Telangana is a true melting pot
A few months of having taken the position of Secretary of Tourism, Telangana, IAS R Venkatesham was in New Delhi to talk to Susmita Mukherjee about festivals and new tourism prospects
By Susmita Mukherjee

What does Telangana have to offer for travellers?

Telangana is the true melting pot of India. After Telangana, you find less tea drinkers and the shift to coffee begins. Similarly, there is less wheat and more of rice. It is a meeting point of cultures. It has the second biggest number of Buddhist stupas and a large number of Jain temples as well. Hyderabad has a great presence of Islamic structures with its palaces and mosques. The Medak Cathedral is the biggest church in South Asia. If you see the map of Telangana it looks like a heart. Unfortunately, the title of ‘heart of India’ has already been taken by Madhya Pradesh but Telangana truly has everything to be the true heart of India. It even looks the part.

Telangana has all that a traveller desires, from grand natural landscapes to forts. The only thing missing is the beach. This is the age of technology and it is only a matter of time before we have our own virtual beach. (laughs)

What is the Baithukamma festival about?

The Baithukamma festival is a unique celebration observed only by the people in Telangana and we hope that the rest of the country and then the world will understand the relevance of the festival and join the celebrations each year. The word ‘Baithukamma’ is derived from two words: ‘Baithu’ meaning life and ‘kamma’ meaning little girl. The festival is a celebration of the girl child. It is India’s only festival by women and for women. Unlike most of the country, the girl child is worshipped in Telangana and the parents even touch their daughter’s feet in reverence. At a time when India is talking about “Beti Bachao” this festival is of great importance. The second aspect of the festival is flowers. Instead of using cultivated flowers like rose, only wild flowers are collected for the ceremony. This helps in exploring and respecting nature. The final component is festivities. Men have marginal roles to play in the Baithukamma festival and it is the women who arrange the flowers and celebrate the last day with great pomp. The three Fs – ‘flower, female and festival’ mark Baithukamma. The festival is of an international importance. It coincides with Navratras in the North and the Durga Puja in the East.

The songs sung during this festival have been sung for centuries by illiterate women and handed down from one generation to the next through this celebration and has no complex words or meaning. This festival also sees the cleaning up of local water bodies, ponds, lakes and rivers so that the women can float their floral decorations.

The festival is relevant to the world as no one can question the ethology of the festival. The Dubai Shopping Festival and the China Ice Festival are “created” events to attract tourists while the Baithukamma is an indigenous festival of the people and has been observed across races and ethnicities for years. Our objective is to make the Baithumma festival the biggest celebration of women in the world in the years to come.

What other plans do you have to promote Telangana?

We have already got the best in our fold. The Hyderabad airport is among the top three airports in the world. After the division from Andhra Pradesh, we still have the 13th biggest size in the states and the 11th biggest population.

The culture of the Nizam of Hyderabad still stands. He was a very eccentric man and when he was denied permission to buy a Rolls Royce, he arranged one to collect the garbage. The car makers were shocked and pleaded with him to stop using the car that way. The Nizam accepted the apology on the condition that they would never refuse an Indian buyer.

A new temple tourism hub being developed by the Ramoji Film City owners will be another attraction for travellers. Telangana will also be the theme state for the Surajkund Mela in 2016 where the traditional arts and crafts of the state will be showcased. We have tied up with the PHD Chamber to promote the Baithukamma festival.

Do you have any plans to highlight the Telengana heritage to the world?

Telangana does not have any United Nations Heritage Monument and so we are sending our request to nominate the ruins of Warangal for the same. At the same time, we are also starting renovation on some historic sites like the Thousand Pillar Temple and the Ramappa Temple. The Aga Khan Trust, in association with the Government of India, has sanctioned 100 crores for the maintenance of the Qutub Shahi Tombs in Hyderabad.  

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