Thiruvananthapuram: Thiruvananthapuram city is all set to host millions of devotees who are arriving to offer the renowned 'pongala' at the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple on March 7.
Celebrations related to the annual festival began at the Attukal Temple with the ‘kappuketty kudiyiruthal’ ritual on Monday. With the main event of offering ‘pongala’ scheduled next Tuesday, the authorities have put in place elaborate arrangements for the smooth conduct of the festival.
In fact, there are facilities for 3,000 devotees to queue up at a time at the temple. Clean drinking water will be provided to those waiting in the queue, said authorities. Moreover, 25,000 devotees will be served food (annadanam) every day at the Amba and Karthika auditoriums at the temple.
Various cultural programmes will also be performed on all days of the festival at the Amba, Ambika and Ambalika stages. Another daily event is the recitation of the traditional songs (thottam pattu) at a special stage facing the sanctum sanctorum.
With the authorities anticipating at least 50 lakh devotees to offer the ‘pongala’ this year, massive security measures have been implemented. An official statement released jointly by Ministers from the capital city V Sivankutty and Antony Raju; District Collector Geromic George and City Police Commissioner C H Nagaraju said that 3,300 police personnel, including 800 women officers, have deployed under five Superintendents of Police for the festival.
Other security measures include 65 additional surveillance cameras, taking their total number to 120 and checks to prevent sale and use of addictive substances such as drugs and alcohol in the festival area.
Loudspeakers, food safety
Minister Sivankutty said that all rules related to food safety, loudspeakers and traffic would be strictly followed on the festival days. Permission should be obtained for playing loudspeakers, he said. Similarly, officers concerned should ensure that clean food and water are supplied to devotees, he added. Steps have to be taken to allow smooth flow of traffic near the temple, the Minister said.
The Food Safety Authority has already made online registration mandatory to distribute food at the festival venue. Officials under the Authorities will also carry out inspections to ensure compliance with the green protocol.
Fire safety, medical teams
For the pongala festival, six control rooms of the Fire and Rescue Services are operating in and around the temple. There are 15 station officers, a 10-member special task force and 110 civil defence volunteers on duty.
Apart from special medical camps of the State Health Services, 10 ambulances of the Health Services, two of the ‘108’ service, three of the City Corporation 10 from private hospitals are stationed in the festival area to provide the necessary aid.
Special bus services and a control room also will be set up, said authorities.
The state government has appointed Thiruvananthapuram Sub-Collector Aswathy Sreenivas as the special officer for Attukal Pongala. For the preparations, the government and the City Corporation have spent Rs 8.40 crore. While the Local Self-Government Department allotted Rs 2.50 crore for urgent construction and sanitation work, the City Corporation’s contribution is Rs 5.20 crore, said City Mayor Arya Rajendran.