Bonalu, the traditional folk festival in Telangana, began on Sunday with gaiety adhering to Covid-19 protocol.
The traditional festivities began at the Jagadambika Temple on Golconda Fort here. The religious procession started from Langar Houz to the temple near Bala Hissar on top of the historic fort. The three-kilometre procession will reach the temple late in the evening.
Incessant rains since morning impacted the celebrations as the authorities had a tough time controlling the crows through narrow pathways around the fort.
Women queued up at temples to offer Bonalu, which consists of cooked rice, jaggery, curd and turmeric water, carried in steel and clay pots on their heads. The devotees believe that the annual festival will ward off evil and usher in peace.
Public events during Bonalu were cancelled by the state government last year in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, with the lifting of Covid-19 related restrictions last month, the government allowed people’s participation this time.
This year the festivities will be organised with mass gatherings and traditional procession. The organizers have been directed to ensure adherence to Covid-19 protocol, including wearing of masks and social distancing.
Minister for Animal Husbandry Talasani Srinivas Yadav said the temple committees were briefed on the precautions to be taken during the festival.
Ashada Bonalu is a festival held in the month of Ashada, according to the Hindu calendar, celebrating Goddess Mahankali.
Devotees, especially women make offerings in the form of food to goddess Mahankali in specially decorated pots. During the nearly month-long festival, people also hold ‘rangam’ or forecasting the future, organise processions and cultural events.
After the formation of Telangana State in 2014, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) had declared Bonalu as the state festival. The festivities reflect Telangana culture with performances by the artistes.
This year, the government has allocated Rs 15 crore for the celebrations. The money was spent to spruce up the temples for the celebrations and for making all necessary arrangements for the devotees.
Every year, Bonalu is celebrated in a grand manner at different places in Hyderabad on three Sundays. The festivities at Mahankali temple in Secunderabad will be organised on July 25 while the traditional Lal Darwaza Bonalu in the old city of Hyderabad will be held on August 1.
The annual celebrations are held at Sri Jagadamba temple at Golcond Fort, Sri Ujjaini Mahankali temple in Secunderabad and at Sri Simhavahini Mahankali temple in Lal Darwaza and at Sri Akkanna Madanna Mahankali temple in Haribowli.
The annual festivities conclude with a procession from Akkanna Madanna temple. The procession led by a caparisoned elephant, carrying the ghatam of the Goddess, passes through the main thoroughfares of the old city, including the historic Charminar.
It is commonly believed that the festival was first celebrated over 150 years ago following a major cholera outbreak. People believed that the epidemic was due to the anger of the Mahankali and began offering Bonalu to placate her.
Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has greeted Telangana people on the occasion of beginning of Bonalu festival celebrations. The CM said that the Bonalu festival, which starts with presenting a Bonum’ to Goddess Jagadambika at Golconda Fort, is a symbol for the ‘Ganga Jamuna Tehzeeb’ of the ‘sabbanda varnas’ (Artisan classes, Majority people who hitherto participating in production process).
Rao said with the blessings from the Mother Goddess and the state government’s determination, the Telangana State became Annapurna (who offers food) to the entire country. The CM prayed that Telangana people should lead a happy and contented life with prosperity, good health and wished that the Goddess’ blessings should be forever on Telangana people.