Bonalu Festival in Hyderabad and Secunderabad



Bonalu is an important festival celebrated in Hyderabad and Secunderabad in Telangana in the month of Ashada (July – August). Bonalu 2015 dates are  July 19, July 26, August 2 and August 9. Bonalu means ‘food’ and is a ritual in honor of Mother Goddess - Mahankali. The ritual consists of an offering of food made to the Goddess by women which is later shared by the family and friends as ‘prasad.’ The festival is a month long affair and includes colorful processions and community feasts.
 
Bonalu on Sundays in the Ashada month: The first main festival is held on the first Sunday of the Ashada month at the Sri Jagadamba temple in Golconda Fort, the next main festival on the second Sunday at the Ujjain Mahankali Temple in Secunderabad and the third main festival on the third Sunday at the Matheswari Temple of Laldarwaja. The rituals are also performed in all the other Mother Goddess temples in the twin cities.

Origin of Bonalu festival: Bonalu had its origin in an epidemic of plague in 1869 in Hyderabad and Secunderabad, which killed several people. People believed that the epidemic was the result of the anger of Mother Goddess. The Bonalu ritual was started to ward-off the anger of the Goddess.

Offerings on Bonalu: The offerings consist of cooked rice, jaggery, curd, water and other dishes which are brought in the pots and are given to the Goddesses in the temples. The earthen pots are decorated with white, yellow and red colors. Majority of the women carry the pots on their head and it is believed that the women get possessed by the spirit of Mother Goddess. The offering of cooked rice, jaggery and curd in a pot is known as ‘bonam’ and is covered with neem leaves and a lamp is placed on top of it.
The offerings are of two kinds – thanksgiving and fulfillment of vows taken. The offering made for the fulfillment of vows is intense and women carry pot on their heads and form part of procession of Mother Goddess. Such processions are led by Potharaju, the brother of mother goddess. A well-built man adorns the role of Potharaju.

The month-long festival consists of various rituals like ‘Rangam’- forecasting the future, and the procession of mother goddess atop an elephant and the ‘Ghatalu’ procession.

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