Attukal Devi fulfills the wishes of all devotees who pray to the Goddess sincerely. Thousands attest to this fact and suggest offering of the ‘pongala’ ritual to the deity to attain prosperity and achieve their goals. As multitude of women devotees take part in Attukal Pongala on Wednesday here are some interesting aspects of the festival.
Concept of the deity
The Goddess at Attukal Temple in Thiruvananthapuram is considered to be the teenage form of Kannagi. However, devotees pray to the deity as a divine mother.
How long should the fast for offering ‘pongala’ last?
Everyone who wishes to offer pongala should observe fasting, ideally for nine days. However, the number of days can be restricted to 7, 5 or 3.
How to observe fasting?
The fast involves controlling food intake as well as the physical activities and the mind. Prayers have to be offered to the Goddess on all days of fasting.
Control on food
When prayers are offered sincerely, a devotee may not even feel hungry. No tiredness will be felt. Meals with rice can be had once a day and if feeling hungry, prefer fruits. Fish, meat and addictive substances have to be totally avoided. Purity of mind and body has to be maintained.
Clothes and purity
Cotton ‘kodi’ clothes are ideal wear while offering the pongala ritual. However, ordinary cotton clothes which are washed can also be preferred. Mind as well as body should be pure while conducting the ritual. Good words, thoughts and deeds should accompany the offering. Women cannot engage in the ritual if they are under menstruation period. They can do so seven days after the last day of the menstrual cycle.
If there is a death in the family, the pongala should not be offered for 41 days. Women who have given birth to a child can perform the ritual after 90 days.
Method of preparing the hearth
A traditional hearth has to be set up on the ground under the hot sun that blazes overhead during the Malayalam month of Kumbham. On it, the pongala has to be offered in a fresh earthen pot.
Items needed for the ritual
Rice, coconut, jaggery, bananas, honey, ghee, sugar, sugar candy, dried grapes, green gram, cashew nuts and sesame seeds. A lamp is lit in front of the hearth and a vessel filled with paddy is kept before the ritual starts. It is believed that there is presence of the Goddess in the hearth. The lamp and other items are kept accompanied by prayers to the respective family deity and ancestors for deliverance from misery, increase in wealth and overcoming setbacks in property disputes.
What inference can be made when the pot boils over?
The overflowing of the pot when it boils is considered a good sign. When this takes place towards the East, all wishes will come true. But if the pot overflows in the North direction, delay may occur in fulfilling wishes. But in case the offering boils over to the West or South, it suggests that the adverse situation persists and prayers to the nine planets have to be carried out earnestly.
What is the importance of offering ‘mandapputtu’?
This offering is made to overcome illnesses affecting the head. This dish is a favourite of the Goddess.
What is special about ‘thirali’?
This dish is prepared as an offering to propitiate all Gods and Goddesses. Wishes will come true.
Can food be taken before the pongala pot boils?
No food can be taken before the pot boils on the day of Pongala. In olden times, no eatable item was touched before the pongala ritual was completed. However, considering the health condition of present day devotees, they can have tender coconut water, milk or banana when the offering is ready. Afterwards, they can taste the offering.
Can a devotee take bath after pongala?
After offering pongala and praying at the temple, avoid a bath that day. As per belief, there is divine presence and fasting has to be observed.
Is there is any ban on people belonging to other religions from offering the ritual?
There are no restrictions at all in this regard. Only faith matters.
What is the significance of using a fresh pot for the ritual?
The ego one feels has to be shed while offering the pongala. The pot symbolizes the human body and the offering (payasam) the mind. The divinity in each person is hidden beneath bad qualities such as anger, greed, covetousness, arrogance and unhealthy competition. Pongala is a ritual that virtually boils these aspects and turns them into vapour.
Pongala prepared using the eight sacred items (ashtadravya) is considered more divine. The offering seeks to propitiate the eight forms of Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity – Adilakshmi, Gajalakshmi, Vidyalakshmi, Dhanalakshmi, Dhanyalakshmi, Dhairyalakshmi, Santhanalakshmi and Vijayalakshmi. Another point to note is that the rice in the pongala pot has to be offered by facing the East.
Can the pot used to offer the ritual be re-used?
After the ritual, the pot can be cleaned and used to store rice at home. When preparing rice every day, a little from this pot can also be taken. There is no harm in making rice in the pot.
What should be done with the pongala that is made in excess?
It has to be distributed among other people. Never discard it in the drain or resort to digging a pit and depositing the pongala in it. If it is dropped in a clear and flowing water body, the pongala will be food for the fish. The offering can be given to animals and birds also.
Is offering the ritual at home effective?
Certainly. The offering can be made on the premises of the house or institution.
What is the connection between pongala and the ‘Pooram’ star?
It was on the ‘pooram’ day in the Malayalam month of Kumbham that Mullaveettil Parameswaran Pillai offered pongala to the Goddess for the first time. This was while Kannagi reached Attukal while travelling from Madurai to Kodungallur. Meanwhile, the ‘kappukettu’ ritual is held on Karthika. On every Karthika day, ‘laksharchana’ is offered at the temple.
Which are the prayers to be recited while conducting the ritual?
Four names of the Goddess mentioned in the Lalitha Sahasranamam have to be recited continuously as the offering is made. The names – ‘pancha kosantharastithaye namah’, ‘payasannapriyaye namah’, ‘sarvamangala mangaleya’ and ‘devi praseede devi praseede’ should be chanted