Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh: A ‘stress-buster’ festival where devotees utter profanities!

Dressed in the guise of mythological characters and saints, devotees visit Thathayagunta Gangamma temple in Tirupati to offer prayers as part of the folk festival.

Dressed in the guise of mythological characters and saints, devotees visit Thathayagunta Gangamma temple in Tirupati to offer prayers as part of the folk festival.

There are unique features associated with any folk festival. When it comes to the Gangamma Jatara, the centuries-old festival associated with Tirupati, it is the widespread usage of unparliamentary language.

The festival is of great relevance to the residents of Tirupati as the tradition has been continuing here ever since it was a small village. People who have migrated to other places make it a point to visit their hometown during the festival.

The recent settlers in the city watch with shock, and at times with a sense of abhorrence, when the devout get ‘foul mouthed’, uttering unparliamentary words while walking to the Thathayagunta temple. This has been the practice for generations in the temple town.

According to mythology, a local chieftain used to outrage the modesty of women in the area. When he tried to misbehave with Gangamma, she vowed to kill him. When the chieftain went into hiding fearing for his life, Gangamma roamed around donning strange guises and shouting obscene words to bring him out. He was slayed on coming out of his den after nine days. It is this practice that the denizens enact even today as a form of paying obeisance to the folk Goddess.

Blame it on urbanisation or the ‘refined upbringing’ of children, the practice of uttering swear words has witnessed a decline over the last two decades.

“Professors, scientists and doctors, who generally refrain from using such language, use this opportunity to release their pent-up emotions,” observes noted counselling psychologist N.B. Sudhakar Reddy of Tirupati. There are no folk songs containing expletives of late, he points out.

The ubiquitous ‘Saarey’

Saarey is an auspicious gift sent from Tirumala to Thathayagunta temple, as a birthday gift from Sri Venkateswara to his sister Gangamma. Rather surprisingly, several politicians and officials are making a beeline to present ‘Saarey’, a similar gift set containing sari, bangles, and turmeric these days.

“Only the gift from Tirumala is classified as ‘Saarey’ and not those carried by others, which has become a recent practice,” avers Peta Srinivasulu Reddy, a retired professor of Telugu at Sri Venkateswara University, who has written several books on Gangamma Jatara.

Another unique feature here is the way men dress up as women by draping a sari, using heavy make-up and wearing a wig to offer prayers. “This trend has also declined significantly”, says a worried Prof. Srinivasulu Reddy.


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Printable version | Jun 27, 2022 12:58:21 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/a-stress-buster-festival-where-devotees-utter-profanities/article65416402.ece