A major event of last week, not far from Hyderabad was the once in two years Medaram Jatara. Jatara means a major festival of a Temple or place of worship. Medaram Jatara is more popularly known as Sammakka Saralamma Jatara. On the first day of the four days Jatara that is on 27th January itself 20 Lakh pilgrims had reached Medaram. And on the subsequent days it kept up similar pace and about 80 Lakh pilgrims have visited Medaram during the Jatara period. Devotees believe that Goddesses Sammakka and Saralamma have divine and miraculous powers and would certainly fulfill their wishes. Devotees seek blessings for prosperity, happiness, peace, good health, success and so on and even issueless couples visit to pray for children. Once their wishes are fulfilled they visit again to fulfill their vows. Its influence on the devotees and as a result its popularity has been growing over the years. What started as the festival of the local tribal people (Girijans) and later of other tribals from various areas is now popular among many from even neighboring States and a very large number of them are mainstream Hindus.
Though I have been hearing of the Jatara since childhood I could not go there even once. I have gone up to Palampet to visit the centuries old Ramappa Temple: http://srisrilara.blogspot.com/2009/07/ramappa-temple-palampet-andhra-pradesh.html. Medaram is just about 30 Kms. from there but I did not visit the place as it is only during the Jatara that Sammakka and Saralamma deities are present there.
Medaram is a small village situated about 110 Kms. from Warangal city in the Eturnagaram Wildlife Sanctuary which is a part of the dense Dandakaranya forest. Once in two years the State Government makes elaborate arrangements for the devotees to visit and stay at Medaram for the Jatara. Medaram is a holy place where the tribal brave women Sammakka and Saralamma are worshipped as Gods. Seven centuries ago Sammakka was found as a baby in the forest adjoining Medaram. The villagers brought her to the village and started taking care of her. Ever since the baby was brought to the village the villagers prospered and were happy. As Sammakka grew up she started curing illnesses with her blessings and granting wishes to one and all. Suffering people and issueless couples approached her for blessings and their wishes came true. Sammakka became very popular.
Sammakka then got married to Pagididda Raju, the ruler of Medaram area. They were blessed with one son – Jampanna and two daughters – Saralamma and Nagulamma. Pagididda Raju was a subordinate king to the Emperor Prathaparudra of the Kakatiya dynasty whose capital city was Orugallu that is Warangal of today. As a famine ravished the Medaram area Pagididda Raju refused to collect and pay taxes to the Emperor. This angered the Emperor and he declared war. Pagididda Raju and his tribal warriors fought bravely but could not withstand the mighty forces of the Emperor. It is said that blood flowed as streams in this war and got mixed with the nearby Sampenga Vagu (riverlet). Pagididda Raju and his son-in-law Govinda Raju fought bravely and perished in the war. Son, Jampanna could not digest this tragedy and jumped into Sampenga Vagu and killed himself. Since then the riverlet took the name of Jampanna Vagu. On hearing about the death of her loved ones and the battle situation, Sammakka courageously took to the battle field. With her strength and divine power she fought valiantly and astonished the Kakatiya warriors but at one stage she was attacked from the back and stabbed. She turned back, killed the soldier and left the battle field. She left the battle field as it was considered that the ground on which her blood fell would not bear any crop or fruit. She went into the forest east of Medaram.
After the battle, the tribals searched for her in the forest but did not find her. Instead they strangely found a small container called Kumkuma barinay meaning a container of vermillion near a snake pit. Since then, once in every two years the tribals celebrate this festival of Sammakka and Saralamma at Medaram on Magha Shuddha Purnima. A tribal (Koya) priest religiously fasts by eating only once a day for a fortnight and on the festival day brings the deities of the Goddesses from the forest in the form of Vermillion Caskets tied to two bamboo posts, one representing Sammakka and the other of her daughter Sarakka / Saralamma. During the duration of these rituals at the Jatara devotees offer Jaggery normally referred as Gold and coconuts to the Goddesses for fulfilling their wishes. And on the last and fourth day of the Jatara the deities are taken back into the forest calling it as Vanapravesham.
The media has been covering the Jatara very extensively. Most of the time it is live telecast of the Jatara. The devotion of the pilgrims, over 80 Lakhs in four days would interest and astonish anyone.