Year 2019 is about to see its largest religious congregation – the Kumbh festival or the Kumbh Mela, celebrated every six years in India. A footfall of almost 12 crore pilgrims is expected on the banks of the holy river Ganga, and a few other places.
But before that, in August, there is another religious festival celebrated in the southern state of Telangana annually, which could be as big as the Kumbh – Bonalu.
What Is This Big Festival?
The biggest city in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Hyderabad, is all set to get smudged with colours of celebration and devotion as the Bonalu festival arrives.
It is a 11 day long Hindu religious festival, celebrated with offerings to Goddess Mahankali Varun Devi. Bonalu is a plural of Bonam, derived from the word Bhojanam which means feast or meal in Telugu.
Goddess Mahankali is worshiped in different regions of the state in different religious forms like Yellamma, Mysamma, Peddhamma etc.
How Big Is It?
Devotees come in gigantic numbers and this year the expected footfall of Pilgrims for Bonalu at different places of the city combined is about two crores. Keeping in mind this is only at a state level and is celebrated annually, this festival is comparatively bigger than any other festival of its kind.
The festival might be for 11 days, but Hyderabad and its nearby areas have been enveloped by people in huge numbers for the past one month already.
Hyderabad has a population of just a notch above 68 lakhs, but devotees pour in more than two times that number. Hence the government of Telangana released almost about INR 15 crores of funds for the annual festival.
These funds are always complemented by tons of gold offerings and funds from devotees taking the total collaborative funds to more than Rs. 50 crores.
Potharaju, The Feast, And The Aashadha Jatara
Also known as Aashadha Jatara due to being celebrated in the Aashadha Maasam of the Hindu Calender, the Bonalu festival feeds almost 2 crores of devotees with close to 40,000 tonnes of food every day in the 11 days of celebration. No wonder its called a feast!
Goddess Mahankali is said to send some power of herself into devotees. More than 115 temples across the state get flooded with devotees, some of whom dress up as lions – Potharaju’s as called in the local language, and dance like beasts send from the Goddess herself.
The Secunderabad temple alone witnesses 10 lakh people every day in those 11 days. Such huge human gatherings for religious purposes are a rarity at the state level.
This magnificent festival has a gathering of more than half of the population of Telangana state, every year. Food consumed every day for 11 long days by these people is food consumed by households of half of the population of Telangana every day.
The Kumbh might be big, but Bonalu isn’t small either, considering that it is at a state level and is celebrated annually, unlike the Kumbh being celebrated nationally once in 12 years.
Image Source: Google Images
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