Bonalu, which symbolizes the unique culture of Telangana, was celebrated with traditional fervor and gaiety in the old city of Hyderabad on Sunday. Large number of devotees thronged Sri Simhavahini Mahakali temple in Lal Darwaza, Sri Akkanna Madanna Mahakali temple in Haribowli and other Mahakali temples in the old city.
The main celebrations were held at Lal Darwaza temple where endowment minister Indrakaran Reddy and animal husbandry minister T. Srinivas Yadav offered ‘Bangaru Bonam’ and silk robes to the deity on behalf of the state government.
Speaking on the occasion, Srinivas Yadav said devotees from other states were also participating in Bonalu celebrations. He said for the first time the state government has provided funds to private temples on the occasion of Bonalu. Earlier, donors were giving money to the private temples but now the government has come forward to help them.
Home minister Mahmood Ali, Haryana Governor Bandaru Dattatreya, Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president A. Revanth Reddy, BJP state president Bandi Sanjay, veteran actor and BJP leader Vijayashanti, and leaders of various political parties participated in the festivities.
Thousands of devotees including women offered prayers. Authorities made elaborate arrangements to facilitate the movement of devotees. Special queues were arranged for women, who were seen carrying pots on their heads, to make the offerings to the goddess.
Police diverted vehicular traffic at several points to ensure smooth conduct of the festivities. More than 8,000 policemen were deployed as part of the massive security arrangements. Police were keeping a tight vigil in the communally sensitive pockets of the old city.
The festival will conclude on Monday with famous ‘Rangam’ where predictions about the State’s future will be made by an unmarried woman, followed by the Ghatam procession. This will be followed by a procession of a caparisoned elephant carrying a portrait of the deity. Smeared with turmeric and vermilion, potharajus dance to rhythmic drumbeats in the procession that will pass through various areas including Charminar.
Authorities have ordered closure of all liquor shops in the city on Sunday and Monday in view of the festival. Bonalu in the old city is the third phase of the nearly month-long traditional festival. It began on July 11 at the Jagadambika Temple on Golconda Fort here while on July 25 the celebration was held in Secunderabad.
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 are being 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.
Ashada Bonalu is a festival held in the month of Ashada, according to the Hindu calendar, celebrating goddess Mahakali. Devotees, especially women make offerings in the form of food to goddess Mahakali 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.
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 Mahakali and began offering Bonalu to placate her.
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