Thiruvananthapuram turns city of devotion as thousands offer Pongala at Attukal

The annual event dubbed the ‘Women’s Sabarimala’, is witnessing a huge turnout this year with devotees arriving from different parts of Kerala and even other States

Updated - February 26, 2024 08:15 am IST

Published - February 25, 2024 12:20 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

The Pongala festival is dedicated to Kannaki, the heroine of the Chilappatikaram. 

The Pongala festival is dedicated to Kannaki, the heroine of the Chilappatikaram.  | Photo Credit: S. Mahinsha

Smoke billowed from tens of thousands of cooking pots lining streets and public spaces here on Sunday as women celebrated the Attukal Pongala by making the ritual offering to the presiding deity of the Attukal Bhagavathy temple.

Often dubbed ‘Women’s Sabarimala,’ the religious event saw a huge turnout this year with devotees pouring in from different parts of the State and elsewhere in the country. “It’s a wonderful experience,” remarked Simple Krishnan, a kindergarten teacher from Gurgaon, Haryana. “I first heard about it from my friend Sabitha, who is from Kochi. She used to tell me there is this very big ‘pooja,’” she recalled. Later on, she heard more about it from her husband Deepak Krishnan, a Keralite currently working in Ahmedabad. Ms. Krishnan made the ritual offering, her first, at her sister-in-law Manjari’s home, which is close to the Attukal temple. Ms. Krishnan’s father C. P. Kharbanda and son Ananthu Krishnan also had accompanied her to Thiruvananthapuram for the event.

Large numbers of devotees had taken their places along city streets and the Attukal temple grounds on Saturday itself. An overcast sky and a mild drizzle on Sunday morning had given them anxious moments, but the sun was out shortly after.

They began cooking the ritual offering on Sunday after the ‘Pandara Aduppu,’ the main hearth at the temple, was lit shortly after 10.30 a.m. Traditionally, the offering, a sweet pudding made from rice, jaggery, grated coconut, ghee and banana, is prepared in earthen pots. After the Shuddha Punyaham ritual at 10 a.m., temple Tantri Thekkedath Kuzhikattu Parameswaran Vasudevan Bhattathiripad passed the flame from the temple’s sanctum sanctorum to Goshala Vishnu Vasudevan Namboothiri, the chief priest. The Pongala hearth in the temple’s Thidapally was lit first. The flame was then taken to the Valiya Thidappally. A few minutes later, the ‘Pandara Aduppu’ was lit to loud chants of ‘Amme Saranam, Devi Saranam.’

The Attukal Pongala falls on the ninth day of the annual 10-day festival at the temple which began on February 17 this year. Lore goes that after the destruction of Madurai, Kannaki, the central character in the Chilappatikaram, passed through Attukal on her way to Kodungalloor.

The police and other government agencies including the Health, Transport and Water Resources departments had made extensive arrangements for the devotees. As part of the security arrangements, 3,500 police personnel were deployed in various parts of the city. Given the sweltering day temperatures, the Health department had opened ‘heat clinics.’

The Pongala ritual formally concluded with the sanctification ceremony at 2.30 p.m. The ‘Chooralkuthu’ ritual, and the ‘Purathezhunnellippu’ to the Sastha temple at Manacaud were scheduled for late Sunday evening.

The festival will come to a close with the ‘Kaapazhipu’ ritual on Monday night and the ‘Kuruthitharpanam’ in the early hours of Tuesday.

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