Bonalu is Telangana state Festival where Goddess Mahakali is worshiped and it’s an annual festival celebrated in the twin cities Hyderabad and Secunderabad and other parts of Telangana state.
Bonalu is celebrated usually during Ashada Masam that falls in July/August. Special poojas are performed for 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. Womenfolk in the 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 History:
The history of the festival is said to have started in 1813 in the Hyderabad and Secunderabad area when the plague raged in the Twin Cities and claimed thousands of lives. Then a military battalion from Hyderabad was deployed to Ujjain and, concerned about the threat of plague in Hyderabad, the military battalion offered prayers to the Mother Goddess at the Mahankaali Temple in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, that if people were to recover from the epidemic they would install the idol of Mahankaali in Secunderabad. Worshipers believe Mahankaali stopped the spread of the disease while the military battalion returned here and set up an idol offering Bonalu to Mother Mahankaali.
Bonalu is celebrated in 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 the second Sunday, and on the third Sunday, at Pochamma and Katta Maisamma temple near Chilkalguda and the Matheswari temple of Lal Darwaza. in the old city of Hyderabad. Other temples like Akkanna Madanna temple in Haribowli, Muthyalamma temple in Shah Ali Banda are the popular places where Bonalu is celebrated. Hundreds of thousands of devotees flock to the temples to pay homage to Mahankaali.
Women dress in traditional saree with jewelry and other accessories during the occasion. Teenage girls adorn half sarees alongside jewelry to reflect the traditional grace of the outfit. Some women face a spell of trace where they dance with the pots balanced to the rhythmic beat of the drums in honor of the Goddess.
The festival begins in Golconda, the women who carry Bonalu are believed to possess the spirit of the goddess, and when they approach the temple, people sprinkle their feet with water to soothe the spirit, which is believed to be aggressive. Devotees offer Thottelu. They are small colored paper structures, which are held up with sticks and offered as a sign of respect.
Who is Pothuraju:
Pothuraju is considered the brother of the Goddess, he 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 the future.
Ghatam involves a copper pot, which is decorated in the shape of the goddess and is carried by a priest, adorning a traditional dhoti and her body completely smeared with turmeric. The Ghatam is taken as a procession from the first day of the festival to the last day when it is submerged in water. The Ghatam accompanies the drums.
Usually, Ghatam from Akkanna Madanna temple in Haribowli actually leads the procession, placed on an elephant around the corner accompanied by mounted horses and models, representing Akkanna and Madanna. It ends with a brilliant procession in the evening after the Ghatams dive in Nayapul. Ghatams from other popular Mahakali temples in the Twin Cities congregate here.