Hyderabad: Thousands of devotees flocked the Ujjaini Mahankali temple in Secunderabad here on Sunday as the annual Lashkar Bonalu was celebrated with traditional gaiety.
Devotees, especially women, queued up at the historic temple and other Mahankali temples in Secunderabad since early morning to offer 'Bonam', containing cooked rice, jaggery, curd and neem leaves to goddess Sri Mahankali.
A festive atmosphere prevailed in the area as people from various parts of the state descended to participate in the traditional festival being celebrated with Covid-19 protocol.
Animal Husbandry Minister T. Srinivas Yadav along with family members presented first 'Bonam' and silk clothes to the goddess on behalf of the state government. Endowments Minister A. Indrakaran Reddy also offered prayers.
The ministers said they offered for an early end to Covid-19 pandemic and for the welfare and prosperity of people.
Yadav said that the government has made all arrangements for the smooth conduct of the Bonalu festivities. He appealed to people to follow all Covid-19 precautions while participating in the celebrations.
Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao's wife Shobha, along with family members, visited the temple and offered 'Bonam' and silk robes. She was accompanied by Rajya Sabha MP J. Santosh Kumar.
Haryana Governor Bandaru Dattatreya, Labour Minister Malla Reddy, Telangana Congress chief Revanth Reddy and filmmaker Dil Raju were among the prominent personalities who offered prayers.
Union Culture and Tourism Minister G. Kishan Reddy, who is a Lok Sabha member from Secunderabad, greeted people on the occasion of Bonalu.
Police made elaborate arrangements for smooth passage of devotees during the darshan. Vehicular traffic was diverted at several points in Secunderabad to facilitate smooth movement of devotees. Additional police personnel were deployed as part of the elaborate security arrangements.
Senior police officials were monitoring the festivities through CCTV cameras. Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and other civic departments made necessary arrangements for the devotees.
Darshan and offering of Bonam will continue till early hours of Monday. The festival will conclude on Monday with famous 'Rangam' where predictions about the state's future will be made by an unmarried woman, followed by the Ghatam procession.
This will be followed by a procession of a caparisoned elephant carrying a portrait of the deity. Smeared with turmeric and vermilion, potharajus dance to rhythmic drumbeats in the procession that will pass through various areas.
Bonalu in Secunderabad, or Lashkar Bonalu as it is called, is the second phase of the nearly month-long traditional festival.
The traditional folk festival began on July 11 at the Jagadambika Temple on Golconda Fort here.
Public events during Bonalu were cancelled by the state government last year in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, with the lifting of Covid-19 related restrictions last month, the government allowed people's participation this time.
This year, the festivities are being organised with mass gatherings and traditional procession. The organisers have been directed to ensure adherence to Covid-19 protocol, including wearing of masks and social distancing.
Ashada Bonalu is a festival held in the month of Ashada, according to the Hindu calendar, celebrating goddess Mahankali.
Devotees, especially women make offerings in the form of food to goddess Mahankali in specially decorated pots. During the nearly month-long festival, people also hold 'rangam' or forecasting the future, organise processions and cultural events.
After the formation of Telangana in 2014, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) had declared Bonalu as the state festival. The festivities reflect Telangana culture with performances by the artistes.
This year, the government has allocated Rs 15 crore for the celebrations. The money was spent to spruce up the temples for the celebrations and for making all necessary arrangements for the devotees.
Every year, Bonalu is celebrated in a grand manner at different places in Hyderabad on three Sundays. The festivities at at Sri Simhavahini Mahankali temple in Lal Darwaza and at Sri Akkanna Madanna Mahankali temple in Haribowli in the old city of Hyderabad will be held on August 1.
It is commonly believed that the festival was first celebrated over 150 years ago following a major cholera outbreak. People believed that the epidemic was due to the anger of Mahankali and began offering Bonalu to placate her.Violating COVID-19 norms: Telangana ministers seen without masks during Bonalu festival celebrations
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