Bathukamma holds a special place for women and young girls from the south Indian state of Telangana during the nine-day Dussehra festival.
The festival of flowers, which has come to the Gulf region several years ago, is now being celebrated across the globe wherever the Telugu community has a sizable presence.
The festival's universal appeal is not confined to just Telangana womenfolk. It has obliterated the borders and women of Andhra Pradesh, the other Telugu state, are also participating in the events associated with this festival enthusiastically.
Distance doesn't seem to matter for them. The event at Indian Social Centre in Abu Dhabi saw a participation from Dubai and other northern emirates on Friday, and likewise for the Saturday event at Etisalat Academy, women and girls from all over the UAE joined in the celebrations enthusiastically.
They came dressed in their finest silk sarees and jewellery with their floral arrangements in conical stacks and danced rhythmically while clapping rhythmically in a sign of thanksgiving to Mother Nature.
The songs dedicated to the valour of women and to Hindu mythological characters are handed down over generations. This year, singers Nagaraj and Varam were flown in from Hyderabad to brighten the proceedings at both venues. They sang mostly Bathukamma songs, some traditional and some with contemporary themes.
Garba and dandia numbers also blared out from the speaker systems adding a different dimension to the festival.
Later, the flower arrangements were immersed in inflatable water tanks as per the tradition, praying Bathukamma to return next year.
The organisers presented awards for best Bathukamma arrangements, best dressed women and girls, best dance performers and best couple dancers.
The festival has been gaining popularity especially after the formation of Telangana state and has been declared a state festival by Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao's government.
Gulf News spoke to a few participants at the festival. Lakmi Kameswari, a housewife, says: 'It's really an awesome festival of flowers. I belong to Andhra region, but have stayed in Telangana for two years in Ramagundem where for the first I celebrated this festival. I was blessed again to be part of Bathukamma last year and enjoyed a lot, and am participating this year with more joy and enthusiasm.'
'Navrathri and Bathukamma to this day remain my favorite festival and brings me into a vibrant mood. We turn up in our best clothes and jewellery to dance to the accompaniment of traditional and new songs. Back home it's a big event and I do miss my family. I thank the UAE Telugu community members for organizing this every year, makng us feel at home,' says Sudha Srinivas, who hails from Hyderabad.
Another housewife, also from Hyderabad, feels Dubai is like her motherland. 'Participating in our traditional festival where colourful flowers are neatly arranged in conical shape is an enchanting and memorable experience in a foreign land,' says Neelima.
Vasanta Lakshmi Nauduri, a resident of Sharjah who works at Dubai Healthcare City Authority, says: 'It is nothing less than a festivity when Telugu people come together; and when they gather during a festive occasion, the splendour and joy increases manifold. Such was the experience at the well-organised Bathukamma celebration in Dubai.'
'Bathukamma is a unique and vibrant festival to thank the nature. Women in large numbers participate in this ritual of singing and dancing. Over the past few years, it is being celebrated by Telanganites and Andhra women across the globe. I am happy to be a part of these celebrations in Dubai,' says Nandini Giridhar, who is from Kadapa in Rayalaseema, but born in Chennai and grew up in Hyderabad.
Raja Srinivas and Prithviraj Cheruku, the key figures behind the event in Abu Dhabi, and Srinivas Juvvadi and Srinivas Sharma, the organisers of the Dubai celebrations, expressed their happiness at the enthusiatic pariticipation in large numbers and extended their Dussehra greetings to the Telugu diaspora ahead of the festival.
What is Bathukamma
It is a combination of two words: bathuku (aliveness) and amma (mother), which means live forever. It is a way of celebrating Mother Nature with flowers of the season that are found in abundance at the end of monsoon.
The flowers are arranged in a conical shape consisting of marigolds, chrysanthemums, lily, roses, cock's comb (gunugu puvvu in Telugu) and cassia auriculata (thangedu puvvu).
Most of these flowers have medicinal properties and are used in Ayurveda.
It is celebrated for nine days ahead of Durgashtami, praying to the deity for prosperity with water, food and good health.
Flowers that are found during the season are used in the making of Bathukammas.
Mostly Banthi (marigold), Chamanthi (chrysanthemum), Gunugu (cock’s comb), Gulmohar, Thangedu and Gummadi are used.
It is believed these seasonal flowers have many medicinal values and stave off the ailments common around this time of the year.
But, since some of the native flowers are difficult to source here in the UAE, the participants had to make do with marigold, chrysanthemum, rose, lily and lotus flowers.