Bonalu is the festival ascribed to Goddess Maha Kali, a manifestation of Sri Durga Devi. This festival is mainly celebrated in Hyderabad and Secunderabad cities in Telengana. The festival occurs in Ashada month. It is also called as Aashada Jathra.
The word ‘Bonam’ is said to be derived from the word ‘Bhojanam’ which means meals. It is believed that Sri Kali visits Her parental home for Ashada and that She is indulged with feasts to keep Her happy.
As per another legend, during the early 1800s, the battalion from Hyderabad was deployed to Ujjain. Just before they left for Ujjain plague had broken out in Hyderabad region. The warriors had prayed to Sri Kali in Ujjain to relieve the people of Hyderabad from the plague. They also promised to build a temple for Sri Maha Kali in Hyderabad once plague is eradicated. Their prayer was answered. Hence, Bonalu festival is celebrated as thanks giving to Sri Kali Devi every year.
It starts on the first Sunday of Ashada month which is called as Edhurukolu. This day is considered as the home coming of Ammavru. The third Sunday of Ashada month is celebrated as Bonalu Jathra. The festivities come to an end on the following Monday by observing the festivities such as Ghatam and Saganamputa.
Bonalu is being observed on all the Sundays of Ashada month. Shukla Paksha Sashti Tithi of the Ashada month is considered as the important day of the festival. For the Year 2023, it occurs on Monday, 24th July 2023.
Special Pujas are done to Sri Maha Kali during the festivities. Sri Maha Kali is worshipped in Her various manifestations such as Pochamma, Maisamma, Yellamma, Pedhdhamma, Dhokkalamma, Ankalamma, Poleramma, Mariamma and Nookalamma.
The festival commences at Golkonda Fort Ammavaru temple on the first Sunday of Ashada month. On the second Sunday of Ashada month, festivals are held at Yellamma temple at Bulkampet and Ujjain Mahakali temple at Secunderabad.
On the third Sunday of Ashada month, celebrations are held at Pochama temple and Katta maisamma temple at Chikalguda and at Matheswari temple at Lal Darwaza in the old Hyderabad city.
The other temples where celebrations are held are Muthyalamma temple in Shah Ali Banda and Akkanna Madanna temple at Haribowli.
Women and young girls wear traditional dresses such as saree and half saree. They prepare the sweet dish with rice, milk and jaggery on earthen or brass pots. They decorate the pot with neem leaves, turmeric and Kumkum. They cover the pot and light a lamp on it. It is called as Bonam Jyothi.
They keep the pot over their heads, take new saree and bangles, go in a procession and offer all to Sri Kali at the temples. It is believed that they possess divine powers when they proceed towards the temple. On the way, people pour water on their feet as a mark of reverence.
Each group of the devotees offer a color paper made structure supported with sticks to Sri Maha Kali. This is called as thottelu.
The festivals are celebrated at Sri Ujjaini Mahakali Devasthanam, Sri Gandimaissamma Temple, Sri Devi Pochamma Temple, Sri Muthyalamma Temple, Sri Peddamma Temple, Sri Dokkalamma Temple, Sri Muthyalamma Temple, and Sri Peenugula Mallanna Temple, among others.
Bonalu is celebrated in the places such as Gunfoundry, and Kalasiguda in the Sravana month, unlike other parts of the city which celebrates in the month of Ashadam.
Gunfoundry Muthyalamma Temple has an almost two century old tradition of two days festivals with Bonam given to deities from various devotees, known as the Thotela procession, followed by the Ghatam procession, and concluding with Ori (village) Bonam. Events like Rangam, Kallu Ghatam, Sare Gampa procession, and Gavurangam (Potharaju) take place.
As per the legend, Potharaju is believed to be the brother of Maha Kali. Men of high toned bodies assume the role of Pothuraju. They smear turmeric on their body, apply Kumkum on their forehead, wear red clothes and perform dances to the tune of devotional songs played on the drums and trumpets. They dance before the processional vehicle called Palaharam Bandi. They are considered as the protector of the community. Women under the spell of Maa Durga also dance along with Pothuraju.
The custom of spiritual foretelling about the year ahead is observed at some of the temples by the women. It is believed that the women who do the foretelling have the blessings of Goddess Kali in their prophecies.
A copper pot decorated like Goddess Durga is called as Ghatam. From the first day of the festival, the pot is carried reverently by the priest. In some places, the Ghatam is placed atop an elephant. The procession is accompanied by the beat of drums. On the last day of the festival, the Ghatam is immersed in water bodies.
The procession of Ghatam is celebrated as carnival across Secunderabad and Hyderabad cities.
The offerings to the Goddess range from sweet dishes, non-vegetarian preparations and toddy.[The contents of this article are referred from Wikipedia website].