Massive crowds of devotees at tribal festival in Telangana

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Warangal (Telangana), Feb 19 (IANS) Hundreds of thousands of devotees paid obeisance to tribal deities in Medaram of Telanagana’s Warangal district on Friday, the third day of Sammakka Sarakka jatara, said to Asia’s largest tribal fair.

Medaram and surrounding villages in Eturanagaram forests were teeming with massive crowds of devotees, participating in the biennial event.

The devotees were waiting for hours to have ‘darshan’ of Samakka and Sarakka installed on special platform for the four-day festival.

Performing the unique rituals associated with the fair, the devotees offered jaggery to the deities while women believed to be possessed by goddesses were seen dancing.

There was hardly any space available at Jampanna rivulet, where in the devotees are taking a dip with the belief that this will wash off their sins.

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The devotees from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra and other states have raised temporary sheds and makeshift kitchens. Most of them were seen buying live chickens and preparing their food.

Sammakka and Sarakka were legendary warriors from the Koya tribe who fought against the Kakatiya empire 800 years ago and were killed in battle.

Large-scale arrangements made by Telangana government have ensured smooth conduct of the festival so far. The authorities have spent Rs.180 crore to provide best facilities to the devotees. These include uninterrupted water and electricity supply.

Deputy Chief Minister Kadiam Srihari said 50 lakh devotees were expected on Friday. He said all steps had been taken to ensure smooth conduct of the jatra, which is Asia’s biggest tribal festival and the first to be held after formation of the Telangana state.

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Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) was operating buses from all districts of Telangana. TSRTC officials said they so far transported four lakh people by operating over 10,000 buses. A heavy rush expected on Friday and Saturday.

Railways are also operating 16 special trains for the devotees. A private aviation firm also launched helicopter service from Hyderabad and Warangal to Medaram.

The Hyderabad-Medaram-Hyderabad trip on a Bell 429 four-seater costs Rs.65,000 per head and a Warangal-Medaram-Warangal trip costs Rs.26,500 per head.

Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, who was scheduled to visit the jatra on Friday, cancelled his visit. Officials said the chief minister cancelled the visit due to “unavoidable reasons”. It was not clear if he will be visiting Medaram on the last day.

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Telangana assembly Speaker Madhusudhana Chary, Commercial Taxes Minister T. Srinivas Yadav, and Director General of Police Anurag Sharma were among those who offered prayers on Friday.

Popular actor and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) legislator N. Balakrishna and his wife visited Medaram. The couple had darshan of the deities. He told reporters that they prayed for the happiness and well-being of people. He described the festival as reflection of Telangana’s rich culture.

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