Dasara—the ten days of obeisance to the Mother Goddess, of worshiping Her myriad forms, of prayer, fervour, rituals, music, dance, celebrations and festivity that interweave and interlace communities and people across the country—reiterates our belief in the Divine Feminine.
Bathukamma in Telangana celebrates universal motherhood. Golu, Saraswati Puja and rededication to arts on Vijayadasami are observed by Tamilians across the world. The vibrant and fervour-laden iconic Durga Puja unites every Bengali heart. The historic Mysore Dasara is symbolised by the majestic elephant and the parade. The flamboyant and joyful Garba and Dandiya epitomises life in Gujarat. The Kullu Dussehra and the Ramlila festivities of the Gangetic plains are equally devotion-filled. Dussehra or Navaratri is celebrated in nearly every nook and corner of India and by Indians living in every part of the world.
Bathukamma, the beautiful floral festival of the newly-formed Telangana, carries in its very name a wealth of meaning—Bathuku or Brathuku meaning life in Telugu and amma as in Goddess—that implores the Mother Goddess to come alive and requests the life giving Goddess to return again and again. Bathukamma also means ‘she who is eternal’.
Bathukamma is a colourful commemoration of the feminine principle when, during the Navaratri, women sing songs and clap in rhythm as they perambulate a bedecked and carefully arranged seven-layered floral installation, invoking the Mother Goddess to shower Her blessings on them.
It is also that time of the year when women are feted with gifts and husbands gladly dig deep into their pockets to shower their families with sarees and more jewellery. Shopping is at fever pitch all over to celebrate the ten days of the Goddess.
Bathukamma, may you live long, we implore in unison. And yet, an expenditure on a much-needed diagnostic test such as mammogram will get relegated to the heap of unnecessary expense at worst and a long-delayed expense at best, mostly at the behest of women themselves.
‘Uff’, they will say, ‘what is the overriding urgency for any such test ?’ ‘There are so many other and better ways that we could use that money for!’ ‘Nothing is going to happen to me!’ ‘We can do all these tests after son goes to college, daughter passes out, gets married, or after the first grandchild is born’, etc.
And husbands will acquiesce, nod their heads wisely, consent and accord their sanction. And the manic saree and jewellery shopping will resume.
We entreat and beseech the Goddess during Bathukamma, even as we bypass an opportunity to seek a little longer life for the living goddesses of our homes.
Is it serendipity that the Pink Ribbon month celebrated in October across the planet, which seeks to create awareness of early detection of breast cancer, is almost synchronous with the Dasara celebrations?
Is the Goddess asking us to seek Bathuku or life, by reminding us of the need to get the much-required tests done? Is She saying, “You ask me for Bathuku, but will do nothing to take care of the life I gave you? Is even a test so difficult? Won’t you help Me to help you?”
Is She reminding husbands to add the gift of early diagnoses, gift of a mammogram to the many gifts that they will shower on the women?
‘And why not?’ says Bathuku Amma. ‘May you have a long life’
The gifting season is upon us—beginning with Navaratri, into Diwali and onward to Christmas and New Year. So what are you gifting?
The writer is a breast cancer survivor, a nationally-awarded dancer and a serving bureaucrat. Mail at email@example.com