Hyderabad: Two separate Public Interest Litigation (PiLs) have been filed in the Telangana High Court seeking permission for celebrating the Bonalu festival in Hyderabad.

The first petition was filed by Sri Akkanna Madanna Mahankali Temple Mandiram seeking permission for Bonalu procession on the last day of the festival. The temple wants permission for at least 10 devotees and an elephant to carry the Ghatam to Naya Pul, Musi River. The Bonalu festival falls on July 19

Second PIL was filed by Waqf Bard Council member Haneef Ali, who is also the BJP leader, praying for celebrating Bonalu.

“This is an age-old tradition. This is part of the culture. According to tradition, Ghatam should be carried on the elephant. Farewell of the Ghatam is the important part of the Bonalu and we just want to do this for our Goddess,” said G Niranjan, patron of the Mahakali temple and Telangana State Congress Committee Spokesperson.

He said the Bonalu festival is celebrated in Hyderabad since the time plague broke out in the city that claimed thousands of lives. “It was Goddess Mahankali who saved the people from the epidemic those days. People need a blessing from Goddess Mahankali to protect their families in the pandemic,” he said.

Telangana government declared Bonalu as the state festival in 2014. This year, however, the Telangana government has asked the devotees to celebrate Bonalu at their homes because of COVID.

“The festival is celebrated for the public good. Considering the situation, we have to impose restrictions. We are showing festivities live on TV. You can celebrate the festival sitting at your home. We cannot allow the mass gathering,” said Talasani Srinivas, Telangana Minister for Animal Husbandry, Fisheries, and Cinematography.

On Friday, Ghatam was installed at the temple. It had arrived from Kashi Jagannath Temple, Varanasi. “We have brought an elephant from Karnataka. The authorities are not giving permission. That’s why we have approached the high court,” said G Niranjan.

Citing Puri Jagannath Temple order by the Supreme Court, G Niranjan said the high court should consider the sentiments of devotees of Goddess Mahakali.

During Jagannath Rath Yatra, the Supreme Court allowed only 500 people on the condition that they should be COVID negative. But on the day of Yatra, more than 500 people turned out for Rath Yatra.

On Saturday night, police put up barricades around Ujjaini Mahakali temple to prevent people from converging. The temple comes under GHMC areas which have the highest number of COVID cases. On Monday, GHMC areas reported 926 COVID new cases.

Telangana High Court is working virtually because of the COVID.

Sumit Kumar Jha

Sumit Kumar Jha is currently a multimedia journalist with Newsmeter. An alumnus of Hyderabad Central University and Amity University, he has interned with The New Indian Express and CGNet Swara. Sumit has also worked with video production houses in Mumbai as an assistant director in shows like 21 Sarfrosh for Discovery Jeet. He is specialised in Video Production. He was also the 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, human interest and data stories.

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