The eight-century-old tribal festival — Sammakka Sarakka Jatara — held at the tiny village Medaram in Telangana’s Mulugu district has witnessed a lot of changes over the decades.
There were times when the people from near and far walked for miles while some took bullock carts taking days on and on through thick jungles to reach the venue.
They used to pay their obeisance to tribal goddesses camping there for a week or more much ahead of jatara. They used to camp in jungles raising temporary sheds with tarpaulin sheets or bamboo cut from the jungles to stay put. They used to come from Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Khammam, Bhadrachalam, and many other tribal habitations all along the river Godavari on both sides.
As the crowds began swelling, the state government pitched in making arrangements for the devotees. Now the devotees can reach by any means — even helicopter to reach this small remote hamlet bursting at seams once in two years during the jatara.
Helicopter rides to Medaram began in 2010 from the Mamnoor airport in Warangal. Charging Rs 6,000 for to and fro, the Turbo Aviation Company arranged helicopter trips. But it did not click as expected.
Again, another attempt was made to arrange helicopters for the devotees in 2014 and 2016 which proved futile.
Now the Telangana Tourism department in collaboration with one private company Thumby Aviation private limited has started offering services from Arts college grounds in Hanamkonda to Medaram village this year. It is charging Rs 19,999 for to and fro trips and Rs 3,700 per person for an aerial view.
As many as 1.25 crore people are expected to visit the Jatara, beginning on Wednesday.
The TSRTC expects to transport nearly 30 lakh people operating 4,000 buses while the rest are expected to arrive by 3.5 lakh private vehicles.
The improved road network, provision of drinking water, and sanitation among other amenities are motivating more people to take part in the event, often described as Telangana’s Kumbh Mela.
Tribals and non-tribals from various parts of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and other states will converge for the fair, which marks celebration of tribal traditions.
Officials said in view of Covid-19, many devotees already visited Medaram to offer prayers.
An estimated four lakh devotees have already visited Medaram during the last few days ahead of the Jatara.
Adivasis living in forest fringe habitations in several states along the river Godavari congregate once in two years to celebrate the valour of legendary warriors Sammakka and Sarakka.
The tribals treat them as goddesses and hail their bravery in trying to protect them. Belonging to the Koya tribe, the mother-daughter duo died while fighting against the Kakatiya empire about eight centuries ago.