Dressed oddly, a person suddenly emerges from the crowd and abuses one with filthy language. He uses the choicest of words in the foulest possible language, but the same is received with bowed head and folded hands.
If it’s not for the festival, the unparliamentary language would have caused serious embarrassment to the receiver in front of the public, triggered a brawl and even led to fisticuffs. The peculiar feature of the age-old tradition associated with the ongoing annual folk festival ‘Tirupati Gangamma Jathara’ is the practice of using obscene language.
Irrespective of age, educational background or social status, it is common for the devout to hurl abuses at will. It is often a “slanging match”, be they siblings, neighbours or even father-and-son duo. And it is thoroughly enjoyed by both the parties!
According to mythology, when a Palegadu (local chieftain) outraged the modesty of a woman, Gangamma vowed to kill him, following which the scared Palegadu went underground. Gangamma went to town in various guises, shouting obscenities to provoke him. Finally, she spotted him one day and killed him, which is observed on the final day of the nine-day festival. The general belief among the devotees is that the use of abuses will satisfy the Goddess and thus she bestows her blessings on them.
“Tirupati is one of the oldest spiritual centres in the country and the practice of abusing each other during the Jatara dates back to Vedic period,” says Peta Srinivasulu Reddy, a professor of Telugu at Sri Venkateswara University and an expert on folklore. His work ‘Tirupati Ganga Jatara’ won an award from the Andhra Pradesh Janapada Sahitya Academy in 1995. On the scientific front, the practice of donning various guises satisfies one’s ego and childhood fantasies, while hurling abuses busts the stress buried deep inside the mind. “The unrelieved stress may cause outburst with double the impact,” he said, quoting noted psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.
Irrespective of the science behind the tale, native residents of Tirupati, from highly-acclaimed academics to US-returned software professionals, can be seen mouthing words which they otherwise find uncomfortable to utter!