Devotees camp on temple premises well ahead of event

Thousands of women from across the State and Tamil Nadu offered Pongala to the presiding deity of Chakkulathukavu Bhagavathy Temple at Neerettupuram, near Thiruvalla, as part of the annual Karthika Pongala festival on Sunday.

Neerettupuram and surrounding areas turned into a sea of humanity as devotees started thronging the village on a bank of the Pampa from Saturday afternoon.

All lodges at Neerettupuram and in the nearby towns of Edathua, Mannar, Mavelikara, Thiruvalla, Chengannur, and even Changanassery were reportedly full as devotees from far off places booked rooms well in advance. Devotees camped on the temple premises and surrounding areas to get vantage spots to offer Pongala.

The annual festival began with the auspicious Ashtadravya Maha Ganapati homom in the morning.

The entire area was charged with devotion as hymns and devotional songs rent the air.

Durgadattan Namboodiri, son of temple administrator Manikkuttan Namboodiri, brought the fire from the sanctum sanctorum for lighting the main Pongala hearth. K. Surendran, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State unit general secretary, lighted the ceremonial lamp and the main Pongala hearth prepared in front of the temple with the sacred fire brought from the sanctum sanctorum at 9.30 a.m.

The fire was then transferred to the thousands of small hearths prepared on the temple premises and surrounding areas.

Mr. Surendran put a measure of rice in the vessel to mark the start of the offering. Mathew T. Thomas, MLA, was present. D. Vijayakumar, Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sanghom national vice-president; Suresh Kavumbhagom, public relations officer of the temple devaswom; and K.K. Gopalakrishnan Nair, administrator; were also present.

Devotees had lined up on almost all major roads, including MC Road, TK Road, and the Thiruvalla-Mavelikara Road.

As many as 39 teams of priests led by Manikkuttan Namboodiri, carrying the ‘Jeevitha,’ a palanquin-like decorated carriage, sprinkled holy water (theerthom) and flowers on the offering prepared by the devotees, symbolising its acceptance by the presiding deity.

A cultural meet was held in the afternoon. Thomas Chandy, MLA, presided over it. Temple chief priest Radhakrishnan Namboodiri delivered the benedictory speech. N. Rajashekharan, RSS leader, delivered the keynote address.

K.R. Prathapachandra Varma, BJP State vice-president, was the guest of honour.

C.V. Anandabose lighted the Karthika Sthambhomm marking the grand finale of the event.

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