A journey through change

The exhibition documents changes in the rituals of a popular Telangana festival

THE BATHUKAMMA Panduga is one of the most unique festivals of Telangana and one celebrated mainly by the women of this region. Celebrated during Navarathri it honours the `life-giver’ Bathukamma, with women seeking her blessings for prosperity and a good year. Colours, flowers and water are all intrinsic to the festival; and the goddess herself is not one rooted in a shrine but made of flowers that signify both life and eternity in their colours as well as impermanence. For, the goddess is `created’ each year, and immersed duly on the 10th day of the festival in local water bodies.

Documenting a festival

The vibrancy of this festival now fills space at the ICRISAT campus as photographer G. Bharath Bhushan premieres some of his collections of the Bathukamma documented over a period of four years. The exhibition, `Bathukamma: a Photographic Journey Into Telangana’s Water Festival’ is being organised by the W.W.F. International ICRISAT Dialogue project as a part of the Global Freshwaters Team meeting.

The significance of the exhibition, lies in the fact that the Bathukamma Panduga has a deep association with water and changes in these have meant change in the basic nature of the festival.

Bharath says, “I have had a long and close association with the festival of Bathukamma since I grew up in Warangal which literally livened up every year during this festival. As a child all I associated this festival with were colours, sweets, my grandmother and the women dancing around the Boddemma – the pyramid like structure signifying the goddess made of flowers and singing in gaiety…” The goddess Boddemma comprises a base, on which is placed the flower-decorated goddess. The flowers used range from tangedu (in the colour violet), banti (the yellow marigold), chamanthi (chrysanthemum) and white gunnuga. Betel nut leaves atop with a turmeric pack complete the picture.

The idea behind the present exhibition was to denote the change in the way the Boddemma is created. Bharath says, “In the last few years I noticed that women no longer use fresh flowers, they used plastic and paper flowers instead.

When I enquired as to why they were doing so, they replied, where are the fresh flowers these days? Even if there are, they are so few that their prices have also increased. I decided to chronicle these changes. A festival and its metamorphosis must be a record for posterity. In fact it inspired me to become a photographer because of the riot of colours that it contained.”

Customs change

The reasons for this change, according to Bharath , are the depletion of water resources everywhere and the years of consecutive drought in the region. But since the ritual is important, women continue to celebrate it, adapting themselves and the rituals to the changed circumstances. These days some women use the same Boddemma every year, instead of immersing them, while others do not mind throwing plastic flowers into the lakes.

The health of water bodies and the Bathukamma festival seem to have a close link, but none has looked at these aspects before. For Bharath, however, it is the loss of fresh colours and the smells of nature. He hopes to delve deeper into the change, but as of now, he is happy to share his first set of Bathukamma pictures. The exhibition is on from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at the Academic Court of the ICRISAT campus, Patancheru.


The Hindu, Metro Plus Hyderabad, Arts & Crafts, 22 February, 2005


pictures by G Bharath Bhushan