Every two years, a large congregation descends to the Medaram village in Telangana's Mulugu district to celebrate a long standing tradition. Considered Asia's largest tribal festival, the Sammakka Sarakka Jatara has also started drawing non-adivasis over the years and locals feel that this is causing a threat of cultural appropriation.
A festival native to the Koya tribe, the jatara commemorates the fight of a mother and daughter -- Samakka and Sarakka, who had fought against the Kakatiya dynasty as per mythological tales.
Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundarajan, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, Himachal Pradesh Governor Bandaru Dattatreya and a number of other dignitaries including Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda offered prayers to the deities during the jatara, which saw an estimated footfall of 1.5 crore people.
There has also been a growing demand to declare the jatara a national festival.
Seethakka, the legislator from Mulugu, a Koya adivasi herself, had raised this concern recently, when she told reporters, "We only have one wish. Visitors can change, governments can change and Collectors can change and everyone can come. But in the adivasi culture here; their beliefs and way that they worship, no change should happen. The (adivasi) devotees should be assured of that."
"We can develop the region. We are also making the same demand. All devotees who come here should be able to avail facilities provided to them. This is the government's responsibility. But in the rituals, the government or other devotees should not interfere and it should be conducted by adivasis only," she added.
Alam Venkat, an adivasi youth activist from Medaram told TNM, "There is Hinduisation happening as several Hindu devotees from different castes are coming. We don't have any objection as their sentiments are theirs. Anyone can come and go, but if they try to impose their thoughts and puja methods on us, it is unfair."
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