Hundreds of thousands of people have reached Medaram in Warangal district for Sammakka Sarakka jatara, India's largest tribal fair, which began on Wednesday.
Devotees, both tribal and non - tribal, from different parts of Telangana and other states like Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and AKarnataka are participating in the four - day fair, also known as Medaram jatra.
Medaram and surrounding villages in the forest, about 100 km from district headquarters, have turned into sea of humanity for the tribal festival, organised once in two years. Men and women took a dip in Jampanna stream, which they believe wash away their sins.
Devotees belonging to different states and speaking different languages throng the forests to pay obeisance to tribal goddesses Sammakka and Sarakka.
The unique rituals, which include devotees offering jaggery to the deities, will begin Wednesday night with the customary arrival of Sarakka's image from Kannepally village which will be placed on a platform. The image idol covered in red cloth was brought in a vessel laden with vermilion and turmeric powder.
The idols of Sarakkaa's father Pagidigidda Raju and husband Govinda Raju will also be brought to Medaram.
Serpentine queues of devotees were seen even before the formal launch of the festivities, which will reach the peak on Thursday when the image of Sarakka's mother Sammakka will arrive from Chilalagutta village.
Sammakka and Sarakka were legendary warriors from the Koya tribe who fought against the Kakatiya empire 800 years ago and were killed.
The festival, which marks the celebration of tribal traditions, has grown in size during last few years with authorities making elaborate arrangements for the transport of the devotees and smooth conduct of the mega event.
As the jatra this year is the first in Telangana state, the government has gone all out to make massive arrangements. According to officials, more than Rs. 180 crore had been spent to make fool - proof arrangements.
Two state ministers - A. Indrakaran Reddy and A. Chandulal - had been camping in Medaram for last couple of days to supervise the arrangements. Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao will visit Medaram on Thursday to make the offerings to tribal goddesses.
According to Warangal District Collector Vakati Karuna, as many as 30, 000 people have been engaged to ensure smooth conduct of the event. They include 9, 000 policemen, 5, 000 sanitation staff, forest officials, doctors, paramedical staff and volunteers.
Officials expect more than 10 million people to participate in the festival this year.
The South Central Railway (SCR) has announced that it will running 16 special trains for passengers attending the jatra while Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) will operate 4, 000 special buses. This is in addition to thousands of private vehicles.