Hyderabad: Secunderabad Ujjaini Mahankali Jatra, popularly known as Lashkar Bonalu, was being celebrated with much pomp and enthusiasm here on Sunday. Thousands of people, including the Chief Minister of Telangana, state ministers and central ministers from the state, thronged Ujjaini Mahankali temple in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad.
The devout were waiting in long queues at the temple since the early hours of Sunday for the idols’s ‘darshan’. Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, along with his family members, performed puja. He offered ‘pattu vastralu’ (silk clothes) to the goddess. The priests blessed the chief minister.
Police made elaborate security arrangements to ensure peaceful and hassle-free conduct of the festival. Hyderabad Police Commissioner Mahender Reddy said 3,000 police personnel were deployed. Police also installed more than 125 surveillance cameras to keep a vigil during the celebrations. Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya visited the temple with his family members, and performed puja.
Several state ministers, members of parliament, state legislators, leaders of various political parties and top officials also made offerings at the temple to mark the occasion. The stream of VIPs caused much inconvenience to commoners. Thousands of devotees were standing in three to four-km long queues. Though a separate queue was arranged for women, they were still waiting for four hours for their turn to offer ‘bonalu’ to the goddess.
The festival will conclude on Monday with ‘rangam’ (forecasting the future for next one year) followed by a colourful procession of the goddess on an elephant. The organisers expect that over 15 lakh people will participate in the festival this year. Bonalu, dedicated to the goddess of power, Mahankali or Kali, is celebrated in parts of Hyderabad and Secunderabad during Ashada masam (July-August).
Also known as Ashada Jatra Utsavalu, it is celebrated on three different Sundays at different places in the twin cities. The Golconda Mahankali festival was celebrated in the historic Golconda Fort on the last Sunday. The most popular celebrations will be held next Sunday (July 31) at Akanna Madanna temple at Lal Darwza in the old city of Hyderabad followed by a huge procession the following day.
This is the third Bonalu after the formation of Telangana state. The festival is being officially celebrated as the Telangana government has declared it as the state festival. The folk festival is celebrated to ward off evil and usher in peace. It is 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 wrath of Goddess Mahankali and began offering ‘bonalu’ to appease her. The women offer ‘bonalu’ consisting of cooked rice, jaggery, curd, turmeric water which are brought in steel and clay pots to the temples. People believe that Ujjaini Mahakali temple was constructed in 1813 by Suriti Appaiah, who was a bearer in the Indian military. He was on a mission to Ujjain town where thousands had died in the outbreak of cholera. He is said to have visited Mahakali temple in Ujjain and took a vow that if his entire platoon is saved, they will install an idol of the goddess in Secunderabad.