The Pongala festival of the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, one of the ancient temples in South India, popularly described as the Sabarimala of women began on February 25th. The ceremonial ritual of _kappukettu_ was done and the deity of the goddess was prepared for the festival. On March 5th, at around 10.15 am, the fire will be lit in the temple hearth called the _pandara aduppu_. The fire will then be passed on to the thousands of women getting ready to offer Pongala. By 3.15 pm on the same day, once the offering is blessed by the temple priest, the subsequent rituals like _kuthiyottam_ and _purathezhunallipu_, the grand procession of the Goddess, will take place. On March 6th, which is the 10th day of the festival, the holy _kappu_ or bangles embellished on the Goddess is removed by around 8.15 pm. The festival will conclude after the final ritual of _kuruthitharpanam_. In 1997, the Attukal Pongala festival entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest annual gathering of women in the world in a single place on a single day irrespective of caste, creed or religion. That year, the festival saw a turnout of 15 lakh women. Later, in the year 2009, the record was broken, as 25 lakh women came forth to offer Pongala. This year, the turnout is expected to cross the previous year’s record, says the Chairman of the Temple Trust, K. P. Ramachandran Nair, President V. L. Vinod, and the Festival Convenor V. Chandrasekhara Pillai. Legend has it that, when Goddess Kannagi appeared before the devotees, infuriated after the _Mahishasura_ _mardanam_, the women prepared an offering of Pongala to appease the Goddess. Attukal Pongala happens every year in remembrance of this. _Kuthiyottam_ and _thalapoli_ are the major offerings at the temple. Boys below the age of 12 are allowed to participate in _kuthiyottam_. On the 3rd day after _kappukettu_, the boys have to observe strict abstinence for _kuthiyottam_. The boys live inside the temple premises for 7 days before the ceremony. On the 7th day, they do a customary bow in front of the Goddess 1008 times. So far, 830 boys have already registered for this year’s _kuthiyottam_. For the _kuthiyottam_ taking place next year, applications will be received online as well from August 17 onwards. Girls below the age of 10 can take part in the _thalapoli_ offering. The entertainment programmes for the festival was inaugurated by film actor Manju Warrier on February 25th. The former Chairman of ISRO, Dr. K. Radhakrishnan was honoured with the Attukal Amba Puraskaram during the inaugural function.