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Bonalu is a Hindu festival celebrated in Hyderabad, Secunderabad and some parts of Telangana, in ritual honour of Mahankali (The Mother Goddess). It is mostly celebrated in the urban areas.

Bonam means Bojanaalu (meaning meal in Telugu) , and is an offering to the Goddess. Women bring cooked rice mixed with milk and sugar, sometimes onions, filled with water in polished brass vessels or in earthen-pots (usually two pots), put small neem branches, colored in scared colors of pasupu (turmeric), kunkum(vermilion) (sometimes Kadi) in a spotted manner, lit up atop with deepam/diya and bring them on their heads come join a big procession and go to the Goddess at a local temple, led by pounding drum beaters and dancing men.

This century-old tradition is celebrated since the time of The Nizams, who participated in the event.


[edit] The Ritual

The festival starts with the Golconda Mahankali, located inside the fort, and then to another temple the Ujjani Mahankali temple, Secunderabad, and continues its celebrations on every succeeding Sunday in different parts of the twin cities and its suburbs. Bonalu is celebrated in the month of Ashada masam, the month preceding the Shravana masam, but not in the shravana masam(usually in July/August every year). Special poojas are performed to Yellamma (Goddess Jagadambika ) on the first and last day of the festival.

Every locality has Goddess temples viz. Mysamma, Pochamma, Yellamma, Pedamma, Dokkalamma, Akkanna-Madanna temple etc.. The festival is also considered as thanksgiving by the people to the Goddess for the fulfillment of their vows.

Women dress-up in traditional silk sarees and adorned in Jewellery go for the temple offering. The Dance by the tranced female dancers, often middle-aged, balancing pots (Bonalu), dance to the rhythmic beats and tunes of drums in praise of the locality deity The Mahankali.

In olden days, people used to sacrifice a male-buffalo in front of the santorum, but now, roasters are sacrificed to ward off the evil spirit, symbolising The festival of sacrifice (though banned at most temples now).

Women carrying Bonalu on their heads, are believed to possess the spirit of Mother Goddess, when the group go towards the temple, people come out and offer water on their feet to pacify the mood of the Goddess, who is believed to be a very aggressive lady, by nature.

Every group of devotees, collectively offer a Thottela (a small colourful, paper structure erected with sticks), as a mark of respect.

[edit] Potharaju

The well-built, bare-bodied, turmeric-smeared on entire body, vermilion on the forehead, clad in a small, tightly draped red dhoti, bells tied to the ankle and dancing to the sound of reverberating beats of drums (dappu) is belovedly known as Potharaju. [1]

He is believed to be the brother of Mother Goddess, always dances before the Palaharam Bandi taken on to the streets, also the initiator of the festivities and is considered the protector of the community. He followed by the transed female dancers (under spell of the Mother Goddess, called shigam) to the temple, lashing whips and emerald margosa leaves tied around their waists adding colour to the roaring trumpets and pulsating percussion, and heralded by the drum beaters.

[edit] The Feast

Bonalu is a festival of offering to the Goddess and families share the offering among their members and guests. After the temple offering, a non-vegetarian family feast follows in every house.

The festival environment is quite palpable in the locality celebrating this fesival, with loud-speakers playing Mother Goddess songs in a distinctive telangana-style folk song, and streets decorated with neem leaves.

[edit] Rangam

Rangam means Forecasting of the Future, is held in the morning, the following day wherein some women under spell foretell the year ahead, and people come and ask questions about whats in store for them. This takes places before the procession is set out.

[edit] Ghatam

Rangam is followed by Ghatam, the festival concludes with immersion of Ghatam. The `ghatam' of Haribowli Akkanna Madanna temple[2], placed atop an elephant, with mounted horses and models depicting Akkanna and Madanna, lead the procession. It ends in the evening with a glittering procession and display followed by immersion of `ghatams' at Nayapool.

Its a carnival-like atmosphere, where thousands of people wait along the main streets of Laldarwaza to Nayapool and watch the exquisitely and elaborately decorated Ghatams, hundreds of youth dance in a unique style to the tempting drum beats and orchestra alongside Pothrajus, and others, part of the procession, dress-up in various mythological roles is a treat to the eyes.

The Ghatams of the Old city procession include Mahankali temples of Haribowli Akkanna-Madanna, Laldarwaza, Uppuguda, Miralam Mandi, Kasaratta, Jagadamba temple of Sultanshahi, Bangaru Mysamma temple of Shahalibanda, Alijah Kotla and Gowlipura, and Sultanshahi, Darbar Mysamma of Aliabad and Mutyalamma temple of Chandulal Bela.

[edit] See Also

Culture of Andhra Pradesh

AvadhanamBatukammaBonaluDance forms of Andhra PradeshKuchipudiMaa telugu thallikiMusic of Andhra PradeshNakashi artNookalammaShadow Puppets of Andhra PradeshTirupati ThimmappaUgadi

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