Smeared with vermilion and turmeric, Pothuraju was looking fearsome. But unlike last year, no people were lining up on the streets to cheer for him.

New Project (90) A Potharaju during last year Bonalu celebration

New Project (89) A Pothraju during this year Bonalu

Policemen escorted him outside the barricade and he left in a huff after being denied entry into the temple

An eerie silence had enveloped the area near Lal Darwaza temple. No sign of overwhelmed crowd and glittering lights and no sound of chants from the loudspeakers.

New Project (91)

Only people in Khaki were standing near the Mahakali temple. Police had put up barricades to prevent people from converging at the temple to offer Bonam to Goddess Lakshmi. However, no one turned up given the COVID scare.

New Project (92) Lal Darwaza temple 2020

New Project (93) People gathered near Lal Darwaza temple in 2019

“It’s absurd to see no color and no bands. Not a single joyous people are on the streets. It does not look like Bonalu. It feels like the city‘s spirit is dead. One needs to stay alive to keep the city’s spirit alive,” said Nitish Nandnoor, a devotee.

Last month, the government had asked devotees to celebrate Bonalu at home given the COVID scare. “Prepare Bonam and show it to the Sun God. Later keep it in the temple or puja room of the house. The pujaris will offer puja at respective temples,” said Talasani Srinivas Yadav, Animal Husbandry minister.

Few devotees turned up at the temple to see if someone had brought Bonam. However, they were stopped at the barricade and asked to return. Police were making sure that no one should go near the temple.

“It’s unfortunate to see Telangana government interfering in the religious affairs of the people,” said G Niranjan, Patron of Sri Akkanna Madanna Mahakali Temple.

New Project (94) Police personnel near Akkana Madanna temple

However, people exuded hope that they will be able to celebrate Bonalu next year with fanfare and without the fear of COVID.

“There will be many exciting and colorful Bonalu celebrations once life goes back to the normal. Until then we just have to stay home and stay safe,” said Nitish.

Sumit Kumar Jha

Sumit Kumar Jha is currently a multimedia journalist with NewsMeter. An alumnus of the University of Hyderabad and Amity University, he has interned with The New Indian Express and CGNet Swara. He is specialised in Video Production. He was also a contributor at PARI network. Hailing from rural Bihar has spent his childhood shifting from places and people. Growing up he felt the need to document the lives and dreams of rural India. A lover of visual storytelling goes around the cities to search for Stories. He primarily reports on civic, consumer, health, human interest and data stories. You can follow Sumit on Twitter @sumitjha__

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