Sammakka Saralamma Jatara: Poor infrastructure remains a bane of the Medaram temple festival

Devotees start arriving a month before the scheduled dates of 21 to 24 February, turning the temple into a bustling hub of spiritual activity.

ByDeepika Pasham

Published Jan 14, 2024 | 10:00 AMUpdatedJan 14, 2024 | 11:56 PM

Sammakka saralamma temple in Medaram, Mulugu. (Telangana Tourism)

The Sammakka Saralamma Jatara, organised by the Koya tribe in Telangana, proudly stands as the largest tribal festival in all of Asia.

Held in the Tadvai mandal of Medaram village within the Mulugu district, this ancient celebration is exclusively overseen by the temple’s descendants.

The Endowments Department takes charge of managing infrastructure and travel concerns, ensuring a smooth experience for pilgrims.

Remarkably, devotees start arriving a month prior to the scheduled dates — 21 to 24 February — transforming the temple into a bustling centre of spiritual fervour.

Also Read: Sabarimala: No spot booking for darshan from 10 January

Ground report 

South First visited Medaram in Mulugu district, an area significantly impacted by heavy rainfall in 2023 that resulted in casualties. With roads being laid, construction works at Jampanna vagu (stream), and complexes for devotees, the route prompts a discussion on how officials are gearing up for the imminent festival.

S Bakkalu invites visitors to stop at his shop, offering an array of snacks, soft drinks, and even a comforting cup of tea if desired.

“The roads leading to the Sammakka Saralamma temple wear the same look every year. They are damaged and visitors who walk barefoot to the temple face issues,” he tells South First.

The condition of the roads to head to the temple (Deepika Pasham/ South First)

Condition of the road that leads to the temple. (Deepika Pasham/South First)

“2023 posed financial struggles for the villagers because everything in our shops was washed away due to overflow of the Jampanna stream. How much money will the government release for us? That won’t be sufficient because people have died. The situation was pathetic. Central Reserve Police Force (CPRF) officers rescued people in our village,” he recalls

He adds, “Our request is for the government to work for the development of the district, not only during festivals or elections.”

Danasari Anasuya (Seethakka), the Panchayat Raj and Tribal Welfare Minister, inspected ongoing works in the village recently. She affirmed that steps are being taken to ensure arrangements for the upcoming Sammakka Saralamma Jatara, marking her tenure’s inaugural decision with the allocation of over ₹70 crore for Medaram Jatara’s development.

Another area that needs focus is the Medaram Museum, which houses the history of the tribes in the Mulugu district.

Speaking to South First, assistant curator of the tribal museum K Ravi, says, “Every year, we do some renovations. In the previous year, we put up glass structures encasing the instruments displayed. There are a lot of researchers, including foreigners, who come here to study our culture. We also put the Koya tribes’ huts on display.

“However, we need funds for the maintenance of the museum. It comes under the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) so the amount they sanction and what we get through tickets is not enough,” says Ravi.

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Temple staff requirements

The temple staff on duty. (Deepika Pasham/South First)

Addressing the needs of the temple staff, Akshay S, an Intermediate student, shares his experience with South First, “I am a student and I have come for work because my mother fell sick. The temple consistently requires cleaning staff, so we need to step in for family members if they are absent.”

However, a challenge remains, with over 30 temporary staff members seeking permanent positions.

Temporary employees receive around ₹9,000, while permanent staff salaries range from ₹27,000 to ₹30,000.

The appeal to Endowment Department offices is to address this disparity.

During the festival, the temple hires additional staff on a daily-wage basis to supplement the workforce, highlighting the need for more hands, Akshay notes.

What devotees say

Devotees have voiced concerns about accommodation, urging the establishment of a platform for room reservations, as existing options like the Haritha Hotel and a few blocks in the name of temple gods are not unhelpful.

In a conversation with South First, a devotee, P Anita, shares, “It has been our tradition to visit the temple every year. Initially, we used to stay here and prepare meals. However, as we grew older, we decided to educate our parents about the risks of sleeping in insecure places due to the lack of proper accommodations. Most people resort to using tents and there is a lack of cleanliness as the Jatara draws near. The area becomes littered and dirty, and the crowds are large, prompting the deployment of CRPF. We now advise our parents to conclude our visit in January each year.”

Another devotee, Anil G, tells South First how tiring finding a parking spot is!

“My story is very funny. I had driven here last year and parked the car in a ground. One of my family members had to return to the car at one point to pick up something and he heard a man saying that there was no parking there and that nobody was responsible for the vehicle damage,” he recalls.

Getting serious, he adds, “Parking is a nightmare. We have to stop almost 2 to 3 km away and walk on stone roads. There are also no washrooms for ladies. A request I would like to make to the management is that they should come up with a system so that visitors can book darshans online. Also, rooms should be constructed for accommodation.”

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Transport woes

Women near the RTC bus arrived after waiting for hours. (Deepika Pasham/ South First)

The RTC bus arrived after waiting for hours. (Deepika Pasham/South First)

When at the bus stop, a woman is seen pleading with a man who is seated inside the bus to place her belongings on a seat in the TSRTC bus when it stops in front of the temple. She does so in fear of not having a space to sit during her journey.

While there are special buses to Medaram, the people say that there is a requirement for more.

Varalakshmi, working as a conductor for over 16 years, tells South First, “It is Pallevelugu bus and the buses are filled with more than the occupancy rate. This year, as it is free for women, we have been witnessing huge crowds. We come from Hanumakonda to Medaram. The bus frequency will be increased by the officials.”