Thousands throng Andhra for Asia's biggest tribal fair


Officials expect eight million people from different parts of Andhra Pradesh and other states for the four-day biennial festival, which is all set to begin late Wednesday in the tiny Medaram village in the forests of Tadvai Mandal, about 90 km from Warangal town.

A sea of humanity has descended in the area for the over 1,000-year-old tribal festival to celebrate the valour of Sammakka and Saralamma (mother and daughter) who fought against the mighty Kakatiya rulers, defending their land.

Devotees continued to pour in by 2,600 buses run by state-owned Road Transport Corporation and thousands of private vehicles, including buses, vans, cars and even bullock carts.

Tribals from different parts of Andhra Pradesh and other states like Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa started arriving a week ago for the fair, a key festival in Telangana region.

Dressed in traditional colourful tribal attire, the devotees have erected temporary sheds in the high-raised bamboo forest. Performing tribal rituals, including sacrifice of animals and offering of jaggery to tribal deities, they go all out to have fun during the festival.

The 'jatara' will begin with priests bringing the deity of Saralamma from nearby Kannepally village in a procession and installing it at the altar at Medaram. Priests would bring the deity of Sammakka from Chilkalagutta Hills and install it next to Saralamma Thursday.

Tribals believe that worshipping the deities at the altar, sacrificing animals and taking bath in Jampanna Vagu, a nearby stream, bring prosperity and fulfil all their wishes. After the worship, the deities are taken back into the forests by the priests.

Chief Minister K. Rosaiah on Tuesday visited Medaram and worshipped the tribal deities. He offered 89 kg of jaggery, which is called gold during the fair, equivalent to his weight.

Rosaiah assured that he would urge the central government to give national festival status to "jatara". District authorities have made arrangements for supply of drinking water and sanitation.

Hundreds of toilets and bathing ghats at Jampanna stream have been constructed for the devotees. Officials said the state government has spent Rs.230 million to provide basic amenities to the devotees. But the arrangements may once again prove to be inadequate given the huge number of devotees expected for the event.

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