Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government on Wednesday decided to conduct the famous Attukal Pongala, one of the world's largest all women religious congregations, in the city on February 27, by strictly adhering to COVID-19 protocol and allowing devotees to perform the ritual only inside the temple compound.
The decision in this regard was taken at a meeting chaired by Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran.
Devotees would be allowed entry only after they register online. The rituals would be held as per the temple customs and by restricting as many people as possible.
A decision on the maximum number of people who would be allowed to offer the ritual would be taken later, a government press release said.
This year, none would be allowed to offer 'pongala' (sweet offering) in public places or on roads. But people can make the offering from their homes.
Preparing 'pongala' is considered an auspicious ritual of the annual festival of the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple.
Braving scorching heat and humid climate, women from all over Kerala and outside the state converge in grounds and both sides of the highways, roads and bylanes across the city and prepare 'pongala', a mix of rice, jaggery and scraped coconut in fresh earthen or metal pots to appease the Goddess.
The offering is made in makeshift brick stoves, placed on both sides of the roads.
As per local legend, the Pongala 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 after destroying Madurai city to avenge the injustice to her husband Kovalan.
The 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.
(With PTI inputs)