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Bonalu festivities to kick off on July 11

Event poses a challenge as rain wrecks the old pathway at Golconda Fort

COVID-19 protocol, a popular religious festival and a narrow pathway near the Jagadambika Temple on Golconda Fort have become a big challenge for civic officials as well as the Archaeological Survey of India.

Hyderabad kicks off the Bonalu festival from July 11 according to the Hindu calendar month of Aashadam with the religious procession starting from Langar Houz to the temple near Bala Hissar on top of the Golconda Fort.

The annual festival of Bonalu has increased in importance after the formation of Telangana State with government sponsorship and enthusiastic participation of several ministers in the State Cabinet.

This year, the State has already announced a sanction of ₹15 crore for organising the festival. At Golconda, the three-kilometre procession from the temple begins in the afternoon and reaches the temple late in the evening.

According to ASI officials, the number of visitors has increased over the past few years putting pressure on the heritage infrastructure. In 2019, the footfalls were 5.5 lakhs, up from 2.5 lakhs in 2017 during Bonalu when ASI gives free access on Thursdays and Sundays for celebrations. A plan to decongest the access with an entrance plaza on the other side of Bala Hissar Darwaza has not taken off.

“We cannot use the old pathways where pilgrims go from one side and return from the other side after praying at the temple. The return path known as kingsway has been wrecked by rain. How to ensure that devotees pray and come out without causing any bottlenecks is the challenge,” informed an ASI official.

The two options being explored are to split the returning stream of devotees near Ambar Khana or to create time-slots for both entry and exit. “Last year there were restrictions on entry of devotees inside the temple and on the procession. This year there are no such restrictions and it will be a normal Bonalu with a procession and entry of devotees inside the temple,” said G. Niranjan, who is part of the organising committee of Bonalu in the city.

The Hyderabad City Police creates traffic restrictions on Bonalu days to manage traffic, but this year, the real test will be managing the crowd near the Jagadambika Temple on Golconda hill.

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