Houston Celebrates “Thanksgiving” Festival of Bonalu in August

Bonalu 1in

By Rajender Aparasu

HOUSTON:  With formation of state of Telangana, festivals like Bonalu and Bathukamma have gained widespread significance because of their sociocultural and religious importance.  These festivals were declared as state festivals by the Telangana government because of their importance to the people of the newly formed state. The Telangana Association of Greater Houston (TAGH), a USA registered non-profit organization, was formed last year by the Telangana Non Resident Indians in greater Houston Area, to preserve the cultural identity and contribute to its development. The organization provides a platform for literary, cultural, educational, social and developmental activities in Houston and in Telangana. For second time, the TAGH organized Bonalu Festival at Shirdi Sai Jalaram Mandir on August 8.

Bonalu is an annual “Thanksgiving” festival for Goddess Mahakali, the life saver for good health and prosperity, for the fulfillment of vows. It is celebrated in greater Hyderabad and many parts of Telangana for Goddess Mahakali.  It is also referred to as Ashada Jatra Utsavalu as it falls in the month of Ashada Masam or around July/August. The festivities are celebrated at temples of Mahakali or her other various forms such as Mysamma, Pochamma, Yellamma, Peddamma, Dokkalamma, Ankalamma, Poleramma, Maremma, Nookalamma etc. Bonam means Bhojanam 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.

About 400 people attended the indoor and outdoor community event at the Shirdi Sai Jalaram Mandir.  The sunny weather and the temple atmosphere provided an ideal stage for this summer event. The festivities started at 6:30 pm with a puja by Sri Madhusudhan Shastry, resident priest of Shirdi Sai Jalaram Mandir, with invoking the Goddess Mahakali to drive out evil and rein in prosperity. A special stage was created inside the temple for this purpose with alankaram, the decoration where people gathered to receive the blessings of the Goddess. Later everybody participated in a procession around the temple, the signature activity of Bonalu festival. Ladies wearing colorful festival sarees carried Bonam on their heads and men danced to the dole and music.

The procession ended indoors with ladies and girls dancing around Bonalu and men and boys forming their own dance groups. The energy and enthusiasm for the dance and music for more than an hour showed the devotion to the Goddess Mahashakthi and her various forms. The Bonalu and other devotional songs energized the dancing crowd. The volunteers provided butter milk to participants to quench the thirst and to re-energize them. For many, it reminded the festivities of the childhood in their native land of Telangana. It was a teaching moment for the parents to pass their family rituals and values to their children.

Finally, the program ended with delicious festive dinner exclusively prepared by Biryani Pot Restaurant. The families enjoyed the traditional dinner with their friends. This year’s event was led by Ram Surabi (Chair) and Saritha Gutha (Co-chair) with strong support from the organizing committee, volunteers, media sponsors, and local organizations.  The committee thanked the volunteers for various activities ranging from stage set-up, food, and other arrangements. They also thanked Shirdi Sai Jalaram Mandir.  The TAGH is reaching out to the communities for organizing festivals like Bonalu and Bathukamma. They are actively seeking support and contributions to their next signature event, Bathukamma, to be held in at Sri Ashtalakshmi temple on October 17, 2015.

For further details visit: http://www.houstontelangana.org/  or www.tagh.org