Think of Bonalu and it brings to mind a riot of colours, myriad rituals, smiles, festivities, bonam, upbeat mood and a spirit that nothing can beat. Imagine capturing all that zeal and fervour in lens and preserving it in the form of a book for posterity. Now, that attempt was made by popular artist, filmmaker and multi-faceted personality B Narsing Rao, whose eye for perfection makes his works stand out.
The book Bonalu Mahankali Jatara, edited by the Narsing Rao, talks about the most popularly celebrated festival of Telangana – Bonalu, which traces its roots to the pre-historic period. The book contains 129 images with 15 participating photographers, besides Narsing Rao. Each photograph, credited to a particular photographer, is spread across two pages. The photographs showcase the culture of Telangana and her traditions that take place during the Bonalu festival, step by step.
The photographers who got featured in the book – including A Sharath Babu, K Ramesh Babu, Satyanarayana Goal, R Madhu Gopal Rao, DM Arjun, Rama Veeresh Babu, Nagara Gopal, P Vijaya Bhaskar Reddy, D Ravinder Reddy, Vidya Sagar Lakka, Kandukuri Ramesh Babu, Biluka Prabhakar, G Bhaskar, Mysa Balakrishna and Annavaram Srinivas – have captured the colourful scenes and festivities, during the festival time from different places.
Bonalu Mahankali Jatara describes how the worship of Amma/ Mother Goddess started in India since pre-historic age. The book explains, and shows evidence on, how a woman was treated as a mother, daughter, and, later, as goddess in India in keeping with the sentiments and corresponding beliefs. The prevalence of Mother Goddess worship in the primitive societies that existed in India is evident from the presence of the original inhabitants in the region and the finding of cult-like worship of local deities.
The grama devatha (rural goddesses) are reverently addressed as maatha, or peddamma. It is believed that goddesses are associated with various diseases and are deemed to be bestowed with immense curing power. This also draws similarities between Goddess Chamundi and Greek Goddess Demeter.
The book has covered various chapters like worship in Vedic period, rural deities, rural Goddesses in multiple forms, how ‘Bonam’ is celebrated in different localities and how the rituals change from region to region.
As the proverb goes, a picture speaks a thousand words; it’s the same with this book which highlights the Telangana culture in multiple ways. The pages are doused with pictures in abundance with a few pages in the end dedicated to giving the details about the many forms in which the goddess is worshipped, the different rituals associated with Bonalu, the places and ways of worship, etc., which makes for a smooth and intriguing read.