Bonalu not just a festival, it's purification, say historians
Deccan Chronicle.| Maddy Deekshith
The month-long festivities emphasise hygiene and cleanliness, especially to contain the spread of contagious diseases during the monsoon
Neem leaves, turmeric and vermilion used during the festivities are only to stop the vector-borne and other contagious diseases, historians say. (DC File Image)
HYDERABAD: Historians have different take on month-long Bonalu festivities which is celebrated in the city during Ashada Masam. While the state government claims that ‘Bonam’ literally means ‘meal’ in Telugu, which is an offering to the Mother Goddess, historians say that ‘Bonam’ originated from the word 'Bhuvanam', where earth is treated as mother. The month-long festivities emphasise hygiene and cleanliness, especially to contain the spread of contagious diseases during the monsoon. Neem leaves, turmeric and vermilion used during the festivities are only to stop the vector-borne and other contagious diseases, they say.
The early spells of monsoon not only bring joy, but also contagious diseases along with it. Womenfolk in the household prepare rice cooked with milk and jaggery in a new earthen or brass pot, which is adorned with neem leaves, turmeric and vermilion. Women carry these pots on their heads and make an offering of Bonam after travelling from houses to temples, which are ideally on the outskirts of the village, bastis or the streets.
Prior to preparing Bonam, women clean the house and light incense sticks and decorate the house with neem leaves. This process not only involves air purification but also kills deadly viruses and bacteria present in the air. This apart, temples authorities or managements who organise the festivities have been keeping the premises clean for generations without knowing the science behind it.
Ravinuthala Shashidhar, a historian, said the festivities started to contain viral fevers, which were deadly and claimed lakhs of lives due to cholera, dengue, malaria and other contagious diseases. He said the villagers worshipped Kali in her various forms such Mysamma, Pochamma, Yellamma, Dokkalamma, Peddamma, Poleramma, Ankalamma, Maremma, Nookalamma etc. to save them from deadly diseases and keep the village healthy. The historian said the same tradition was being followed till date.
Shashidhar contented that Bonalu festivities’ process scientifically involved minimisation of spread of contagious diseases and the festival had deeper meaning than just celebrations. However, he said, in order to make the layman understand, it was done in the form of celebrations. He said the festivities had not only science, culture, and celebration but also it brought joy to farmers with the early spells of monsoon.