Bonalu is a local Telugu festival in Telangana. Bonam means Bhojanam i.e feast in Telugu. It is celebrated during the month of Ashaadam. Goddess Mahankali (other form of Goddess Durga) is worshipped during this festival and is considered to be a thanksgiving to the Goddess as a fulfilment of vows. Just as the family would welcome the daughters return to their home, devotees celebrate the Goddess’s visit to their home. There are other forms of Goddess Mahankali that are worshipped during Bonalu such as Mysamma, Pochamma, Yellamma, Poleramma, Pedamma, Nookalamma etc. Women dress up in traditional sarees and Teenage girls don Half- sarees. Woman prepare rice cooked in Milk, Jaggery as a pleasing preparation to the Goddess. They carry an Earthen or a Brass pot decorated by Neem leaves, Turmeric and vermilion, bangles and saree to be offered to the Goddess.
Women who carry Bonalu are believed to be possessed with the Mother Goddess’s spirit. They are very much aggressive and devotees sprinkle water on the feet of the possessed women in order to pacify them. Some of the Women get into trance state and prophesize about the future year. Potharaju who is considered as Mother Goddesses brother dances throughout to the beats during the procession. Potharaju is generally a bare bodied man with turmeric applied all over his body and is draped in red dhoti.
The History of the festival dates back to 1813. A military battalion was deployed in Ujjain, Madhya pradesh and there was a great plague that claimed the lives of many people. The military battalion offered prayers to Mother Goddess at Mahankaali Temple in Ujjain for the relief from Plague and promised to install an idol in Secunderabad/Hyderabad once they return. The plague was halted by the Goddess and the battalion installed the idol and since then the Festival is being celebrated.