Hyderabad: The 'Bonalu' festival, reflecting Telangana's rich culture and traditions, was celebrated with gaiety here on Sunday with thousands of devotees participating in the festivities.
Devotees including large number of women thronged the temples since morning to offer prayers to the Hindu goddess of power Mahankali or Kali. Devotees say the annual festival is intended to ward off evil and usher in peace.
Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, state ministers and MP were among prominent personalities who offered prayers at the Mahankali temples in the old city of Hyderabad.
The main celebrations were held at Mahankali Temple Lal Darwaza and the historic Akkanna Madanna temple at Hari Bowli in Shah Ali Banda.
This is the fourth year that Bonalu was being celebrated as a state festival. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government released Rs 10 crore this year for the celebrations.
Various government departments had made all necessary arrangements for the devotees visiting the temples like drinking water, sanitation, roads and uninterrupted power supply.
State minister T. Srinivas Yadav offered silk clothes on behalf of the state government at Lal Darwaza temple. He prayed for copious rains and the prosperity of people.
Legislative Council Chairman Swamy Goud, Assembly Deputy Speaker Padma Devender Reddy, TRS MP K. Kavitha, Congress MP R. Anand Bhaskar and others offered prayers.
Attired in their best, women queued up at the temples to offer 'Bonalu', which consists of cooked rice, jaggery, curd and turmeric water, carried in steel and clay pots on their heads.
The two-day festivities will conclude on Monday with 'Rangam', the oracle prediction at Akkanna Madanna temple followed by a combined procession on a caparisoned elephant, carrying 'ghatam' of the goddess.
The procession will pass through the main thoroughfares of the old city including historic Charminar before reaching Delhi Darwaza Matha Temple near Musi River where the 'ghatam' will be immersed.
Bonalu is celebrated in parts of Hyderabad and its twin city 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. Last Sunday, it was celebrated in Secunderabad.
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.
Meanwhile, police have made elaborate security arrangements for Monday's Bonalu procession in the old city.
About 3,000 policemen including personnel from Rapid Action Force (RAF) were deployed to maintain law and order.
Deputy Commissioner of Police V. Satyanarayana said 300 CCTV cameras were installed in the old city and linked to the control room to monitor the situation.