This festive season, let’s explore the nuances of Bathukamma — a festival celebrated in Telangana to honour the connection between mother nature and humans. By Angira Kar
Bathukamma is a festival of flowers celebrated in Telangana in the late monsoon months when barren lands come alive with new flowers of vibrant colours. The residents of Telangana, especially the womenfolk, honour mother nature for the miracle that it brings to the land, during this time of the year.
The rains fill up the ponds and bless uncultivated barren lands with wildflowers. These flowers include banti, chamanti, nandi-vardhanam, gunuka or gunugu, and tangedu. The region is also blessed with fruits like shilpakka pandlu or custard apples, which grow in the wild with little to no water and are often called the poor man’s apple.
The festival begins a week before the grand ‘Saddula Bathukamma’, which falls two days before Dussehra. During this time, women go to their paternal homes as a ritual and prepare themselves for the celebration of colours.
The festival begins with the arrangement of flowers to form a Bathukammalu, for which they are stacked up in rows, and those of alternate colours are set up in circles on a brass plate called the Taambalam. The white gunuka flowers are coloured using water paints and arranged with tangedu in circular layers. The completed Bathukammalu is then placed before the family deity and prayers are said. The offerings made to the Goddess include, flattened parboiled rice, softened boiled lentils or muddapappu, milk, wet rice or nananesina biyyam and pancakes made of wheat among other delicacies.
As evening approaches, the Bathukammalu is placed in the courtyard, and women deck up in their most gorgeous attires and ornaments. Then, women from the neighbourhood gather in a large circle, and take multiple rounds of it, building a beautiful human circle of unity, love and sisterhood.
Before the onset of dusk, a glittering procession of women carrying the beautifully decorated Bathukammalu on their heads proceed towards the nearest waterbody. Songs of folklore are sung throughout the procession. Finally, when they reach the pond, the Bathukammalu is slowly immersed into the water. Then they share maleeda — a dessert made of sugar and cornbread – among family members and neighbours. Later, they return to their respective homes with an empty taambaalam, singing songs in praise of Bathukamma, which echo in the streets until late night, throughout the week.
Bathukamma celebrates the unity of humans, earth and water. During the preceding week, women make Boddemma, a deity of Goddess Durga, with mud. This is also immersed in a pond with Bathukamma. The Bathukamma flowers also have the great quality of purifying water; when they are immersed in the ponds, they ensure they cleanse the water, hence making the environment better.