Hyderabad: Pomp and gaiety here on Sunday marked Mahankali Jatra, the annual festival of Secunderabad, popularly known as Lashkar Bonalu.
Thousands of people, including Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and central ministers, thronged the Ujjaini Mahankali temple in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad.
KCR and his family members performed puja, and offered ‘pattu vastralu’ (silk clothes) to the goddess.
Union Ministers M. Venkaiah Naidu and Bandaru Dattatreya also visited the temple and performed puja.
Many Telangana ministers also made offerings to mark the occasion. A large number of devotees, majority of them women, visited the temple and offered ‘bonalu’ to the goddess.
The festival will conclude on Monday with ‘rangam’ (forecasting the future for the next one year) followed by a colourful procession of the goddess on an elephant.
Over five lakh people are expected to participate in the Bonalu 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 in different places in the twin cities.
The Golconda Mahankali festival was celebrated in the historic Golconda fort last Sunday.
The most popular celebrations will be held next Sunday at Akanna Madanna temple at Lal Darwaza in the old city of Hyderabad followed by a huge procession.
This is the second Bonalu after the formation of Telangana state. It is being officially celebrated as the Telangana government declared it 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 anger of Mahankali and began offering ‘bonalu’ to placate her.
The women offer ‘bonalu’ — comprising cooked rice, jaggery, curd and turmeric water — which is brought in steel and clay pots to the temples.
People believe that the Ujjaini Mahankali 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 died due to a cholera outbreak. He is said to have visited the Maha Kali temple in Ujjain and took an oath to install an idol of the goddess in Secunderabad if his entire platoon survived the epidemic.