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Jogging on Jaggery

Jogging on Jaggery
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One could sense the adrenaline pumping inside, just by the mere sight of a long row of RTC buses seen parked at Uppal X Road, the normal starting...

An amateur’s attempt to capture the exhilarating moments of Medaram turns out to be a memorable experience of a lifetime

One could sense the adrenaline pumping inside, just by the mere sight of a long row of RTC buses seen parked at Uppal X Road, the normal starting point for buses headed to Warangal. In a strangely unexplained manner, these state-run buses, which otherwise are not too well known for their passenger-friendliness, seemed to bend over backwards in accommodating a steady, surging crowd which was headed in only one direction- Medaram, the hotspot for the world’s largest tribal festival, held biennially.

As a hallmark of service orientation, this was the only time as much as one could remember when a commuter could get into any category of buses- ordinary, semi-deluxe or super deluxe armed with a ticket charged on a flat fare basis.

The journey to Warangal, usually a matter of four hours or so itself took six and more on February 13, two years ago. In 2014, the Medaram jatara had been held between February 12-15 and this trip was undertaken on the second day, after many deliberations on its pros and cons among family and friends. Having heard so much about it during the growing up years in Karimnagar, one felt it would surely be a ‘journey of faith’ worth remembering.

Indeed, it was. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could have prepared anyone to see what was on offer at the festival location after one touched it, travelling nearly three hours from Warangal, a delay of nearly one hour than what it actually should take. As one got down, one was immediately swamped and carried at an automated pace by the crowd, headed towards the special altars where the deities were kept.

Many of them carrying mounds of jaggery, the offering to the tribal deities of Sammakka, Sarakka, Padigidde Raju and Govinda Raju, which is dumped on in the special enclosure where they are placed. Unlike the celebrity temple Tirupati, where the darshan of the Lord can be only for a few nanoseconds, here the scene is totally different.

Despite the relentless pressure of crowds, stretching upto five kms and more, the movement within the special altar area was measured and easy-paced. Volunteers, speaking multiple dialects and languages were directing the largely tribal crowd patiently, while the police, seemed less authoritarian and even friendly. A logistical and infrastructural challenge, it has to be seen to be experienced.

Awash with country liquor, downing the food and snacks available, the public settle just about anywhere they can find space, if at all they do. The media, the official machinery and curious onlookers go about their tasks in the best manner possible. The sanitation and hygiene-related activities go about non-stop, despite a heavy, orangeish dust haze and an overpowering aroma of joss sticks and body odour.

One gets used to the sticky, jaggery-coated feet and the sickly stink of pounded food and fruit material as one wades around the crowd, where there are students from neighbouring universities out to meet their internship targets, soaking in the ambience of an event, which is next only to the Kumbh Mela. This year the Jatara will be held between February 17 and 20.

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