Sunday, July 27, 2008


Bonalu is celebrated as a festival in honour of Mahakali, the Mother Goddess in Hyderabad and Secunderabad and in suburbs of some Telangana areas. “Bonam” is an offering to the Goddess. The offering is in the form of a meal which is made of rice mixed with milk and sugar, filled with water in two earthen-pots , with small neem branches . The pots are smeared with sacred colours of turmeric and vermilion. The lighted diya is put on the top of two earthern pots i.e the bonam which the females put it on their heads and proceed towards the temple. They go in a procession by drum beaters and men dancing in enjoyment.

This old tradition is being celebrated since the time of the Nizams, who participate in the event.

Bonalu is celebrated in Ashada masam (usually in July/August). Special poojas are performed during this festival.

The festive days sees itself with women decked up in traditional silk sarees, and adorned in jewellery go to the temple to offer the “Bonam”. The female dancers, who are mostly middle aged women, balance pots and dance to the tune of the drums in the praise of the goddess. These dancers are believed to possess the spirit of Mother Goddess, who is believed to be aggressive.

This festival is also called as the Festival of Sacrifice to ward off the evil spirit.

Every group of devotees, collectively offer a Thottela, or a Swing which is made of colourful paper structure erected with sticks as a mark of respect.

Another version from folklore as to why it is celebrated: According to the local people, it is believed that the Goddess comes to her maternal home in Ashada Maasam, so folks bring all sorts of offerings in the form of food to show their love and affection. Just like preparing a special meal when the daughters come home to their maternal house.

A well built man, smeared with turmeric on the entire body, vermilion on the forehead, clad in a red dhoti with bells tied to his ankle dances to the reverberating drums. He is known as Potharaju, who is believed to be the brother of Mother Goddess. He dances, and the procession is taken on to the streets. He initiates the festivities and is followed by female dancers who are believed to possess the spirit of the Goddess.

The localities get the festive look with loud-speakers playing Mother Goddess songs in distinctive Telangana-folk style songs and streets decorated with neem leaves. After the temple offering a non-vegetarian feast is followed in every house.


Mousumi Ghosh said...

A nicely written article. But Isn't this puja offered to the Goddess for inviting rain. Correct if am wrong.

sowdamini said...

Hmm it is actually celebrated as thanks giving day. Am not sure about inviting rains though. We dont celebrate this festival, so i will have to ask my maid, who is the source of information. will pass it on soon .There are lot of theories attached to it so u can assign as many as u want to:)

Inmate of infinity said...

I've lived in Hyderabad for 20 years now and yet I didn't know the significance of this festival........thanks mini.

Smriti said...

Thanks for the info Mini. I had heard of Potharaju but had no idea what role he played in Bonalu.