HYDERABAD: The Telugu community celebrates womanhood by inviting goddess 'Bathukamma,' also known as Goddess Gowri, into their homes for nine days during the Navaratri.
While Gujaratis worship Durga as 'Ambe Maa', the Telugu community worships her as Gowri or Lakshmi. Telugus consider Bathukamma as mother, the giver of life, and source of energy. The Telugu community worships Goddess Gowri during the festival by building conical turmeric mounds called 'gauramma' atop the Bathukamma's flower shrines. It is worth noting that the nine-day Bathukamma celebrations coincide with the nine-night festival of Navaratri, or "nine nights".
The Bathukamma festival is marked by women making flower shrines in honor of Bathukamma as ‘Gauramma’ or ‘Gowri devi’. Bathukamma shrines are surrounded by women singing and dancing, while tales of the goddess are told in a distinctive Telangana dialect. "We perform our traditional Bathukamma dance and sing special songs while dancing around the flower basket (Bathukamma). People from our building and neighbourhood gather in a common area to celebrate the festival together," explained M. Sujata, a mathematics teacher at a city private school.
Special flower baskets, representing Bathukamma, are worshipped for nine days before being immersed in waterbodies on the ninth day.
On the first day, a small Bathukamma is prepared and on the ninth a larger one is prepared, which is decorated with seasonal flowers. On top of the Bathukamma, some people place an idol of Goddess Mahalakshmi. Every day during the Bathukamma festivities, women worship ‘Nava Durga’ or the nine 'avatars' (manifestations) of the goddess, mainly Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati.
On each of the nine days, special ‘prasadam’ is prepared. “Every day, the women wear a different colour and dress according to the goddess' avatar. Traditional clothing like half-sarees and pattu sarees are worn by women during the festival. Younger girls who are unmarried usually wear half sarees, while older women prefer pattu sarees,” said T. Samatha, a government school teacher who celebrates the festival every year and prepares Bathukamma every year.
Additionally, women apply turmeric on their feet to symbolize purity."During the celebrations, women also apply turmeric to their faces. Bangles, bindis, and kumkum are distributed to women," said mental health expert Eswari Vadlamudi.
Aside from dancing around the Bathukamma, which is also a form of worship for the goddess, the men of the family pluck special leaves known as 'Shami Patra' leaves on the tenth day, known as Dasara. “Family members present these leaves to the elders in order to obtain the blessings of fortune. The elders then return the leaves to them as a form of blessing," said Abhinav Ravichander, senior technical writer.
He mentioned that many south Indian families prepare the 'Golu,' which is the decoration of several smaller idols of gods. Different day-to-day life situations in villages are also depicted in the Golus known as Bommala Koluvu in Telangana. Every year during Dasara, Abhinav celebrates the Bommala Koluvu in his home.
A parent stated that earlier children were interested in learning about Telugu traditions and were curious about Bathukamma, as well as wanting to prepare the flower basket themselves. However, now that the garba and dandiya nights are being organised, children are losing interest in their own tradition, which is disappointing. "It's good to learn about other cultures, but it's bad to forget or disrespect your own," the parent explained.