‘Attukal Pongala’, the mass gathering of thousands of women devotees to offer ‘pongala’ to the presiding deity of the Attukal Bhagavathy temple here, will be celebrated on Tuesday.
As the ‘pongala’ is going to be celebrated this year without any COVID-19 restrictions, unlike the last two years, a huge turnout of women is expected this time.
Considered as one of the largest religious congregations of women in the world, brick hearths are set up along the roads in the state capital for preparing the ‘pongala’ — a mix of rice, jaggery and scraped coconut — in fresh earthen or metal pots.
The signal for lighting the brick hearths is given by the chief priest of the temple at a prefixed auspicious time.
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The ceremony concludes with the sprinkling of holy water by temple priests at an appointed time in the afternoon.
Preparing ‘pongala’ is considered an auspicious all-women ritual as part of the annual festival of the Attukal temple here, popularly known as the ”Women’s Sabarimala.” In anticipation of the huge turnout this year after the COVID-19 pandemic, police and the fire department have put in place extensive arrangements to ensure that the festival is celebrated without any mishap or inconvenience to the public.
The police have put in place restrictions on movement and parking of heavy, container and goods vehicles in Thiruvananthapuram city on March 6 and 7.
Restrictions have also been placed on parking of vehicles of devotees and the public on roadsides and footpaths in the city and on the routes towards the temple.
Devotees have also been directed not to set up their cooking stations on the footpaths.
They have also been asked to leave space for emergency vehicles on the roads when setting up cooking stations.
The fire department, as part of their preparations, have pressed into service around 130 civil defense volunteers and 300 fire rescue personnel.
The pongala festival marks the finale of the 10-day ritual at the shrine.
The ritual had made it to the Guinness Book of World Records in 2009 for being the largest religious gathering of women on a single day when 2.5 million took part in it.
As per local legend, the annual festival commemorates the hospitality accorded by women in the locality to Kannagi, the divine incarnation of the heroine of the Tamil epic ‘Silappadhikaram’ while she was on her way to avenge the injustice meted out to her husband Kovalan, after destroying Madurai city.
Attukal Temple is called the ”Women’s Sabarimala” as only women perform rituals, while it is predominantly men who undertake the pilgrimage to the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala.