Bonalu Festival: History, Why and How It's Celebrated
|Bonalu festival is considered as a way of thanking the Goddess for her blessings. Photo IndiaTours|
Bonalu is a Hindu festival where the celebration usually falls during July and August. Bonalu festival showcases Telangana's rich culture as people soak in the traditional festivities simging Bonalu songs. For this festival, Goddess Mahankaali is worshipped, and special poojas are performed during the days of the festival. This wonderful festival is considered as a way of thanking the Goddess for her blessings.
When is Bonalu?
Bonalu is a regional Indian public holiday, observed in Telangana. Also known as Ashada Jatara, it is celebrated on the Shashti tithi of Shukla paksha (sixth day) of the month of Ashadha.
Note that the festival lasts for several days and the date we show is the one from the official Telangana list of gazetted holidays, which we will update as soon as that is issued.
In Telugu, Bonam means Meal, which is one of the offerings given to the Goddess. Every year, devotees worship and honor the Goddess with dance and rituals. The government of Telangana has declared this beautiful festival as a state festival
Bonalu Festival’s History
About more than two hundred years ago, gradual attacks of plaque on humans took place which killed thousands. From the code, the countrymen prayed to Mahakali resting in Ujjain to safeguard the citizens from impenetrable disease. An instance of compassionate goddess Mahakali, Bonalu vent the flinty disease out and saves lives of many people. Thanking Mahakali for consummation of the disease, people of Hyderabad and Secunderabad started celebrating the occasion by preparing dishes and performing dances to placate the goddess.
The origin of Bonalu Festival goes way back to the 19th century. In the early 1800s, there was a sudden plague epidemic that killed thousands of people. People felt helpless. They sought for divine intervention. They started praying to Mother Goddess of Mahankaali temple of Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. They prayed and pledged to install an idol of the Goddess in the twin cities of Hyderabad if the plague was eradicated.
Soon enough, it is believed there was an end to the epidemic and people as they pledged had the idol installed and ever since it has become a tradition to offer Bonalu to the goddess every ‘Aashaadam’, thanking and appeasing the goddess Mahakali for eradicating the disease. It is quite interesting that the festival is celebrated on different days at different places across the state.
How Is Bonalu Festival Celebrated?
The celebration of Bonalu is done in a wholesome and different way. South India gets filled up with rangolis gracing designs that signify mainly goddess Mahakali and super spiritual powers associated with her. Telangana peoples decorate Mahakali’s Idol with various ornaments and decorate them with traditional clothes. Mahakali for a month gets presented with natural aromatic liquids and red dot sindoor on the forehead.
The main Bonalu festival comes as a two-day celebration once it gets started in a particular area. The first day is all about offering Bonam and Thottela to the diety by the devotees coming from various places which is then followed by ‘Ghatam.’ Ghatam is a copper pot gorgeously decorated in the form of the Goddess. The Ghatam is carried by the priest of the temple. Accompanied by the music of the drums, it is taken into procession till the very last day of the festival which then is immersed into water.
The first day celebration ends with another offering to the Goddess, the ‘Ori Bonam’ which is offered by the heads or the trustees of that particular village on behalf of the devotees. On the following day, programs like Rangam, Kallu Ghatam, Saree gampa procession and Potharaju event add more life to the festive flavor. It is concluded by immersing the Ghatam in the water.
They are painted yellow all over their body and they always carry a whip about their waists. They lead the female devotees to the temple. Streets decorated with neem leaves and speakers all over the streets playing folk songs add another flavor to the beauty of the festival.
The offering of Bonam is followed by a grand feast. People share the offerings with their family members and friends. The meat of goat or a rooster that is slaughtered is offered to the goddess. It then is consumed as a meal. Though mythology doesn’t necessarily say the offering demands a sacrifice, people just believed in this tradition of animal sacrifice and went on with it since times immemorial.
However, with rising awareness in the recent times and the Government being very strict on animal slaughter for sacrifices, people now are restricted to only use coconuts, lemons and pumpkins.
Another significant feature that stands out is Rangam, which happens on the second day of the festival. A woman acts as an Oracle of sorts, foretelling the future. It is believed the spirit of the Mother Goddess imbibes into her. The woman invokes the spirit of Mother goddess into her and predicts the future of the people and the state. This takes place before the start of the procession.
|Bonalu is celebrated all across the Telangana where cooked dishes are gifted to the goddess and prayers are performed in homes or temples. Villages are ornamented by lights across the roads and colourful painting pots are made to dance upon with. In the fest, pots and potted with colour variations and used to decorate homes. Various pieces of music are played and women dance to pay tribute to the goddess. There are Rangoli designing competitions with rice flour in which only women participate. Rice flour is regarded as the prasadamof godess that destroys every bad thing entering the house.|
Devotees are very happy during the occasion and they make new dishes in their homes. They exchange dishes with others and enjoy a community meal. Some dishes like delicious bagara rice recipe, jaggery pongal and tamarind rasam recipe are favourite and commonly enjoyed. People also make delicious dishes like lemon rice and payasam. Tamarind rice and coconut rice dishes are also prepared to show off the world about the beauty of south India. South India is always known for its quality food serving and disciplinary nature that definitely attract many travellers from the world to participate in this festival.
|Photo The News Minute|
The cities on this occasion appears like a collection of lighthouses all giving out light at the same time. People wear traditional dresses and engage in cultural activities which are an integral part of the festival. Women wear white bordered saree with choli and children wear pattu langa on the occassion. Kanchipuram style sarees are worn by women during the festival. White colour lungi is the traditional attire for men along with plain long-shirt “Kurta” along with angavastram.
Families also share offerings at the temples and with their relatives and friends. They come together to celebrate this grand occasion.
Places Where Bonalu Festival is Celebrated
Bonalu is celebrated in various parts of the state and is celebrated by many people. The celebrations begin at the Golconda Fort during the first Sunday of Aashaadam, followed by Balkampet’s Yellamma temple on the second Sunday. On the third Sunday, the celebrations take place at the Katta Maisamma, Pochamma, and Matheswari temples near Chilkalguda and the Old city of Hyderabad.
Other popular venues of the celebrations are in Haribowli (Akkanna Madanna temple) and Shah Ali Banda (in Muthyalamma temple). Thousands of devotees come to the temples to pray to the Mother Goddess.
To reach the Golconda fort, you can book a bus online on redBus and get down at the Golconda Bus Station. On the second Sunday, you can reach the Yellamma temple by getting down at the Balakampet bus stop, which is only a few meters away from the temple.
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