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Bonalu- Hyderabad

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Bonalu- Hyderabad


Bonalu( Telugu: బోనాలు) is a traditional Hindu festival centered on the Goddess Mahakali from Telangana. This festival is celebrated annually in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, as well as in other parts of the state. It is celebrated in the month of Ashada Masam, which is around July and/or August. Special “poojas” (worship/ ceremonies) are performed for Yellamma (one of the many regional forms of Mahakali) on the first and last day of the festival. The festival is also considered a thanksgiving to the Goddess for fulfillment of vows.

The word Bonam is a contraction of the word Bhojanam, a Sanskrit loanword which means a meal or a feast in Telugu. It is an offering to the Mother Goddess. Women prepare rice cooked with milk and jaggery in a new brass or earthen pot adorned with neem leaves, turmeric, vermilion and a lit lamp on top of the pot. Women carry the pots on their heads and make an offering of the Bonam along with turmeric-vermilion, bangles and sari to the Mother Goddess across the temples.

Bonalu involves the worship of Mother Goddess in regional forms like Maisamma, Pochamma, Yellamma, Peddhamma, Dokkalamma, Ankalamma, Poleramma, Maremma, Nookalamma.

Origin of Bonalu festival
The origin of this festival can be traced back to the 18th century in the erstwhile Hyderabad State, and is linked with the “Regimental Bazaar” and the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. In the year 1813, plague broke out in the twin cities, and this took the lives of thousands of people. Just before this, a military battalion from Hyderabad had been deployed to Ujjaini, where there is the famous temple of Shiva in the form of Mahakaleshwara. When this military battalion from Hyderabad got news that the epidemic had nit their native land, they became fearful for the lives and safety of their families. The soldiers posted in Ujjaini prayed to the Mother Goddess at the Mahakali Temple – Ujjaini, Madhya Pradesh. The battalion is said to have prayed to Goddess Mahakali to kill the plague, and if the goddess did so, they would install an idol of the Goddess Mahakali in the city when they returned home. It is believed that Goddess Mahakali destroyed the disease and kept the pestilence away. When the battalion returned to their homeland, they built the Ujjaini Mahakali Temple and installed an idol of the goddess, in fulfilment of their vow. This was followed by the offering of Bonalu to her. This then became a tradition that has been followed by most of the people of Telangana.

There are also other versions regarding the origin of the festival. This include the mythological story that this is the time when Goddess Mahakali comes back to her parental home, during Aashada Maasam (Hindu month of Aashaada) which comes in the period from late June to August, which makes this period the most optimal time to offer Bonalu to the goddess. This practice is comparable to the grand welcome given to a married daughter who returns to her parents’ home each year for a vacation and is pampered by her parents.


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