When the rest of the country is celebrating Navratri, Durga Puja, or Dasara, Telangana (and parts of Andhra Pradesh) observes Bathukamma, said to be a symbolic expression reflecting the connection between earth, water and human beings.
Made of flowers, the Bathukamma is a collection of flowers stacked one layer at a time and rising in a series of concentric circles. It can be compared to the &lsquogopuram&rsquo seen in the temples of southern India. Roughly translated, Bathukamma means &lsquomother of life&rsquo and women in the household thank her for the harvest and seek her blessings for the prosperity of the household.
The nine-day festival starts on the day of Mahalaya (Pitru Amavasya) and concludes on Saddula Bathukamma (also known as Pedda Bathukamma) on Ashwayuja Navami (otherwise known as Durgashtami). Interestingly, it is one festival which uses only biodegradable material for the rituals.
For the first seven days (except day six), women make symbolic images of Bodemma (goddess Gauri) with clay along with small Bathukammas and offer the prescribed &lsquonaivedyam&rsquo on each day, which includes sesame, rice flour, wet rice, jaggery, etc.
On the final day, Saddula Bathukamma, the women prepare huge Bathukammas on a special plate. It is amazing to find the play of imagination that goes into arranging the flowers. Traditionally, flowers that Despite the women using almost the same flowers, no two Bathukamma is alike.
Keeping the floral decoration in the middle, they form a circle around it, singing and dancing at the same time. Then the Bathukamma is taken out in a procession to the accompaniment of drums and music and immersed slowly in a river or any nearby waterbody. Note that being made of flowers, the Bathukamma does not harm the waterbody.
While the festival is known for its vivid use of flowers, experts have pointed out that the making of the Bathukamma has a lot to do with India&rsquos ancient knowledge about the medicinal properties of plants. Traditionally, Bathukammas were made with flowers that grew locally. Also, there are some flowers which went into every Bathukamma. Such as, Gunugu puvvu (Celosia), Thangedu puvvulu (Cassia auriculata), Gummadi puvvulu (Cucurbita), Vaama puvvulu (Ajwain), Banthi puvvu (Marigold), Chamanthi puvvulu (Chrysanthemum) etc.
According to an article titled &lsquoTraditional and medicinal secrets of BhatukammaThe floral festival of Telangana&rsquo (authored by K. Sudheer Kumar, N. Ravindra, S. Seetaram Swamy) published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Advanced Research, &ldquo&hellip the flowers used in preparing Bathukamma has unique medicinal values. The flowers used in Bathukamma have a great quality of purifying water and such flowers when immersed in abundance into the pond have the effect of cleansing the water and making the environment much better. Flowers and leaves used for preparing idols of Bathukamma help in preventing water-borne diseases as they possess various medicinal properties.&rdquo For example, Celosia is said to have a host of medicinal properties and traditionally used in medications for diarrhoea, as an anti-inflammatory agent, in preparing poultices for bruises, etc. Marigold has long been popular as an antiseptic.
The festival got a major fillip after Telangana declared it as a state festival. Since them it is gradually gaining popularity among travellers from outside the state. The colourful flower mounds in the hands of traditionally attired women are a photographers&rsquo delight. But at the same time, we should not forget the inherent environment-friendly essence of the festival.
If you are visiting Telangana for the first time or do not have much time in hand, then capital Hyderabad is the best place to catch the celebrations, where many cultural events are organised too revolving around the festival. Otherwise, you may pay a visit to the rural belt to see the celebrations sans the urban glitz. This year, the Saddula Bathukamma will be celebrated on October 3.