Bathukamma is a festival of flowers observed for 9 days, by the Hindu women of Telangana in India. Celebrated every year as per the Telugu version of the Hindu calendar in Bhadrapada Amavasya, also known as Mahalaya Amavasya, it generally falls in the period of September-October of the Gregorian calendar.
The 2016 dates for Bathukamma are September 30-October 9, meaning that the festival comes to a close tomorrow.
Bathukamma is observed during the Durga Navaratri period and ends two days before Dussehra, from Mahalaya Amavasya to Durgashtmi, known as “Saddula Bathukamma” or “Pedda Bathukamma”. Boddemma is a 7 day festival which follows Bathukamma. Bathukamma ushers in Sharath Ruthu and Bodemma concludes Varsha Ruthu.
What is Bathukamma?
Bathukamma is a traditional observance by the people of Telangana, mainly the women folk, that celebrates the cultural spirit of the Telugu people of the state. Bathukamma means a stacked arrangement of flowers, in seven concentric layers in the shape of a temple gopuram. The flowers chosen mostly have medicinal value.
Gopuram (is a monumental tower, usually ornate, at the entrance of any temple, especially in Southern India. Gopurams function as gateways through the walls that surround the temple complex.
A festival for women, on this special occasion women dress up in the traditional sari combining it with jewels and other accessories. Teenage Girls wear the traditional Langa-Oni, the Half-Sarees or the Lehenga Choli and also bedeck themselves with jewels to bring out the traditional grace of the attire.
In Telugu, ‘Bathukamma’ means ‘Mother Goddess come Alive’ and Goddess Maha Gauri also known as the ‘Life Giver’ is worshipped in the form of Bathukamma.
In the Chalukya kingdom of Vemulavaada (present day Karimnagar District), Rajarajeswara temple is popular. Rajarajeswara was worshipped by the Telangana people as their beloved deity. Raja Raja Chola ruled between 985-1014 AD. His son Rajendra Chola attacked Vemulavaada. He destroyed Rajeswara’s temple and took the Bruhat (huge) Siva linga to his father as a gift which was subsequently established in the Brihadeswara temple that he built. The loss of the Linga dejected the people of Telangana. Considering that Lord Shiva left them (in the form of the Linga) and in symbolism to comfort Goddess Parvathi (Bruhadamma) who loves flowers, an array of flowers arranged like the Meru mountain, on top of which Gouramma made with turmeric paste was placed and with song and dance the loss is recounted. Finally dispatching the flowers (symbolizing Parvati) in the water, the people begged her to return to them again. This ritual over time took the shape of a festival, that has been observed since.
Current day celebrations
On the first five days of the nine day festivql, women clean their courtyards and smear cowdung mixed with water as a paste all over the area. Rangolis or Muggu patterns are drawn with rice flour. All five days cowdung is used to prepare the Bathukamma, usually in cone shape and arranged in the courtyard.
Men of the house gather flowers from the wild plains like Celosia, Senna, Marigold, Chrysanthemum, Indian Lotus, Cucurbita leaves & flowers, Cucumis Sativus leaves & flowers, Memecylon edule, Tridax procumbens, Trachyspermum ammi, Katla, Teku Flowers, etc., which bloom in this season in various vibrant colors all across the uncultivated and barren plains of the region.
Preparing the Bathukamma
Preparing the Bathukamma is begun in the afternoon of the first day itself. An art that is bewitching in the way it is done.
The flowers are cut leaving a little of the base stalk. Some dip the Gunugu (Celosia) flowers in various colors, some scent themand arrange the flowers on a wide plate called Thambalam spread with big leaves. The flowers are stacked in a certain sequence and order in the form of a coneith a lotus leaf or pumpkin flower on top of all. A symbolic Gowri is made of turmeric paste and placed atop it. The arrangement ensures that when it is let into the water, it stays afloat for some time and does not separate out until it submerges in the water.
For nine days, young girls and other female folk gather in their respective localities with their Bathukammas, form a circle and sing songs and dance revolving around the bathukamma in the centre. Women seek the blessings of the Goddess for the well-being and prosperity of their families through the songs that are sung. By tradition, any of the tributes of Uyyala (Swing), Chandamama (Moon) or Gouramma (the Goddess) end the rendition.
Each day has a name mainly signifying the type of “naivedyam” (food offering) offered. Most of the naivedyam (food offering) offered are very simple to prepare, and usually young children or young girls are mainly involved in the preparation of the offerings for the first eight days of the festival. The last day, called Saddula Bathukamma is when all the women take part in the preparation.
On Saddula Bathukamma, this final day immersion of Bathukamma (Bathukamma Visarjan) in water bodies is celebrated with utmost devotion and enthusiasm with rhythmic drum beats throughout Telangana. Gouramma (a symbolic idol of Gowri made of turmeric) is taken back from Bathukamma before immersion and every married woman applies a paste of this, on her Mangala sutra that marks the solemnization of her marriage and also her husband is protected from all evils and ill fate.
Bathukamma is a tradition, a symbolic gesture observed over a long time and followed meticulously year after year right to this present day. It is an observance that bonds the women of Telangana, a hope that augurs well for their families, a ritualistic journey that refreshes their minds and rejuvenates their souls.