Bonalu is a Hindu Festival where Goddess Mahakali is worshiped. 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. Special poojas are performed for goddess Yellamma during the first and last day of the festival. The festival is considered as a form of thanksgiving to the Goddess after the fulfillment of vows. Bonam literally means Meal in Telugu, which is an offering to the Mother Goddess. Women folk 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. Women carry these pots on their heads and make an offering of Bonam, including Bangles and Saree to the Mother Goddess at Temples. Bonalu involves worship of Kali in her various forms such Mysamma, Pochamma, Yellamma, Dokkalamma, Pedamma, Poleramma, Ankalamma, Maremma, Nookalamma etc.
Bonalu festival -Origin
The festival history reportedly started in 1813 in the region of Hyderabad & Secunderabad when plague disease had broken out in Twin Cities that had claimed thousands of lives. A military battalion from Hyderabad was then deployed to Ujjain and concerned about the plague menace in Hyderabad the military battalion offered prayers to Mother Goddess at Mahankaali Temple in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, that 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 halted the spread of the disease while the Military Battalion came back here & installed an idol by offering Bonalu to Mother Mahankaali.
Bonalu is celebrated across various parts of the city. 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.
Women dress up in the traditional Sari along with jewels and other accessories during the occasion. Teenage Girls adorn Half-Sarees along with jewels to reflect the traditional grace of the attire. Some women face a spell of trace where they dance with the balancing pots to the rhythmic beats made by drums in honor of the Goddess.
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. Pothuraju dances to the resounding drums and dances close to Palaharam Bandi, the procession.
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.
Rangam, or the Performing the Oracle, is held after the next morning of the actual festival. A Woman invokes goddess Mahankaali onto herself and performs this custom. She foretells the next year ahead when devotees ask for information about future.
Ghatam implies a copper pot, which is decorated in the form of mother goddess and carried by a priest, adorning a traditional dhoti and his body completely smeared in turmeric. The Ghatam is taken as a procession from first day of the festival to the last day, when it is immersed in water. The Ghatam accompanies drums.
Usually Ghatam of Akkanna Madanna Temple in Haribowli actually leads the procession, placed on an elephant inturn accompanied by mounted horses and models, which depict Akkanna and Madanna. It ends as a glittering procession in the evening after immersion of Ghatams at Nayapul. Ghatams from other popular temples of Mahakali in twin cities congregate here.