Bonalu – The Famous Festival Of Telangana:- The famous Hindu festival of Telangana State, where Goddess Mahakali is worshiped, is the Bonalu festival or Goddess Mahankali Bonalu. It is an annual festival celebrated in the twin Cities Hyderabad and Secunderabad and other parts of Telangana State, India.
Bonalu is celebrated usually during Ashada Masam that falls in July/August. During the first and last day of the festival, special poojas are performed for the goddess Yellamma. The festival is considered as a form of thanksgiving to the Goddess after the fulfillment of vows.
The word “Bonam” literally means Bhojanam (Sanskrit), meal or a feast in Telugu, which is an offering to the Mother Goddess. Women in household prepare rice that is cooked along with Milk, Jaggery in a New Earthen or Brass Pot, which is adorned with Neem Leaves, Turmeric and Vermilion.
The women make an offering of Bonam, including bangles and Saree to the Mother Goddess at Temples, and also carry these pots on their heads. Bonalu involves worship of Kali in her various forms such Mysamma, Pochamma, Yellamma, Dokkalamma, Pedamma, Poleramma, Ankalamma, Maremma, Nookalamma etc.
Bonalu Festival -Origin
When plague disease had broken out in Twin Cities that had claimed thousands of lives, the festival history reportedly started in 1813 in the region of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. Then, a military battalion from Hyderabad was deployed to Ujjain and the military battalion concerned about the plague menace in Hyderabad, offered prayers to Mother Goddess at Mahankaali Temple in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. The offering to the Goddess that was made was, if people get relived from the epidemic they would be installing the idol of Mahankaali back in Secunderabad. It is believed by devotees that Mahankaali crippled the spread of the disease. The Military Battalion came back here in Secunderabad and installed an idol by offering Bonalu to Mother Mahankaali.
Across various parts of the city, Bonalu is celebrated. During the first Sunday of Aashaadam, celebrations begin at Golconda Fort followed by Ujjaini Mahakali Temple in Secunderabad and Balkampet Yellamma temple in Balkampet on second Sunday, and the third Sunday, at the Pochamma and Katta maisamma temple near Chilkalguda and the Matheswari temple of Lal Darwaza in Old City of Hyderabad.
Other temples such as Akkanna Madanna temple in Haribowli, Muthyalamma temple in Shah Ali Banda are the popular venues where Bonalu is celebrated. Lakhs of devotees throng the temples to pay obeisance to Mahankaali.
During the occasion, women dress up in the traditional Sari along with jewels and other accessories. To reflect the traditional grace of the attire, teenage girls adorn half-sarees along with jewels to reflect the traditional grace of the attire. In honor of the Goddess, some women face a spell of trace where they dance with the balancing pots to the rhythmic beats made by drums.
The festival begins at Golconda, Women who carry Bonalu are believed to possessing the spirit of Mother Goddess, and when they approach temple, people sprinkle water on their feet in order to pacify the spirit, which is believed to be aggressive. Devotees offer Thottelu. These are small, colorful paper structures, which are supported by sticks and offered as a token of respect.
Pothuraju, considered the brother of Mother Goddess, is represented by a bare-bodied and well-built man, who wears a small tightly draped red dhoti and bells near ankles, and applies turmeric on his body, including vermilion on his forehead. To the resonating drums and dances close to Palaharam Bandi, the procession, Pothuraju dances.
Bonalu is a festival where there is a divine offering to Mother Goddess and families also share these offerings with other family members and guests.
After the next morning of the actual festival, Rangam, or the Performing the Oracle, is held. A woman performs this custom, by invoking goddess Mahankaali onto herself. When devotees ask for information about future, she foretells the next year ahead.
A Ghatam is usually a copper pot, that is decorated in the form of mother goddess. The priest carries it, by adorning a traditional dhoti and his body completely smeared in turmeric.
From the first day of the festival to the last day, the Ghatam is taken as a procession. On the last day, the Ghatam is immersed in water. The Ghatam accompanies drums.
Usually, the procession is led by the Ghatam of Akkanna Madanna Temple in Haribowli. The Ghatam is placed on an elephant in turn accompanied by mounted horses and models, which depict Akkanna and Madanna.
After immersion of Ghatams at Nayapul, it ends as a glittering procession in the evening. The Ghatams from other popular temples of Mahakali in twin cities, include Ujjaini Mahakali and Mahadevi Pochamma at Karbala Maidan, Dokkalamma at Himam Bavi, Muthyalamma at Kalasiguda, Nallagutta, Pan Bazar, Chilkalguda, Uppara Basthi, Kummariguda, Regimental Bazar and Bhoiguda, etc congregate here at the Secunderabad City (Lashkar).
The Mahankali temples in Haribowli Akkanna-Madanna, Laldarwaza, Uppuguda, Miralam Mandi and Kasaratta, the Jagadamba temple of Sultanshahi, Bangaru Mysamma temple of Shalibanda, Alijah Kotla and Gowlipura, and Sultanshahi, Darbar Mysamma of Aliabad, Mysamma Temple of Boggulkunta (FGP) and Mutyalamma temple of Chandulal Bela, include the Ghatams of the Old city procession.
Also a part of the festival bonalu, is Thottela. It is one the offerings to the goddess. An artifact of telangana people which is made of the bamboo sticks and colorful transparent papers it looks like a temple doom which is called as thottela.