Unity in diversity

The city comes alive during these nine days of festivities — Bathukamma, Navaratri and Durga Puja. CE speaks to people from different communities to find out more about their traditions
Unity in diversity

HYDERABAD: Hyderabad, a city renowned for its diverse tapestry of cultures and traditions, enthusiastically embraces a multitude of festivals, ensuring no celebration goes unnoticed. Among these, Dussehra manifests itself in various forms, reflecting the city’s diverse population. Some observe it through Bathukamma, Telangana’s grandest festival, while others gravitate towards the northern tradition of Navaratri and Durga Puja. Regardless of the manifestation, Dussehra in Hyderabad spans nine days, embodying the timeless tale of good triumphing over evil when Lord Rama vanquished Ravana.

Apart from Ravan Dahan, Dussehra finds its expression in the form of Bathukamma in Hyderabad. Bathukamma is a beloved Telangana festival that unfurls between September and October, celebrating the cultural essence of the region. This officially designated state festival pays homage to nature, with “Bathuku” symbolising life and “Amma” encompassing mothers, daughters, women, and divine figures like Goddess Durga. The festival unfolds during the waning monsoon, worshipping Goddess Maha Gauri, as people gather vibrant seasonal flowers like gunuka, tangedi, chrysanthemum, and more to craft intricate bathukammas. This traditional floral arrangement comprises seven concentric layers, culminating in a cone-like structure, which often symbolises temple structures. An idol of the goddess Gauri made of turmeric is placed atop the bathukamma. Commencing from the first day, known as Engili poola bathukamma, the celebrations continue for nine consecutive days.

During the nighttime, women come together with their bathukammas and engage in synchronised dances, rhythmic claps, and heartwarming folk songs. They then carry the “Batukammalu,” traditional artifacts, to a water source, submerging them and sharing ‘maleeda,’ a sweet treat. The final day is called Pedha or Saddula Bathukamma, where they celebrate on a large scale, marking the end of the year’s bathukamma celebrations.

Simultaneously, a tradition known as Bommala Koluvu thrives during Navaratri in some Telugu households. This practice involves displaying dolls on tiered steps, narrating stories through clay or wooden dolls. “While many uphold this tradition during Diwali in Telangana, Andhras follow it during Sankranti, and even non-natives who’ve made Telangana their home continue the practice during this time,” explains Padmini Ranganathan, director and founding member of Sphoorthi Theatre.

Garba and Dandiya nights are immensely popular during Navaratri in Hyderabad, despite their Gujarati origins. These dance forms have been warmly embraced by the Hyderabad community. Garba involves group dancing around large lamps or a statue of Shakti in a circular arrangement. Participants use hand and foot movements, clapping to a rhythmic beat. The term “Garba” originates from the Sanskrit word “Garbha,” signifying the womb, making it a dance form that celebrates womanhood and fertility.

On the other hand, Dandiya is characterised by the use of sticks, struck to rhythmic beats, symbolising the battle between Goddess Durga and evil forces. Dandiya is typically performed after the Aarti, while Garba precedes it. Garba and Dandiya nights are conducted for nine days in many parts of Hyderabad, providing an opportunity for people to celebrate with friends and family.

Bengalis, far from their home, make Hyderabad their own during Durga Puja, celebrating Dashami as the triumph of Durga Maa over Mahisashura. The festivities include morning pujas, pushpanjali offerings, bhog distribution and competitive events. Evenings come alive with pujas, arati, and dhunuchi dancing to the beat of dhak, cultural events, and delectable food stalls. Another unique aspect of their puja is the Sindoor Utsav, a celebration of vermilion that takes place on Dashami. Married women apply sindoor to each other, wearing traditional clothes to pray for the well-being of their husbands, and then dance with beat of dhak to bid a grand farewell to Durga Maa.

One such celebration is organised by the Cyberabad Bangali Association (CBA) in Miyapur, marking its 16th Durga Puja this year. Subhro Mukherjee, General Secretary of the Cyberabad Bangali Association (CBA), emphasises their goal to foster cultural unity between Bengal and Hyderabad, celebrating the fusion of Bengali and Telugu traditions through festivals and actively participating in year-round social initiatives with dedicated members.

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The New Indian Express