The unique festival of flowers in Telangana
Bathukamma is a colourful and vibrant festival of Telangana and celebrated by women, with flowers that grow exclusively in each region. This festival is a symbol of Telangana’s cultural identity.
Bathukamma comes during the latter half of monsoon, before the onset of winter. The monsoon rains usually brings plenty of water into the fresh water ponds of Telangana and it is also the time when wild flowers bloom in various vibrant colors all across the uncultivated and barren plains of the region. The most abundant of these are the ‘gunuka poolu’ and ‘tangedu poolu’. There are other flowers too like the banti, chemanti, nandi-vardhanam etc. Bathukamma is celebrated by the women folk of Telangana, heralding the beauty of nature in vibrant colors of multitudinous flowers.
The festival begins a week before the grand ‘Saddula Bathukamma’ (the grand finale of the Bathukamma festival) which falls two days before Dussehra. The women folk normally get back to their parent's home from their in-laws and breathe the fresh air of freedom to celebrate the colors of flowers. For one complete week, they make small ‘Bathukammas’, play around them every evening and immerse them in a nearby water pond. On the last day, the men folk of the house go into the wild plains and gather the flowers like gunuka and tangedi. They bring home bagfuls of these flowers and the entire household sits down to make the big ‘Bathukamma’. The flowers are carefully arranged row after row in a brass plate (called taambalam) in circular rows and in alternate colors. As evening approaches the women folk dress colourfully with the best of their attire and adorn lot of ornaments and place the Bathukamma in their courtyard. The women of neighborhood also gather in a large circle around it. They start singing songs by circling it repeatedly, building a beautiful human circle of unity, love, sisterhood.
After playing in circles around the “Bathukammalu”, before the onset of dusk, the women folk carry them on their heads and move as a procession towards a bigger water body near the village or town. The procession is extremely colourful with the decorations of women and the “Bathukammalu”. Songs of folklore are sung in chorus throughout the procession and the streets resonate with them. Finally, when they reach the water pond the “Bathukammalu” are slowly immersed into water after some more playing and singing. Then they share the ‘maleeda’ (a dessert made with sugar or raw sugar and corn bread) sweets amongst the family members and neighborhood folks. They return to their homes with empty ‘taambaalam’ singing songs in praise of Bathukamma. The songs of Bathukamma echo in the streets until late night during the entire week..
Bathukamma celebrates the inherent relationship between earth, water and the human beings. During the entire preceding week, women make ‘boddemma’ (a deity of Gowri – mother Durga – made with earthly mud) along with Bathukamma and immerse it in the pond. This helps reinforce the ponds and helps it retain more water. 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. In times where the fresh water ponds are gradually diminishing and dwindling away it is indeed a pride of Telangana that its womenfolk (with mostly agrarian background) inherently know how to make them better by celebrating the beauty of nature. It is something we indeed have to feel proud of. The festival heralds the beauty of nature, collective spirit of Telangana people, the indomitable spirit of women folks and also the scientific approach of the agrarian people towards preserving the resources of nature in a celebrative way. Hence, Bathukamma is the icon of cultural identity of Telangana.