First Ever Bonalu Festival in Houston


By Houston Telangana Friends

 HOUSTON: For the first time, Houston celebrated Bonalu Festival with joy and exuberance at Shirdi Sai Jalaram Mandir on July 27. Over 400 people joined the festivities from the Greater Houston area. The sunny weather and pious atmosphere at the Temple provided an ideal stage for this indoor and outdoor community event. Bonalu Celebrations in Houston was planned to coincide with the festivities in India including Bonalu preparation, singing, dancing, and a festive lunch. The event was organized with the help of numerous committed volunteers and donors to promote Telugu culture and heritage.

Bonalu is a Hindu Festival during which Goddess Mahakali is worshiped. Bonalu is an annual festival celebrated in Twin Cities Hyderabad, Secunderabad and parts of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, India. It is also celebrated in villages to please their grama devatha, the village deity. The festival falls in the month of Ashada Masam, which is July/August.

Bonam means Bojanam in Telugu, a meal, which is an offering to Mother Goddess. Women prepare rice cooked with milk, jaggery in a new brass or earthen pot adorned with neem leaves, turmeric, vermilion and a lighted diya on the top of the pot. Women carry the pots on their heads and make offering of Bonam along with turmeric, vermilion, bangles and saree to the Mother Goddess across the temples. Bonalu involves the worship of Kali and her various forms as Mysamma, Pochamma, Yellamma, Peddamma, Dokkalamma, Ankalamma, Poleramma, Maremma, Nookalamma etc.

The event started at 11:00 AM with a puja by Suresh Swami, resident priest of Shirdi Sai Jalaram Mandir, with invoking the Goddess , the life saver for good health and prosperity. A special stage was created for this purpose with alankaram, the decoration where people gathered to receive the blessings of the Goddess.


A procession was taken out around the temple with ladies carrying Bonam on their heads and men dancing to the dole and music. People walked and danced around the temple bare foot in the mid afternoon with full devotion. In spite of hot weather, everyone enjoyed the dancing with active participation.

Later, the specially prepared Bonalu were taken inside. All women and girls in colorful and ethnic sarees and dresses danced as a group around the Bonalu. As the program reached to the end, the circular group dances expanded as many ladies and children participated in the synchronized dancing while clapping along with the music. Men formed a separate circle and danced enthusiastically to the music. Overall, the Telugu native culture was showcased in every moment of the festival through the ethnic attire, simple yet powerful prayers, native music and dance, ethnic food, volunteering and more importantly a sense of community. Everyone danced continuously for an hour to the rhythm of music. The uniqueness of this festival is that everyone actively participated throughout the event.

Finally, the program ended with delicious festive lunch exclusively prepared by Mayuri and Biryani Pot Restaurants.

The organizing committee thanked the volunteers for various activities ranging from food to stage set-up and other arrangements. They also thanked the donors and Shirdi Sai Jalaram Mandir.