Bathukamma has been around for long in a part of peninsular India as a vibrant women-centric annual floral festival, but this time it looks set to be celebrated far beyond the traditional limits of Telangana.
As the nascent southern state is now into its third year, the nine-day Bathukamma is poised to be celebrated in several parts of the world, thanks to smart marketing by Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s daughter Kalvakuntla Kavitha, a parliamentarian.
“Bathukamma is going to be identified with Telangana culture in a big way,” says the Lok Sabha member from Nizamabad. “We are planning to give it a distinct identity on the lines of Onam, which mirrors Kerala’s ethos.”
Since the formation of Telangana in June 2014, the government led by Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has been celebrating puja-time Bathukamma as a state festival. Literally meaning ‘Mother of Life’, is not a religious event, but essentially a worship of nature by womenfolk.
A defining feature of the festivity is colourfully patterned arrangement of endemic wild flowers such as cassia, acacia, marigold, chrysanthemum and celosia. The daily ritual is much like what Malayalis do ahead of Onam to welcome the banished mythological king Mahabali—only that in Bathukamma, womenfolk also go around these floral arrangements by singing songs. At the end of the ninth day on Durgashtami, these heaps of flowers are immersed in nearby ponds.
The age-old festival is to go all global this year, given the spirit of Kavitha and her team. The 38-year-old MP, who heads TRS’s cultural wing Telangana Jagruthi that has been striving for the restoration of local culture and traditions, wants to showcase Bathukamma across the world. Conceived as being part of marketing Telangana state, the programme will start on October 1, when the festival begins. Kavitha is, simultaneously, embarking on a whirlwind tour of eight countries: the US, UK, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, Bahrain and Kuwait.
“For decades, Telangana’s culture remained completely neglected under the regime of successive governments in undivided Andhra Pradesh,” Kavitha told HT. “Ever since the Telangana movement gained momentum in the last one decade, the Jagruthi has been celebrating Bathukamma festival with pomp. We have been enjoying community participation to highlight the cultural identity of Telangana.”
In the last two years, Telangana Jagruthi took Bathukamma to different parts of the country, including the national capital, she recalled. “Our government conducted an official celebration of Bathukamma in the Telangana Bhavan at Delhi,” she added.
The Telangana Jagruthi has already released audio CDs comprising hundreds of Bathukamma songs. The records are now being sent to all the countries which Kavitha is visiting. “We are also releasing a Bathukamma mobile app to enable people understand the importance of this festival,” Kavitha said.
Next month, as the festival is slated to be organized in places outside India as well, Kavitha says her objective is to highlight the significance of Bathuakamma as a festival with the message of spreading peace, conservation of nature and importance to women in society.
“While Bathukamma is essentially a Telangana festival, it will not be confined to just Telangana NRIs in the countries I am visiting,” Kavitha says. “We plan to invite all expat Indians and also top leaders of these countries to the Bathukamma celebrations to showcase the Telangana culture.”
If Kavitha has her way, Bathukamma will figure in the list of Indian festivals celebrated in White House in the coming years. “Every year, the residence of the US president celebrates Diwali. The day will come when Bathukamma is also celebrated with a lot of fervour in the White House,” Kavitha says. “I have written to US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton explaining about the significance of Bathukamma festival. Being a woman, she can understand it and if she gets elected, I am confident she will consider it.”