Sometime after Independence, the people of Kedaripuram village in Andhra Pradesh’s Srikakkulam district decided to celebrate a festival with Mahatma Gandhi as its goddess.
Every year, before the harvest of the kharif season, villagers get together and celebrate the festival believing that it will bring good luck.
“Our village also has a history with Gandhi's satyagraha. Our forefathers had participated in the movement. Our elders told us stories of how they were inspired by the struggle, and fought for the rights of farmers inside our own village,” says K Falguna Rao, the sarpanch of Kedaripuram.
However, tradition mandates that a goddess should be worshiped, and that is why they made Gandhi a female figure. They consider Gandhi as a goddess who blesses them with high yields, thus they named the festival “Gandhamma Sambaram”.
This is not a religious festival, and every resident of the village comes together to celebrate regardless of their faith. They prepare some local sweets and other food items and begin celebrations at around 4 pm.
“It is tough to pinpoint a certain year but I personally remember us celebrating it for more than 45-50 years now,” Falguna added.
The New Indian Express reported that the village elders say this festival was started by their ancestors after Independence in 1947, “The festival has its roots in the era of the Inamdari system. The then rulers had gifted 250 acres of land as inam to local landed gentlemen Parasuram Chaudary and Venkata Rama Chaudary, who used to make the farmers work the land and keep the harvest.”
According to The New Indian Express report, villagers carry holy turmeric water and plateful of fruits and sweets in a procession, which culminates in a puja offered to a photo of Gandhi. Traditional songs and dances are also part of the festivities. Towards the end, prasadam is distributed.
Falguna however, is worried as the villagers have, of late, been facing hard times and encountering problems. “Many in the village have given up farming over time, as it is impossible to make ends meet. Many go to Srikakulam to find coolie (hard labour),” he says.
He also alleged that land mafia of a nearby village was growing with political support and trying to seize land belonging to people in their village. Because of this situation, villagers were reluctant to stay in Kedaripuram.