Goddess Poleramma- The Female Village Protector
The shrine of the Goddess is generally placed at the borders or the outskirts of the village near the banks of irrigations tanks. It doesn’t have to be concrete in its form. A simple structure of mud and stones is also considered appropriate. The structure is only three to four feet tall and the idol is placed preferably under an open sky.
Poleramma is considered the Goddess of welfare. She protects children and other family members from diseases, specifically smallpox. She also protects the cattle from getting affected from diseases and death. Effects of natural disasters like drought, famine, earthquake etc., can also be minimized by worshipping her.
The next morning when Poleramma woke up, she couldn’t find Shiva anywhere. She was in despair and lonely and thus started crying again. After a while, she controlled her emotions and made herself realize her identity and her strength. She decided to teach Shiva a lesson. She managed to control all the cattle of the universe because of which no farmer was able to plough his field. Even Shiva was unable to ride on Nandi. Everyone was feeling helpless, thus people started praying to Poleramma. They ignored the worshipping of Shiva and built a new temple in the name of the Goddess.
Shiva was infuriated and he tried to demolish her temple. Poleramma also became furious and both of them fought a war in which Shiva lost. He realized how powerful Shakti was and prayed to her for her forgiveness. He also gave the status of a Supremes Goddess to Poleramma. Though only few people believe this legend, it has still been a part of oral tradition since a long time.
People of Andhra Pradesh celebrate a four day carnival in Poleramma’s name. On the first day, an elder member of the village carries a pot around the village. People come out of their respected homes and contribute some food. They bow down in front of the pot and make promises and vows to stay dedicated to the goddess. To seal the promises, a sheep is sacrificed. After visiting each house, the procession moves towards the temple which is cleaned in advance. They then give a royal bath with milk to the idol and make offerings of fruits and flowers. While making the preparations for the first day, a snake hood is kept in water overnight. The ceremonies of the first day are completed by taking the snake’s hood out of the water and placing it next to the idol of Poleramma in the temple.
The second day the same customs are followed of the previous day but the third day is a little different. After all the collection of food and carrying out the procession, people start having fun. They talk, sing and dance. They hold competitions in which villagers decorate their horse and bullock carts and present them in front of the senior members of the village. The most beautifully decorated cart’s owner is announced as the winner and he goes around the temple in his cart. Then a huge animal sacrifice takes place and animals like sheep, goats and chickens are sacrificed in the honor of Poleramma. The fourth day is very different. The eatable items that had been collected on all the three days and the animals that have been sacrificed are gathered into heaps in front of the idol of the Goddess. The food is poured down not only in the name of Poleramma but also in the name of Potu Razu who is depicted as an impaled stake. Thus the carnival ends with numerous people consuming food items as Prasadam. The carnival is known as Jatara and throughout the festival, a storyteller or a narrator keeps informing the villagers about the strengths and powers of Poleramma.