The native tribal community of Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh celebrates a hunting festival during April of the Gregorian calendar each year. The name of the festival is 'Itika Pongal,' which is similar to hunting festivals of other tribal communities, such as the 'Jani Shikar' of Jharkhand. The 'Itika Pongal' festival serves as a perfect occasion to witness the tribal culture of Andhra Pradesh in its purest form when the women of the tribe perform their native dance form, known as 'Dhimsa'.
Itika Pongal Festival - Dates
The Itika Pongal festival is celebrated by the indigenous tribal communities of the Araku Valley of the Visakhapatnam district of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The people belonging to these tribes decide the exact dates on which the festival is celebrated. It is ambiguous as to which calendar is followed by the communities to celebrate the Itika Pongal festival, and how they calculate the dates. However, the festival falls in April of the western Gregorian calendar. Thus, the month of April is the perfect time to visit the Araku Valley, to witness the tribal culture amidst the beauty of nature.
Where is the Itika Pongal Festival Celebrated?
The Itika Pongal festival is unique to the indigenous tribes of the Araku Valley. Araku Valley is a hill station and valley region, situated among the lush greenery of forests of the Eastern Ghats on the eastern coast of India. The valley is situated in the Visakhapatnam district of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, and is a center of attraction for tourists, owing to its romantic climate and naturally adorned beauty.
About Araku Valley
Being a major producer of rice in the country, the South-eastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh is rightly known as the 'rice bowl of India.' The state is spread over an area of 160,205 sq, kilometers, and houses a part of the thick mountain ranges of the Eastern Ghats. Among the naturally ordained greenery, lie beautiful hill stations and valleys, which serve as home to various tribal communities of the region to this day. One of the most significant of these natural habitats is the Araku valley, which is located close to Andhra Pradesh's border with the state of Odisha, in the Visakhapatnam district. Araku Valley holds immense importance in the sense that it is a hill station and valley region where indigenous tribal communities with their age-long traditions and art forms can still be found in their crudest of state, apart from the rich flora and fauna that the region has to offer. Tea plantation estates along the way make the journey to Araku Valley even more refreshing to take.
Itika Pongal - Culture & Traditions
Nearly nineteen tribal communities inhabit the Araku Valley. The age-old tradition of hunting is taken up during the Itika Pongal period, setting aside other forms of livelihood, such as agriculture.
The people of these tribal communities dress up in colorful clothes and come out to celebrate Itika Pongal, as they have been celebrating it since time immemorial. They perform their traditional dance forms, known as the 'Dhimsa' and the 'Mayur' dance. The dance is performed in groups, and only women take part in the celebration. The set of dance forms is a unique feature of the tribe of Araku Valley and is one of the oldest forms that have survived through time to remain in existence even today, much like the festival of Itika Pongal in which it is carried out.
Itika Pongal is the perfect time to witness the indigenous tribes in their traditional attires, performing the traditional activity of hunting the nearby forest areas, and recreating with their traditional Dhimsa and Mayur dance forms.
The Araku Tribal Museum is a major tourist attraction, where crafts and clothes of the tribal communities can be found. The Araku Tribal museum is not to be missed if one is visiting the Araku Valley. Same goes with the Itika Pongal festival if one is making a trip to the Araku Valley in April.
The Significance of the Itika Pongal Festival
The Itika Pongal festival of Araku Valley is a must experience celebration for the ones who love nature and has an interest in tradition and culture of the tribal communities. The annual celebration has kept the customs and rituals of age long tradition alive, making the festival and the community a much sought-after lot for the contemporary studies of the past. The hunting festival of Itika Pongal makes one realize, upon witnessing it, the long-lost ways of life that once existed and formed a basis for all communities of the world. The celebration serves as a scene of curiosity and a peek into the old customs and traditions on one hand, and prods the people and authority for their conservation on the other hand, as has manifested in the establishment of the Araku Tribal Museum. The Dhimsa and Mayur dance forms, among other indigenous art forms of different communities, have always remained a center of analysis for the lovers of dance among the contemporary lovers of dance.
How to Reach Araku Valley
The Araku Valley is situated at an approximate distance of 115 kilometers from Vizag and can be reached by both railways and roadways.
The nearest railway station to the Araku Valley is the Araku Railway Station, which is very close to the valley, only at a meager distance of 2 kilometers.
The nearest airport from the Araku Valley is the Visakhapatnam Airport, which is at an approximate distance of 115 kilometers from it.
The Itika Pongal festival is the nearest a modern urban man can come to take a peek of the ancient ways of life and ancient art forms. The indigenous tribes dwell in places which largely remain undisturbed from urban life. Thus, if one is willing to witness a festivity of the ancient times, performed with ancient rituals and dance forms, then the Itika Pongal festival is the best occasion to curb his curiosity. Of course, there are other reasonable reasons as well that make one visit Araku Valley, the natural beauty of the valley and the hills being one of them.