The Sammakka Saralamma Jathara, popularly known as the Medaram Jathara, is the most significant tribal festival celebrated in the state of Telangana to honor the Hindu tribal goddesses. Known for witnessing one of the largest gatherings in the world, this Jathara begins from the lands of Medaram in Telangana and continues to other places in the Tadvai region. It is considered one of the most revered and celebrated festivals of Telangana in almost every part of the state.
Including in Cultural Heritage
The Jathara takes place according to the Hindu lunar calendar. Observed in the Magh month (February), it is a biannual festival that attracts millions of people around the country. It begins five days before the full moon and continues till Purnima. In 2022, Sammakka Saralamma Jathara will begin from 12th February and end on 16th February. All the rituals related to the festival are conducted by the Koya Tribal priests in accordance with the cultures, customs and traditions of the Koya heritage.
Diving in the History
The history behind these festivities age back to the 13th century, to the fight of a mother and daughter against unjust law. Samakka being the mother and Saralamma being the daughter. The legend says that about 6-7 centuries ago, some tribal leaders went for a hunt and found a newborn girl with a visible aura around her amid a group of tigers. The leaders took the little girl back to their habitation and named her Samakka. She was brought up as the chieftain and gradually turned to be a savior to all the tribes of the region.
She grew up to be a beautiful young woman trained in martial and governing skills. She was married to Pagididda Raju, the feudatory tribal chief of the then ruling Kakatiya dynasty. After a few years of their marriage, they were blessed with two daughters, Saralamma and Nagulamma, and a son Jampanna.
When the king of the Kakatiya Dynasty imposed taxes on the Koya Tribe, Pagididda Raju, the feudal tribal chief, was unable to pay them. As a result, the king declared war on the Koya Tribe and the tribal leader was killed fighting the battle. Angered with grief, Sammakka entered the field along with her children. When she was almost about to win, Saralamma and Jampanna died in the attack. He fell bleeding into the stream nearby named Sampangi. Sammakka later went to a hill called Chilakala Gutta all alone and manifested into a vermilion casket or Kumkum Bharani.
After this incident, the Koya tribe and all devotees believe that Sammakka and Saralamma were manifestations of Devi Aadi Parashakti, and thus they worship them on this festival. The entire celebration takes place on the stream’s banks where Jampanna fell, now known as the Jampanna Vaagu.
It is known that, after the Kumbh Mela that takes place in the country, the Medaram Sammakka Saralamma Jatara has the largest gatherings against any festival celebrated. The entire ceremony is conducted in the Medaram area, a remote place in the Eturnagaram Wildlife Sanctuary, the largest forest belt in the Deccan region.
In the Jathara, all the tribals and devotees offer jaggery equal to their weight to the goddesses. They also worship bamboo and sacrifice animals as a custom. Many devotees shave their heads and dance to the beats of the drum as they have been possessed by the deity. It is also considered holy to take a bath in the sacred waters of the Jamapanna Vagu as it is believed to have curative properties.
The thrones of all four, Samakka, Saralamma, Pagididda Raju and Jampanna, are decorated with new clothes and adorned with jewelry two weeks before the festival to depict their glory.