Police fire AK-47 in the air at Medaram Jatara: Unravelling the history behind this unique tradition

The biennial four-day Sammakka Saralamma Jatara, also known as the Medaram Jatara, was held from 21 to 24 February in 2024.

ByDeepika Pasham

Published Feb 28, 2024 | 2:00 PMUpdatedFeb 28, 2024 | 3:07 PM

Mulugu Superintendent of Police P Shabarish fires three rounds into the air at the Medaram Jatara. (Supplied)

When reflecting on the events of the Sammakka Saralamma Jatara — commonly known as the Medaram Jatara — one cannot help but be captivated by the vivid images captured, one being of police officers holding their rifles in the air, their faces aglow with jubilation.

For the uninitiated observer, a natural curiosity arises: What is the significance of this display? What impels the police to sport a smile while brandishing a firearm amidst a colossal congregation of devotees?

To unravel these mysteries, one must delve into the local tapestry of traditions and customs as perceived by the residents, priests, and law enforcement officers involved.

At the core of this spectacle lies a pivotal moment, as priests ascend the hillock to retrieve the goddess, encapsulated in vermilion within a sacred casket.

Following ancient rituals, the procession, accompanied by volunteers from the Koya community, descends from the hillock. It is at this juncture that the Mulugu Superintendent of Police P Shabarish, paying homage to Sammakka, fires three rounds from his gun into the sky, signalling the commencement of the procession from the hillock, nestled approximately 2 km from the shrine.

Medaram Jatara: Celebrating tribal deities, their valour in battle, and supreme sacrifice

The history of traditions 

The historical narratives surrounding the police’s involvement in this tradition unfold on multiple fronts.

According to the priest of the Sadeboina family, entrusted with the Sammakka pooja, the goddess herself purportedly requested a welcoming cacophony upon her descent.

Speaking to South First, the priest Kiran Kumar K unveils that the elders never explicitly revealed the reason, but the tradition was initiated years ago to signal the successful descent of the goddess to the waiting devotees.

“Goddess Sammakka is brought down from the hillock and while the priest walks into the forest, they communicate that they are successfully descending with the goddess. To communicate this to the devotees, they asked the police to initiate a sound by firing three rounds into the air, years ago. The sound needed to be heard by everybody around the village. That’s how the tradition began and has continued since,” Kiran Kumar recalls.

The priest adds that the police partake in this with exuberance, considering it a rare and joyous occasion to wield a weapon not typically bestowed during their regular duties.

Also Read: ‘₹100 crore for Kumbh Mela but ₹3 crore for Medaram fair,’ Revanth Reddy

A multitude of versions

BRS Zilla Parishad Chairperson B Nagajyothi Bade, who also contested as the BRS MLA candidate in the Mulugu constituency, tells South First another version. “I have read in a document somewhere that Samakka was helpful to the people of Medaram. One day, Sammakka and her husband Pagididda Raju were sent notices by the Kakatiya rulers to pay taxes and they responded that due to the drought they could not pay. However, that letter had never reached the rulers. That’s how the war began but later, the Kakatiya realised their mistake and came back to arrange for the Medaram festival. They had fired their guns into the air in honour of Samakka. When the government handed over the responsibility of the temple, the tradition was followed by the police.”

However, in an earlier ground visit made by South First, the assistant curator of the Tribal Museum at Medaram, K Ravi, said, “There is no proof to claim that a war had taken place. The timelines, too, don’t match. Prataparudra, grandson of the Kakatiya queen Rudrama Devi ruled the area in the 13th century.”

He added, “While the Medaram Jatara is 500 years old, there is no proof of the Jatara before that period.”

However, the locals believe that Sammakka fought with Kakatiya rulers.

The government’s version of history, which is also displayed in the Tribal Museum, notes that Sammakka was adopted by Meda Raju, and then the young woman dedicated her life to serving the Koya people. Finally, Sammakka asked the Koya people to let her return to Chilakalagutta, the place where she was found as a newborn.

Resounding the priest’s version of history, a local L Ravi Prasad tells South First, “I have been living in Medaram village for nearly 30 years and I was told by elders that in the family of Sadeboina, an ancestral woman had seen a dream where Goddess Sammakka wished for gun sounds in the air while welcoming her to the Jatara.”

Also Read: Sammakka Saralamma Jatara: Poor infrastructure remains a bane

The police’s view 

Dr Sangram Singh G Patil, the current Mahabubabad Superintendent of Police — former Superintendent of Police of Mulugu district — reminisces about the tradition with South First.

“It has always been an honour to do the task. The firing is taken care of to not harm anybody and the police are visibly happy because they work hard, with thousands of them being prepared for bandobast and assisting people. Finally, a moment comes where they are part of a tradition, representing the police and welcoming the goddess. I felt very happy when I was assigned the task during my days as the SP. It was a 303 rifle and we maintain a registry when guns are taken out for occasions. It was always the type of gun available at the police station. These days, it is an AK47.”

Taking to X, CV Anand, Director General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, said, “Yes, this has been a long tradition where the district SP fires three rounds in the air to announce the arrival of the deities. In 1994, when I was Assistant Superintendent of Police in Warangal Rural, I was on bandobust duty for Medaram Jatara and was assigned the task of escorting the deities from Jampanna vaagu (river stream) and my SP of erstwhile Warangal district, fired the rounds in the air. In those days, it was all sand and dust and single-lane roads, now there is a lot of development.”

He added, “There is no need to find fault with these centuries-old traditions of people I feel, as they identify with them and find comfort in them.”