Nellore: The stage set for the commencement of the popular Roti Festival at the Bara Shaheed Dargah in Nellore from Friday. Already thousands of devotees have reached the Dargah and have been exchanging rotis for last two days.
According to the legend, the Nawab of Arcot had summoned a regiment from Turkey to fight against British in the year 1751, a year which marked the siege of Arcot during a series of Carnatic wars. Twelve soldiers in the regiment were highly religious and performed Namaz five times a day and observed all the rules of their faith. Though the regiment won, the 12 warriors were beheaded by the rival forces in the battle at a place called Gandavaram, 15 km from Nellore. The headless bodies were brought back on the horses they were riding to the present Dargah area in Nellore and the place became popular as Bara Shaheed Dargah because they were laid to rest at the place and a Dargah was built thereafter.
Word spread about the power of the warriors to grant the desires of the devout after the wife of then Arcot Nawab was cured of a serious illness when she offered prayers at the tombs of the 12 warriors.
As a token of reverence, the queen, along with the Nawab, distributed rotis among the warriors and later to the locals and devotees throng the Dargah on the 12th day of the Muharram month. Offering rotis during the Muharram month has become a tradition since then.
Based on the desire of the devotees, the rotis are named as Sowbhagya (good fortune) roti, Vidya (education) roti, Udyoga (employment) roti, Vivaha (marriage) roti, Santana (children) roti, Dhana (money) roti and even Visa roti. The roti vendors make a fast buck by catering to specific requirements.
The exchange of rotis takes place at the Nellore tank, also known as ‘Swarnala Cheruvu’, loc-ated close to the dargah.
Speaking to this newspaper, Nellore Mayor S.K. Abdul Aziz and the festival committee chairman Shaik Hayath Basha said devotees offered rotis to the tombs of the 12 martyrs in lieu of their fulfilled desires and those with similar wants wou-ld pick these up. “It is widely believed that the warriors will grant every wish of the devotees offering prayers at the dargah,” Mr Aziz said.
According to Mr Aziz, people of all faiths from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and other states, and some even from abroad, throng the Daragh and the numbers are increasing every year. While 10 to 12 lakh people turned up for the 3 day festival last year, the expectation is 13 to 14 lakhs this year.