By noon, the smoke billowing from the innumerable rows of traditional hearths turned the heart of Thiruvananthapuram city into a haze of colours, marked by the scent of cooked rice, and the sounds and music from blaring speakers. It was rapturous festivity as tens of thousands of devotees descended upon the capital to make their offerings to the presiding deity of the Attukal Temple on Tuesday.

It was a day with clear skies, unlike last year when rain threatened to ruin the festivities, said Sudha Rajeev of Pathanamthitta, who has been making this annual trip for the past nine years. “Even if I lived in the city, near the temple, I would have insisted on coming to the temple grounds, to make the offerings to Attukal amma. It does not feel right if you do not do the ritual in the blazing heat and smoke-filled air,” she said.

Like her, all others were unconcerned about the blazing heat from the hearths and the dust and smoke that caused their eyes to water. Saraswathy R. of Oachira felt the crowds had swelled since last year, but even so, the ritual was carried out simultaneously by such large numbers in relative calm. Food and drinking water were also arranged by independent societies and residents’ associations.

Cine artistes, including Chippy Renjith and Seema G. Nair, were among the devotees. Chippy seemed unperturbed by the swarm of mediapersons and fans who had gathered outside the lodge nearby. “Proximity to the temple matters so much to me. I stay in the city and I could have done it at home, but here I can seek the blessings of Attukal amma. And preparing the Pongala here feels very comfortable for me this time,” she said.

Medical services

Students and staff of the Co-operative College of Nursing worked overtime, being the lone clinic on the temple premises. The 26 members who were present on the spot scurried to the rescue of women who swooned. Dehydration, blood pressure variation and severe dust allergy were cited as the most common diagnosis by doctor Reema Kurien, who supervised a first-aid clinic at the adjacent auditorium.

While seven 108 ambulances that were stationed at the temple were continuously on duty, either transporting patients or for administrating intravenous drip, a couple of Government Health Services ambulances lay unattended. A few devotees complained that they merely took up space and were kept locked through much of the day, serving no purpose.

Keywords: Attukal pongala