during their stay which is supposed to be auspicious.
Whether it is for people praying their deity for unanswered prayers or for celebrating quality family time, visiting Medaram is always fun. It is a celebration of our Telangana culture with an emboldening message of the two deities to rise up against any injustice anywhere.