“In no other place is Ugadi celebrated as we do in Medapuram,” says Pasala Kondanna. The 82-year-old farmer speaks proudly of the festival of Ugadi – the Telugu new year that falls in the months of March or April – that is celebrated in his village in Andhra Pradesh.
It is the Scheduled Caste community that is at the helm of celebrations here in Medapuram, a village in Sri Sathyasai district.
The festival starts with a procession carrying the idol of the deity on the night before Ugadi. The journey of the idol from a cave to the temple is viewed with great anticipation and excitement from devotees. The small SC community, represented by the eight custodian families of the temple, play a central role in this event despite the fact that they are in a minority in Medapuram which has a population of 6,641 (Census 2011).
On the day of Ugadi, the village comes alive with colourful decorations adorning vehicles which are paraded around the temple as a mark of celebration. The devotees distribute prasadam , symbolising a sense of shared community and blessings for the year ahead. As the vehicle procession concludes, the ritual of panju seva takes place in the afternoon. For this ritual, participants follow the same route as the procession to purify the path that was taken the night before.
The festival reminds everyone of the struggles of the Madiga community by reenacting the entire story of bringing the idol to their village.