BATHUKAMMA festival Mumbai


A friend from Telangana, Gangaprasad invited me to Bathukamma festival celebrations at Yogi Sabhugraha Mumbai. He said it is a floral festival, come you will enjoy. Following my exploratory approach went and am so happy I did because it exposed me to a different way of celebrating Shakti worship. 


Bathukamma means “Mother Goddess come to life”. It involves the worship of Maha Gauri - “Life Giver” in the form of Gauri Devi (patron goddess of womanhood). It is celebrated in Telangana and parts of Andhra Pradesh. The festival got an impetus after the Telangana statehood agitation and is now being promoted as a symbol of Telangana culture.  


In 2019 Bathukamma was from September 28 to October 6 and is celebrated for nine days just like Navaratri. First a bit about the festival.


During the entire preceding week, women make ‘boddemma’ (a deity of Gowri – Ma Durga made with earthly mud). The deity with flowers is immersed in the pond. Why flowers? It is during the monsoons that wild flowers bloom in Telangana. The most abundant of these are ‘gunuka poolu’ and ‘tangedu poolu’. 


The festival begins a week before the grand ‘Saddula Batukamma’ (the grand finale of the Bathukamma estival) which falls two days before Dussehra. Traditionally women folk usually get back to their parent's home to celebrate the colors of flowers. Not sure how much of this happens in Mumbai though. 


For a week ladies make small ‘Bathukammas’, play around them every evening and immerse them in a nearby water pond. On the last day, the men go into the wild plains and gather flowers like gunuka and tangedi (today they buy). They bring home these flowers post which the entire household sits down to make the big ‘Bathukamma’. The flowers are carefully arranged row after row in a brass plate (called taambalam) in circular rows and in alternate colors as you see in pic. 


Ladies carry the Bathukamma on their heads, like the one you see.

As the evening approaches women dress up in their best with lots of ornaments and place the Bathukamma in their courtyard, now they brought it to this venue. They gather in a large circle around it (as you see in pic), sing songs and dance.


They danced to songs sung by vocalist Mangli. To hear songs by Mangli in a rural setting, see video 1 and video 2. Do see will give you a good sense of festival celebrations. 


Ladies form a circle, sing and dance. 

Every woman that I saw had a smile, they seemed so happy to be there. Rarely seen so much positive energy in one hall.


In normal course the ‘Bathukammalu’ is immersed into a water pond after singing and dancing. As the Telangana region has a lot of lakes it is believed that flowers purify the water. So Bathukamma is a festival of flowers and the flowers are immersed in lakes. 


Next ladies share ‘maleeda’ (a dessert made with sugar or raw sugar and corn bread) sweets with neighbours and friends. They return home with empty ‘taambaalam’ (brass plate). 


Returning to the event organised by Telangana Jagruthi Maharashtra. 


When I walked into the large hall saw a kalash decorated with flowers above which was a women holding a brass plate in her hands. The deity is ‘boddemma’ a deity of Gowri. Devotees brought their own devis, covered with flowers and placed them here. 


Kalash with flowers, devotees offered their pranams here on entering.


As I walked around the largish hall got to know there was to be a cultural program -songs and dance. Before start of the main event some artist sang folk songs. The music was catchy and drew cheers.


Stage – performance before starting of main event.


From around 7.15 pm there was a non-stop flow of women, dressed in choicest of silk saris with lots of jewellery. The level on which the stage was for women to dance, the few men present were either organisers or photographers. Other men were on the balcony level from where they looked down to see dance live or on giant television screens. It was so crowded that could barely walk through without being pushed by women dancing.


This girl was probably the most graceful and high energy dancer that evening. 


Before the program started, Srinivas Sulge head of Telangana Jagruthi Maharashtra addressed the fathering, flanked by ladies from the organising committee.


Srinivas Sulge, addressing the gathering.  


In the midst of smiles I sensed the crowds were impatient for vocalist Mangli to come on stage. She is truly a livewire. It is one thing to have to great smile but another to connect with the women present in a way she did – awesome. 


Extreme left of pic is vocalist Mangli.


Devotees enter with Batukamma on their heads and then place them at the feet of Maha Gauri that you saw in pic 1.


Ladies gather in a circle and dance in a certain way whilst clapping. In this pic a smaller group dances in the centre. They danced to songs sung by Mangli. Every woman that I saw had a smile, they seemed so happy to be there. Rarely seen so much positive energy in one hall.


I never knew that ladies of Telangana also danced with sticks, just like the women of Gujarat do during dandiya (see video 2 for this). There was this group of ladies who had worn yellow saris of one design and stood out in the gathering.


Dandiya, Telangana style. 

This woman quietly watches the proceedings. Honestly, the amount of jewellery that women wore! Gangaprasad told me that wearing so much gold was common amongst women of Telangana.


Observing the performance on stage.


This was amongst the energetic and graceful group of dancers that I saw that evening. It was a sheer pleasure to see them dance. In fact saw women in their sixties dance with similar gusto.


Group pic of ladies who danced their way to happiness.


This festival strengthens bonds between women. Many songs are created, sung and composed by women themselves. These songs are passed, through the oral tradition, from one generation to another. Every generation adds it bit too. Songs also reflect topical events thereby record historical events and heritage of that period.

Part of the festival celebration was for women to make their sari pallu cover their heads as vocalist Mangli is doing, see left of pic below. When she did so it drew large roars from women in the crowds, who emulated her as you can see in pic. Balcony above is from where most men got to see the celebrations.  


Vocalist Mangli and women covering their head with sari pallu.


Thanks very much Gangaprasad for taking me to Bathukamma celebrations and to Telangana Jagruthi Maharashtra (an NGO for protection and promotion of the culture of the region) for organizing an amazing event.  



1. Telangana Tourism site  

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