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The Divine Feminine: Indigenous Festivals in the North Coastal Districts of Andhra Pradesh

I.S.V. Manjula Haragopal, N.Jagadamba & I.Syamala Devi

Vignan’s Institute of Information Technology, Visakhapatnam

Vol. 1, No. 1, 2016 I Full Text PDF


 Abstract

The divine feminine is apparent in myriad forms across this world. We see Her in the animate and the inanimate; in us and in others; in the temporal and the ethereal. We find Her revered in various ways too and the expression of this reverence again sees a myriad shades depending on the geographical locale. In the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh, India, we see Her as an enigmatic all pervasive omnipotent power who is appeased with humble offerings of neem leaves and porridge. At the same time her wrath knows no bounds if she is disturbed in any way. Simple people with simple faith offer their prayers in the most fervent and genuine potential and the indigenous festivals are true witness to this. This paper is collective representation of the manifestations of the Divine Feminine in the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh and the charming stories behind the ‘ammas’ threaded together from oral tradition of narrations.

 Key words: divine, feminine, devotee, festival, amma, deities, indigenous, Andhra Pradesh

In ancient times India was a country that had strong matriarchal bearings. All household women were regarded as Grihalakshmi symbolically meaning ‘the prosperity of the house’. In every village, at the entrance, there was always a goddess called Grama Devatha or ‘village deity’. The people always worship her for their health, wealth and prosperity. Once a year they perform her festival in a grand way. The people think that the goddess always protects them from evil spirits and viral fevers which occur mostly in the months of March and April. So, many festivals of the village deities are performed in these months. The Prasadam or “offerings” consists of Ragi porridge or rice and dhal accompanied with drumstick leaves cooked with gingely extract powder as curry and fruits, coconuts, flowers, kumkum (saffron), haldi (Turmeric), chandan (sandal Paste), red bangles, red sari with yellow flower print, are offered to the deity.

 In every festival of the Goddess in any village or town, on the festival day, people stream to the venue with earthen pots filled with cooked food. The pots are covered with clay plates in which an oil lamp burns and these pots with lamps are carried on the heads by the devotees. The pot is always decorated with neem leaves. As the devotees fulfill their vows, their relatives spread the saris on the way on which the pot bearers walk towards the temple. Some devotees prepare the food in the presence of the deities in their temples, which they eat after the divine offering. Some people who take the oath of offering a goat or a hen to the goddess do so by sacrificing them on the “Balipeetam” or sacrificial altar of the temple. Now a days the Government has placed many curbs on animal sacrifice. Then the sacrificial meat is cooked and served to the Goddess and her brother.

According to many legends there are innumerable goddesses who are sisters and their only brother is ‘Pothuraju,’ whom everybody worships before entering the shrine of the Goddess. In most of the villages, devotees first encounter ‘Pothuraju,’ as He stands prominently in front of the Temple as a guard to his sister- the Goddess. Nookalamma, the presiding deity of Anakapalli is a majestic awe-inspiring deity whose devotees throng to her festival to lay at her feet all the traditional offerings that are considered close to her heart…Full Text PDF