Ujjaini Mahankali temple.. Image Source: IANS News

Hyderabad, July 12 : The famous Ujjaini Mahankali temple in Secunderabad wore a deserted look as the annual festival Bonalu was celebrated sans the devotees on Sunday due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Telangana's Animal Husbandry Minister T. Srinivas Yadav along with few other officials made the offerings to the goddess on behalf of the state government while the temple priests conducted the rituals.

All the roads leading to the temple were barricaded by the police to prevent people from gathering for the festival. The government had asked the people to celebrate Bonalu at home.

Some devotees including women were seen trying to proceed towards the temple but were stopped and sent back by the police.

Srinivas Yadav said the devotees should understand that religious gatherings were banned to contain the spread of COVID-19.

"We have taken this measure for the safety of the people. They should celebrate Bonalu at home," he said.

The temple, which used by thronged by thousands of devotees every year, wore a deserted look. This is said to be the first time in the temple's history that devotees have not participated in the celebrations.

Officials said restrictions around the temple would continue till Monday when Rangam ritual will be performed. The elephant procession will not be conducted this year.

The nearly month-long festival began on June 25 with the celebrations at the Sri Jagadamba temple atop the historic Golconda Fort.

The festival will conclude with celebrations at Sri Simhavahini Mahankali temple in Lal Darwaza and at Sri Akkanna Madanna Mahankali temple in Haribowli, both in the old city of Hyderabad, on July 19 and 20.

The folk festival is mainly celebrated in the twin cities region during the month of ''Ashada'' The women make offerings in the form of food to goddess Mahankali in specially decorated pots. During the month-long festival, people also hold 'rangam' or forecasting the future, organise processions and cultural events.

During the festival women offer Bonalu, which consists of cooked rice, jaggery, curd and turmeric water, carried in steel and clay pots on their heads. The devotees believe that the annual festival will ward off evil and usher in peace.

The annual festivities every year conclude with a procession from Akkanna Madanna temple. The procession led by a caparisoned elephant, carrying the ''ghatam'' of the goddess, passed through the main thoroughfares of the old city, including the historic Charminar.

It is commonly 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 the Mahankali and began offering ''Bonalu'' to placate her.

After formation of Telangana state in 2014, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) had declared ''Bonalu'' as the state festival.

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