(‘Jatara-Welcome banner’, by friends of my son Srinath.)
The dates for the grand annual Mahankali Jatara at Secunderabad are announced. The Jatara – a magnificent religious carnival of 2 days will be on 12th July and 13th July this year. The main celebrations will be at Ujjaini Mahankali Temple which is just about 1.5 Km. from our house and in general at all the temples of Mahankali and her sisters in Secunderabad. There are temples of Pochamma, Mysamma, Yellamma, Poleramma, Dokkalamma and Peddamma in almost all localities and the festivities would simultaneously start at all these temples on 12th early morning.
All the temples and streets of the city are decked up with flowers and special illumination for this occasion. Special Jatara songs are played at full volume at all temples stirring up a unique festival atmosphere. Several road side shops come up selling a variety of toys and novelty items, which are a big draw. Starting from about 4:00 am on 12th July, thousands of pilgrims including us visit the Ujjaini Mahankali Temple. Thousands of women in colorful dresses carry Bonalu on their heads and offer them to the Goddess. Bonalu is short form for Bhojanalu which means meals. Bonalu is actually an earthen or brass pot containing Rice cooked with little turmeric, Koyigura curry and Jaggery pancakes. The pot is adorned with Kumkuma-Vermilion, Pasupu-Turmeric, Neem tree branches and then the pot is covered with a lid and a lamp lit on it. This pot is carried over the head up to the temple and offered to the Goddess. The Bonalu ritual and especially the Palaharapu bandi ritual is accompanied by a dancing Potharaju, other dancing men and drummers. Palaharam bandi is a Ram-drawn cart with offerings to the Goddess and Potharaju is a man clad in dhoti with turmeric paste applied all over his body, dancing with a hunter in his hand. Mahankali Jathara is said to have started from 1869 when hundreds of people died in Secunderabad due to plague and Bonalu offerings were made to the Goddess to appease her and seek her blessings.
Same festivities would continue on 13th July and additionally in the morning there would be ‘Rangam’. Rangam is a young lady in a trance standing on a wet earthen pot predicting the future for the people; in all spheres, for one year.
In the past hen and goats used to be sacrificed to the Goddess at all these temples. As this is banned now many old timers carry this out at their houses. And then it is time for a sumptuous lunch and dinner on that day. Families in Secunderabad invite married daughters and other relatives located far away to partake in the Jatara celebrations. The first day of the festival always falls on a Sunday and the next day is also a holiday for all schools, shops, offices and industries in the area. So it is apt time for families to get together and enjoy for two days. These celebrations would then continue for another three Sundays in areas adjoining Secunderabad. Different areas celebrate the festival on different Sundays.
P.S. You may click on the following link to see another blog post of mine; a pictorial one, on the Ujjaini Mahankali Temple and the ongoing festival: