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Importance of Telangana Bonalu Festival

Importance of Telangana Bonalu Festival

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The Bonalu festival is one of the most grandly celebrated festivals by the people of Telangana. During this festival, which occurs in the month of Ashadha, the entire state of Telangana resonates with the vibrant dances of Pothuraju and the rhythmic beats of drums, creating a fervent atmosphere of devotion. Women adorn their cheeks with turmeric, apply vermilion on their foreheads, and carry Bonalu (offering pots) on their heads with great enthusiasm. This festival is a cultural celebration, and devotees believe that offering Bonalu to the Goddess with true devotion brings her blessings.

Bonalu essentially means ‘meal.’ This unique festival, which spans a month, is celebrated selflessly with the hope of bringing greenery to the villages. The Bonalu festival transcends caste and religious barriers, reflecting the rural culture of Telangana. The festival begins on the first Thursday of Ashadha month with offerings made to Goddess Jagadamba at Golconda Fort. Special prayers and rituals continue daily until the last Sunday of the month.

After the Bonalu festivities at Golconda, the following week sees offerings made to Ujjaini Mahankali Goddess in Secunderabad, celebrating Bonalu throughout the week. Subsequently, Bonalu celebrations take place at Lal Darwaza, Dhoolpet, Balkampet, Old City, and Kothi areas in various temples dedicated to the Goddess. After the celebrations in the cities, the festival is also observed district-wise and village-wise.

However, to understand the true essence of the Bonalu tradition considered a symbol of Telangana’s identity, we must look into its origins and the reason behind it. The term ‘Bonalu’ signifies a meal. Traditionally, Bonalu, consisting of rice, milk, and curd, is prepared in clay or brass pots. These pots are then beautifully decorated with neem leaves, turmeric, and vermilion and taken as an offering to the Goddess. This process is known as ‘Ooradi.’ The festival doesn’t end with the offering of Bonalu to the Goddess; it also includes offering decorated bamboo sticks known as ‘Thottelu.’

The Bonalu festival dates back 600 years to the Pallava dynasty. History tells us that during those times, Sri Krishna Devarayalu built a temple with seven forts and offered Bonalu. Similarly, in 1676, Sarvai Papanna built a temple for Goddess Ellamma in Hasanabad, Karimnagar, and offered Bonalu.

Setting aside these historical accounts, a significant incident occurred in 1869 when a plague epidemic caused devastation in the twin cities (Hyderabad and Secunderabad). Thousands of people succumbed to this epidemic. During that time, people prayed to the village deities to protect them from this dreadful disease. To appease the deities, they offered Bonalu. This tradition has continued since the Kakatiya era in Golconda and was carried forward during the reign of the Qutb Shahi dynasty.

Although the landscape of the twin cities has changed over time, with diminishing greenery and the loss of some age-old festivals, the Bonalu festival remains the only festival that the city’s residents celebrate with unwavering devotion and fervor. It is no exaggeration to say that Bonalu is the sole festival celebrated with such faith and devotion in today’s urban setting.

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