Bonalu is celebrated every year in the month of Ashada Masam, which usually falls in July or August according to the Gregorian calendar. This year the festival falls from June 25 to July 16. The festival is celebrated mainly in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, as well as in other parts of the state of Telangana, in honor of the Hindu Goddess Mahakali. It is a merry and colorful affair with women dressing up in their traditional outfits called “sarees”, jewelry, and other accessories. Women carry “Bonam”, a meal made of rice, milk, and jaggery, in earthen pots over their heads as offerings to the goddess.
History of Bonalu
Mahakali is the fierce Hindu goddess of destruction and doomsday. Her origin is mentioned in various Puranic and Tantric Hindu scriptures, where she is portrayed as the primeval force of the universe. She is described as an abstract energy and is considered to be the goddess of time. In most Indian depictions, she has a blue/black complexion, four arms carrying weapons, a demon head and a skull cup, small fangs, disheveled hair, eyes full of rage, and a lolling tongue. She is adorned with a necklace of 108 demon hands and wears a skirt made of demon arms. Some depictions also show her with ten heads.
Bonalu dates back to the 19th century when disease broke out in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad and killed thousands of people. Right before this, a military battalion was deployed from Hyderabad to Ujjain in the state of Madhya Pradesh. When this battalion learned about the epidemic in the cities, they prayed to the goddess in Mahankaal Temple in Ujjain to get rid of the plague. They prayed that if the goddess did so, they would install an idol of the goddess in the city. It is believed that Mahakali destroyed the disease and kept pestilence away. When the military battalion returned to the city, they installed an idol of the goddess which was followed by the offering of Bonalu to her. This turned into a tradition that is still being followed by all the people belonging to Telangana.
Another story says that this is the time when goddess Mahakali comes back to her parental home in “Ashada Maasam”, or the period from late June to August, and so this period is the best time to offer Bonalu to the goddess.
The famous Kalighat temple dedicated to the goddess Kali is only about 200 years old in its present form, but it has been referred to in “Mansar Bhasan”, composed in the 15th century.
The famous sage Krisnananda Agambagish initiates Kali puja or Kali worship.
Kali Puja gains popularity when saint Shri Ramkrishna becomes popular among the Bengalis, and wealthy landowners begin holding the festival on a grand scale.
The plague breaks out in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad in present-day Telangana.
What is the difference between Kali and Mahakali?
Kali is depicted in her Mahakali form with ten heads, ten arms, and ten legs. Each of her hands carries an implement which varies according to different accounts but all of them represent the power of a Hindu god and are often the identifying weapon or ritual item of a given god.
How was Mahakali born?
The story goes that Mahakali was born when the goddess Parvati shed her dark skin. The sheath became Kali, leaving Parvati in the form of Gauri. She then battled the demon Raktabija.
Is Kali a kind goddess?
Kali is not always thought of as a dark goddess. Despite her origins in battle, she evolved into a symbol of mother nature. She also possesses creative and nurturing aspects and is referred to as a great and loving primordial Mother Goddess according to the Hindu tantric tradition.
Visit the Indian state of Telangana to see the colorful processions, delicious food, and pure devotion that marks Bonalu. You can also use this opportunity to go sightseeing around the state. Lucky for you the festivities begin at the Sree Jagadambika temple atop the majestic Golconda Fort.
Observe festivities in your town
Look up the nearest Hindu or Kali temples in your area and visit them to see the Bonalu festivities. Pay your respects if you wish and be ready to gobble some delicious food.
Celebrate at home
Prepare Bonam, made of rice, milk, and jaggery at home, show it to the sun god and keep it at the shrine if you have one in your house. After the worship, a priest may decorate the mother goddess and offer puja and Bonam in the temples.
5 Facts About Goddess Kali That Will Blow Your Mind
Some worship her on cremation grounds
A celebration of Kali Puja in the cities of Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, and Guwahati is held in a large cremation ground where she is believed to dwell, according to some devotees.
She takes on different forms
Kali is mostly portrayed in two forms; one is the popular four-armed form and the other is the ten-armed Mahakali form.
She’s also a strong mother figure
Although Kali is often associated with sexuality and violence, she is also considered to be a strong mother figure and symbol of motherly love.
The inspiration for the Rolling Stones logo
The famous Rolling Stones lips logo was inspired by Mick Jagger's desire to convey a tribute to the goddess Kali.
She killed the fearsome demon Raktabīja
Legend goes that the goddess destroyed the demon Raktabija, his companions, and his entire army who were causing a lot of trouble to both the people and the gods.
Why We Love Bonalu
Kali worship has a long history
Like many other Hindu Gods, people have been praying to Kali for a long time. Devotees have been worshiping Kali since 1,000 BC. Her origins can be traced to the deities of the village, tribal, and mountain cultures of South Asia.
She is among the most powerful goddesses
Kali is the goddess of death, destruction, and time, according to Hindu mythology. She is considered to be the destroyer of evil and the protector of people. She shows the impermanence of all things by wearing a garland of skulls, yet she is also the ultimate transforming power of time.
She has become a feminist icon
Since the late 1900s, feminist scholars and writers in the United States have seen Kali as a symbol of feminine empowerment. Members of New Age movements have found theologically and sexually liberating inspiration in her more violent sexual forms.