Local festival of Hyderabad - Bonalu

Authored By:

Madhuri Gunti

India is popular for its colorful festivals and traditions. Such rich traditions and festivals are part of Hyderabad too. Historical monuments, IT technology, local bazzars, food, modern & traditional lifestyle and festivals are the major attractions of Hyderabad. Each festival has its own charm and uniqueness. One of such famous festival celebrated in Hyderabad and other parts of Telengana is Bonalu. Bonalu is a Folk goddess festival and is celebrated in the month of Ashada Masam, in July/August. This festival is also considered a thanksgiving to the Goddess Mahankali for fulfillment of vows.

Every Fall semester, CIEE students witness this festival after a week of their arrival on program. They visit folk goddess temple with the CIEE staff to observe the festival celebrations.

The festival history reportedly started in 1813 in the region of Hyderabad & Secunderabad when plague disease had broken out in Twin Cities that had claimed thousands of lives. A military battalion from Hyderabad was then deployed to Ujjain and concerned about the plague menace in Hyderabad the military battalion offered prayers to Mother Goddess at Mahankaali Temple in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, that if people get relived from the epidemic they would be installing the idol of Mahankaali back in Secunderabad. It is believed by devotees that Mahankaali halted the spread of the disease while the Military Battalion came back here & installed an idol by offering Bonalu to Mother Mahankaali.

Bonam literally means Meal in Telugu (one of the local language spoken widely in Hyderabad), which is an offering to the Mother Goddess. Women folk in household prepare rice that is cooked along with Milk, Jaggery in a New Earthen or Brass Pot, which is adorned with Neem Leaves, Turmeric and Vermilion. Women carry these pots on their heads and make an offering of Bonam, including Bangles and Saree to the Mother Goddess at Temples. Women apply turmeric on their feet and exchange vermilion as part of rituals. Turmeric and Vermilion are auspicious for married women in Hindu religion, which are the symbol of prosperity, purity and fertility.  People also sacrifice goat and/or chicken as an offering. These offerings are later shared with friends, family and relatives.