Women with Bonam performing parikrama
|Type||Festival of Goddess Kali|
|Observances||Offering to the Goddess|
|Begins||Ashada masam (July/August)|
Bonalu or Mahankali bonalu  (Telugu: బోనాలు ) is a Hindu Festival, Goddess Mahakali is worshiped. Bonalu is an annual festival of Telangana celebrated in Twin Cities Hyderabad, Secunderabad and other parts of Telangana, India. It is celebrated in the month of Ashada Masam, in July/August. Special poojas are performed for Yellamma on the first and last day of the festival. The festival is also considered a thanksgiving to the Goddess for fulfillment of vows.
Bonam means Bojanam or a Meal in Telugu, is an Offering to Mother Goddess. Women prepare rice cooked with పాలు-Milk, బెల్లం-Jaggery in a New Brass or Earthen Pot adorned with వేప-Neem Leaves, పసుపు-Turmeric, కుంకుమ-Vermilion and a ప్రమిధ-Lighted Diya on the top of the Pot. Women carry the pots on their heads and make offering of బోనం-Bonam along with పసుపు-కుంకుమ;Turmeric-Vermilion, గాజులు-Bangles and చీర-Saree to the Mother Goddess across the Temples.
Bonalu involves the worship of Kali and her various forms. Goddess is worshiped as మైసమ్మ-Mysamma, పోచమ్మ-Pochamma, ఎల్లమ్మ-Yellamma, పెద్దమ్మ-Pedamma, Dokkalamma, Ankalamma, Poleramma, Maremma, Nookalamma etc.,
Origin of Bonalu festival
The festival history has started in 1813 in Hyderabad & Secunderabad regimental bazzar. Plague disease broke out in Twin Cities of Hyderabad & Secunderabad, claiming thousands of lives. Before this a military battalion of Hyderabad is deployed to Ujjain, knowing about the Plague in Hyderabad the military battalion prayed to the Mother Goddess in Mahankaal Temple - Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, that if people were saved from the epidemic they would install the idol of Mahankali back in their city. It is believed that Mahākālī destroyed the disease and keeps pestilence at arms length. Military Battalion came back to the city & installed an Idol and every year people offered Bonalu to Mother Goddess Mahankali.
Other version also includes the mythological story and belief that revolves around the festival, says that this is the time when Goddess Mahakali comes back to her parental home, in Ashada Maasam or the period from late June to August. Like daughters are much pampered in their parental homes.
Bonalu is celebrated in various parts of the city. On the first Sunday of 'Aashaadam', celebrations are held at the temple at Golconda Fort. On the second Sunday, at Ujjaini Mahakali Temple in Secunderabad and Balkampet Yellamma temple in Balkampet, and the third Sunday, at The pochamma and katta maisamma temple of chilkalguda and the Matheswari temple of Lal Darwaza in Old City of Hyderabad. Akkanna Madanna temple in Haribowli, Muthyalamma temple in Shah Ali Banda are among other temples where Bonalu are celebrated. Every year, lakhs of devotees congregate to pay obeisance to Mahankali.
On this special occasion women dress up in the traditional Sari combining it with jewels and other accessories. Teenage Girls wear Half-Sarees/Lehenga Choli combining it with jewels in order to bring out the traditional grace of the attire.
Some Tranced women dance with balancing pots (Bonam), to the rhythmic beats of drums in honour of the local Goddess. To ward off evil spirits, in olden days, people used to sacrifice a male buffalo in front of the temple, but now, roosters are sometimes sacrificed.
Women carrying Bonalu are believed to possess the spirit of Mother Goddess, and when they go towards the temple, people pour water on their feet to pacify the spirit, who, by nature, is believed to be aggressive.
Every group of devotees offer a తొట్టెలు | Thottelu (a small colorful, paper structure supported by sticks), as a mark of respect.
It is believed that the Goddess comes back to her maternal home during Ashada Maasam, so people come to see her and bring offerings of food to show their love and affection, just as they would prepare a special meal when their own daughters visit them.
Pothuraju is the brother of Mother Goddess, is represented in the procession by a well-built, bare-bodied man, wearing a small tightly draped red dhoti and bells on his ankles, and anointed with turmeric on his body and vermilion on his forehead. He dances to resounding drums.
He always dances before the ఫలహారం బండి | Palaharam Bandi, the procession. He is considered the initiator of the festivities and the protector of the community. He leads the tranced female dancers who are under spell of the Mother Goddess (known as shigam) to the temple, with lashing whips and emerald neem leaves (margosa) tied around their waists, accompanied by trumpets and drums.
Bonalu is a festival of offering to the Mother Goddess and families share the offering with family members and guests. A non-vegetarian family feast follows after the great Avinash the offering. The meat used to prepare the meal is the meat of a goat or a chicken which is offered ceremonially (Bali in Telugu) to goddess and it is considered sacred. Offering alcohol is also considered a must. 
The festival environment is quite palpable in the locality celebrating the festival, with loud-speakers playing Mother Goddess songs in folk style, and streets are decorated with neem leaves.
రంగం-Rangam, or Performing the Oracle, is held the next morning of the festival. A Women standing atop of an earthen pot ‘invoked’ goddess Mahankali onto her and performs the custom. She foretells the year ahead when devotees ask about the future. This takes place before the procession is started.
ఘట్టం-Ghatam is a copper pot, decorated in the form of mother goddess. The Ghatam is carried by a priest, who wears a traditional Dhoti and body with smeared in turmeric . The Ghatam is taken into procession from first day of the festival till last day, when it is immersed in water . The Ghatam in usually accompanied by drums.
ఘట్టం-Ghatam is followed after రంగం-Rangam. The festival concludes with immersion of Ghatam. The ghatam of Haribowli's Akkanna Madanna Temple leads the procession, placed atop an elephant and accompanied by mounted horses and models depicting Akkanna and Madanna. It ends in the evening with a glittering procession and display followed by immersion of ghatams at Nayapul.
A carnival-like atmosphere, where thousands of people wait along the main streets of Laldarwaza to Nayapul and watch the exquisitely and elaborately decorated Ghatams. Young men dance in a unique style to the drum beats and folk songs alongside Pothuraju, dress-up in various mythological roles.
The Ghatams of the Secunderabad City (Lashkar)include Ujjaini Mahakali & Mahadevi Pochamma at Karbala Maidan, Dokkalamma at Himam Bavi, Muthyalamma at Kalasiguda, Nallagutta, Pan Bazar, Chilkalguda, Uppara Basthi, Kummariguda, Regimental Bazar and Bhoiguda, etc.
There are areas in Secunderabad that existed from during the British era, Areas in Secunderbad cantonment also have their own dates for celebrating bonalu in their villages like Mudfort, Gunrock, Sikh Village ( which are now areas in the cantonment ). They celebrate ghatam procession just for one day or two days or so depending on their age old traditions. Thiru thulkanthamman Temple in Old Mudfort has been doing ghatam since for about 100 years.
The Ghatams of the Old city procession include the Mahankali temples in Haribowli Akkanna-Madanna, Laldarwaza, Uppuguda, Miralam Mandi and Kasaratta, the Jagadamba temple of Sultanshahi, Bangaru Mysamma temple of Shalibanda, Alijah Kotla and Gowlipura, and Sultanshahi, Darbar Mysamma of Aliabad, Mysamma Temple of Boggulkunta (FGP) and Mutyalamma temple of Chandulal Bela.
- "History of Mahankali Bonalu in English". TNP LIVE (Hyderabad, India). 26 July 2015.
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