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With pandemic on ebb, state gears up for grand Bonalu

HYDERABAD: As monsoon is all set to make its advent in Telangana in a couple of days, people are also gearing up to celebrate Bonalu, one of the most significant festivals in the state.

Historians traced back the origin of the festivities to the Kakatiya period, when the initial rulers of Golconda used to celebrate this festival with great gusto and a proof of this, a Jagadambika or Jagadamba temple, still stands intact on the hillock.


“At this centuries-old temple, the festivities still continue on a grand scale, apart from other temples across the city. The temple remained undisturbed during both the Qutub Shahi and Asaf Jahi periods. Bala Hissar, the Sultan’s abode at the highest point of Golconda can be seen overlooking the temple. This is an example of non-interference by the then rulers,” said Anuradha Reddy, convenor, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Hyderabad chapter.

In the Census of India 1961 (volume II), AP, titled ‘Fairs and Festivals of Hyderabad District’, the Bonam is defined as a preparation of rice and green-gram given as offering to the deity. Anuradha explained that the word Bonalu derives from the word Bhojanalu offered to ‘local deity’, as villagers believed that all kinds of illnesses and epidemics were cured with the blessings of the goddess. “The Bonalu and monsoon have a relationship, as most of the illnesses are seasonal. Villagers used to visit the local goddess’ temples where a priest applied herbs for curing the diseases,” she added.


Some other accounts record that in 1813, when the plague broke out in the twin cities, a military battalion from Hyderabad which was deployed in Ujjain vowed to come up with a temple in Hyderabad, if the plague subsided. Hence, the Ujjaini Mahakali temple in Secunderabad came into being.

Paravasthu Lokeshwar, who authored ‘Salaam Hyderabad’ (Telugu) and several other books, said that as part of festivities, turmeric and neem were still used, since they were known to possess medicinal and antiseptic properties. “The village folks tried their best to ward off all the seasonal diseases and epidemics like plague. They approached the goddess to help them out,” he explained.


According to Lokeshwar, the Nizam, the ruler of the then Hyderabad state, not only extended all support but also ensured smooth conduct of the festivities by providing facilities like buses, water and other provisions. “It is said that the Nizam, in his personal capacity, oversaw the proceedings at Secunderabad’s temple, by sitting at an oil shop on the opposite side of the temple,” he added.

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