Sammakka SarakkaIts that part of the year in Medaram when the beloved goddesses of the tribals visit them. Its that time when the forest is tranformed into a cosmopolis. Its that time when all the buses in Telangana head towards Medaram. Its that time when people are weighed in bangaram(jaggery) which is offered to the Gods. Its that time of the year when countless bullock carts march towards the jungles of Medaram. Its that time of the year when there are 60km long traffic jams in Warangal. Its that time of the year when my grandmother prays for me.
Its time for the largest tribal congregation in the universe. To give you an idea of how big this really is
In 2004, 6 million people attended the festival.Thats more than the population of Hyderabad city.In the same year it was estimated that 2 million Hajj pilgrims participated in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. And Vatican received 3 million visitors in the whole year. It is the second largest religious congregation after the Maha Kumbh Mela which happens once in 12 years.
Inspite of being such a large scale festival it has rarely received any support from the government. Medaram is a remote place in the Eturunagaram wildlife Sanctuary, a part of Dandakaranya, the largest surviving forest belt in the Deccan. It is spread over five states and numerous tribes inhabit it. Things havent changed much there since the Kakatiyan times about 1000 years ago. Until very recently the only way to reach Medaram was by a bullock cart. Apart from the four days of the biennial festival, there is not a soul moving there. It was a desolute place with no road or transportation.It was only in 1998 that the govt of AP declared the 1000 year old festival as official and laid down a transportable road.
The lack of involvement of the govt has, however, helped the festival retain its own spirit. Sammakka Sarakka jatara is an indeginiuos tribal festival with no vedic or brahmanic influence. Goats and hens are sacrificed in thousands and there is a lot of liquor going around. The rituals performed during the festival unfurl the tribal spirit in its purest form. The very fact of the survival and thriving of this ancient tribal festival, in the face of several adversities, is a testimony of the indomitable resolve, honesty, uprightness and courage of the Girijan.