When is Bonalu Festival?
Bonalu Festival Date 2021
11, July to 8, August, 2021 Sunday
Bonalu Festival celebrated by different temples on different dates, it celebrated in the month of Ashada Masam which usually fall in July or August month of Georgian Calendar.
Bonalu Festival 2021 Dates
11th July Sunday, 18th July Sunday, 25th July Sunday, 1st August Sunday, 8th August Sunday
Famous Temples who celebrate Bonalu Festival are Jagadambika Temple of Golconda Fort, Ujjaini Mahankali Temple of Secunderabad, Balkampet Yellamma temple of Balkampet. Pochamma and Katta maisamma temple, the Matheswari temple of Lal Darwaza.
What is Bonalu Festival?
Bonalu is a regional festival celebrated across Telangana with great pride and jubilation. The word bonalu predominantly refers to a feast which is offered to the Goddess ‘Mahakali’. It is celebrated in the Telugu month of ‘Aashadam’, when crops are ready to be reaped. The Bonalu jaatara goes on for about thirty days that includes various communal feasts and other enjoyable activities.
So why is it regionally limited? Why doesn’t the whole of India celebrate it just like Diwali and Holi? Well, let’s go back to history.
Why Is Bonalu Festival Celebrated?
The origin of Bonalu Festival goes way back to the 19th century. In the early 1800s, there was a sudden plague epidemic that killed thousands of people. People felt helpless. They sought for divine intervention. They started praying to Mother Goddess of Mahankaali temple of Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. They prayed and pledged to install an idol of the Goddess in the twin cities of Hyderabad if the plague was eradicated.
Soon enough, it is believed there was an end to the epidemic and people as they pledged had the idol installed and ever since it has become a tradition to offer Bonalu to the goddess every ‘Aashaadam’, thanking and appeasing the goddess Mahakali for eradicating the disease. It is quite interesting that the festival is celebrated on different days at different places across the state.
How is Bonalu Festival Celebrated?
The celebrations kick start in the Jagadaamba Mahaakali Temple at the Golconda fort on the first Sunday of Aashadam followed by Yellamma temple in Balkampet on the second Sunday. On the third Sunday , the celebrations shift to Katta Maisamma, Matheswari and Pochamma temples in Chilkalguda and the Old city.
Women dress up beautifully in the traditional saree attire and carry the offerings to the goddess in an earthen pot decorated with neem leaves and turmeric on their heads consisting of food made of cooked rice, curd, jaggery and other dishes. Generally women walk all the way to the temple with these pots( also known as Bonam) to the temple. Along with the Bonam women also offer Saree and Bangles to the goddess.
It is supposed that the women carrying the Bonam are injected with the spirit of the Goddess and water is sprinkled upon them once they reach the temple to pacify the spirit. People are often seen offering ‘Thottela’ which is an artifact that’s offered to the goddess made of bamboo sticks and colorful transparent papers. This is believed to appease and pacify the goddess.
The main Bonalu festival comes as a two-day celebration once it gets started in a particular area. The first day is all about offering Bonam and Thottela to the diety by the devotees coming from various places which is then followed by ‘Ghatam.’ Ghatam is a copper pot gorgeously decorated in the form of the Goddess. The Ghatam is carried by the priest of the temple. Accompanied by the music of the drums, it is taken into procession till the very last day of the festival which then is immersed into water.
The first day celebration ends with another offering to the Goddess, the ‘Ori Bonam’ which is offered by the heads or the trustees of that particular village on behalf of the devotees. On the following day, programs like Rangam, Kallu Ghatam, Saree gampa procession and Potharaju event add more life to the festive flavor. It is concluded by immersing the Ghatam in the water.
History and mythology tells us, Potharaju is the brother of the Goddess. He is a well built, strong, tough, bare bodied man with a red dhoti draped around his waist. He dances to the beats of the drums. He is considered to be the protector of the women carrying Bonam. He adds a much needed flavor to this festival. Tradition tells Haldi and Kumkum are to be applied on the bodies of the Pothararajus but with the time, they have shifted to paints to makes them look more brighter.
They are painted yellow all over their body and they always carry a whip about their waists. They lead the female devotees to the temple. Streets decorated with neem leaves and speakers all over the streets playing folk songs add another flavor to the beauty of the festival.
The offering of Bonam is followed by a grand feast. People share the offerings with their family members and friends. The meat of goat or a rooster that is slaughtered is offered to the goddess. It then is consumed as a meal. Though mythology doesn’t necessarily say the offering demands a sacrifice, people just believed in this tradition of animal sacrifice and went on with it since times immemorial.
However, with rising awareness in the recent times and the Government being very strict on animal slaughter for sacrifices, people now are restricted to only use coconuts, lemons and pumpkins.
Another significant feature that stands out is Rangam, which happens on the second day of the festival. A woman acts as an Oracle of sorts, foretelling the future. It is believed the spirit of the Mother Goddess imbibes into her. The woman invokes the spirit of Mother goddess into her and predicts the future of the people and the state. This takes place before the start of the procession.
Finally, the Ghatam of Akanna Madanna Temple in Haribowli leads the procession placed on an elephant which is accompanied by mounted horses depicting Akanna and Madanna. This ends as a glittering procession in the evening after the immersion of Ghatams in water at Nayapul. Ghatams from other popular temples congregate here.
The festival starts and ends on a high with the glory of Bonalu being glorified to the fullest. People have kept the culture and tradition of the festival alive from many years and so will they continue to. It has been the pride of the state just like what Jallikattu is for Tamil Nadu. It revokes life and celebration among the people. If you are in Telangana, Bonalu is one such festival that you should definitely witness and celebrate!