Bonalu is a yearly festival celebrated in the twin cities Hyderabad and Secunderabad and several other parts of Telangana. The festival celebrates Goddess Mahakali and goes on for a long time during the Ashada season which falls in the months of July and August, according to the Hindu calendar.
Bonalu is celebrated in order to express gratitude to Goddess Yellamma for fulfilling the vows. For Goddess Yellamma, pooja is performed and offerings are served on the commencement day and the final day.
In Telugu, Bonam translates to Meal and which is why it is offered to the goddess during this festival. The womenfolk in each house prepare a special meal made of rice, milk, jaggery in a new earthen or brass pot. It is then decorated with neem leaves, turmeric and vermilion.
The festival reportedly dates back way back to 1813, when plague had spread in the cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The plague had claimed thousands of lives. A military army had been deployed in the areas to contain the spread of the disease.
The battalion offered prayers to Mother Goddess at Mahakaali Temple in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. They vowed that if people get relieved from the deadly effect of the epidemic they would install an idol of Mahakali back in the city of Secunderabad.
The disease stopped spreading thereafter and honouring the vow, the military installed the idol and offered Bonalu to Goddess Mahakali.
During the course of the festival, women carry pots on their heads and offer Bonam. It includes bangles and sarees for Goddess Mahakali. The rituals of the Bonalu festivals include celebrations at temples like the Ujjaini Mahakaali Temple, Sri Katta Maisamma – Pochamma Temple, and the Matheswari temple of Lal Darwaza.