Gangamma and Rain……..where the “rationalist” and the believer’s lives intertwine..

The Dravidian Goddess Gangamma is believed to be the symbol of water and is the chief goddess of the shepherd. Water shapes land and life in the Rishi Valley as it does everywhere in the world where lives and livelihoods are close to the elements. So when the rain gods desert us or when the monsoon plays truant as it has been this year, Gangamma is called upon by her believers more often than the once a year “jatra”. She speaks through her oracle, directing her believers to take action that will appease the elements and bring rain. Sometimes it can mean realigning rocks and at other times it could require shifting the location of a deity’s shrine. In a land where water was, is and always will be the defining resource, these dictates of Gangamma are taken very seriously.

What is interesting is that we urban “visitors” in this rural landscape (even if some of us have lived here for more than 30 years) , we who consider ourselves rationalists find our lives intertwined with that of our neighbours in this “thirst” for water and the rain.  Gangamma recently directed her believers to shift the location of a deity outside the valley if we were to be blessed with rain. After much deliberation the decision was made to shift the deity and this would cost money. Some of the women farmers with whom I was having a rambling conversation about life, the universe and everything else remarked that they will have to collect contributions. To which I said that when they were already in debt because of poor rains where would they find the money for this and why not use the money for something else that would bring food into their home. The response was – we know these are superstitions but it is our superstition! Let us appease Gangamma. Lo and behold the next day we had our first set of showers! and the faith in Gangamma becomes stronger.

The goddess reigns supreme, mobile phone toting shepherds graze their flock on hillocks and in its midst is a rationalist  philosophy driven urban community. Life in this rural corner of Rayalseema continues with never a dull moment. What a  microcosm of India this is……

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