HYDERABAD: Bonalu festivities at Ujjaini Mahankali Temple in Secunderabad took off on Sunday amidst great pomp and gaiety, albeit on a lower scale owing to Covid-19 pandemic. Women clad in their traditional finery carrying Bonam on their heads could be seen in many streets of Secunderabad.
Devotees also thronged many other Mahankali temples located in Ramgopalpet, Pan Bazar, Mettuguda, R. P. Road, M. G. Road, Chilkalguda, Seethafalmandi, Paradise, Ranigunj, YMCA, Warasiguda and Bhoiguda. Special lighting and colourful arches welcomed the devout. While many were seen wearing masks as ordered by police, some women carrying Bonams could be found without masks.
On behalf of the state government, minister Talsani Srinivas Yadav presented the Goddess a golden Bonam. Like every year, the Padmashali Seva Sangam offered the Goddess a handloom saree. Ministers A. Indrakaran Reddy and Malla Reddy presented silk scarves and Bonam to Mahankali.
Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao's wife Shobha visited the temple along with her family members and offered Bonam and silk robes. She was accompanied by Rajya Sabha MP J. Santosh Kumar. Haryana governor Bandaru Dattatreya, Telangana Congress chief Revanth Reddy and filmmaker Dil Raju were among those who offered prayers to Mahankali on Sunday.
The ministers said they prayed Goddess to end Coronavirus and usher in welfare and prosperity for the people.
Reiterating that the state government has made all arrangements for smooth conduct of Bonalu festivities, Srinivas Yadav asked people to take all Covid-19 precautions without fail while participating in the celebrations.
Temple executive officer Manohar Reddy welcomed the VIPs and devotees.
Authorities stationed 2,500 police personnel in the area while ensuring surveillance through a network of 200 CCTV cameras around the temple. City police chief Anjani Kumar visited the temple to oversee security arrangements. To avoid any untoward incident, barricades had been set up for smooth passage of devotees for the darshan. There were separate queues for men and women.
Civic bodies including Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation and Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board provided about two lakh water sachets, apart from deploying teams for ensuring sanitation.
The Bonalu festivities will conclude on Monday after the famous 'Rangam' where the oracle priestess will predict the state’s future, which will be followed by Ghatam procession.
Covid-19 protocols thrown to wind
While social distancing had been the norm of the day, people metres away from the temple could be seen throwing all Coronavirus precautions to wind. When asked, they said they are avoiding masks as they will make it difficult for them to carry the Bonam on their head.
“I have to walk almost two kilometres from my house to the temple carrying Bonam. I am afraid the mask will make breathing difficult,” said Challa Saraswati, a resident of Bhoiguda.
A private bank arranged an e-Hundi at the temple, where devotees could scan and make their contributions using any of the UPI applications.