Thiruvananthapuram: All arrangements are in place to celebrate this year’s ‘Attukal Pongala’ festival on Tuesday, said authorities of the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple Trust in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala's capital city. The Attukal Pongala is marked as the largest annual gathering of women by the Guinness World Records. The festival entered in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1997 and 2009 when 15 lakhs and 25 lakhs women participated in it respectively.
The main ritual of the festival is offering of the sweet delicacy named ‘pongala nivedyam’ prepared religiously by women devotees on traditional hearths to the deity of the temple, Attukal Bhagavathy (the Goddess of Attukal). The Temple Trust informed that this year’s lighting of the hearths (‘aduppuvettu') has been fixed at 10.30 am. The offering of the ‘pongala’ to the deity (nivedyam) has been scheduled at 2.30 pm, they added.
Another ritual on Tuesday is ‘chooral kuthu’ at night for children who observed the ‘kuthiyotta vritham.’ At 10.15 pm, the deity will be taken in a procession to the Sastha Temple at Manacaud.
On Wednesday morning, the Goddess will be ceremonially brought back to Attukal Temple. By 8 am, the deity will be back at Attukal. At 9.15 pm on Wednesday, the ‘kaappu’ (an ornament) worn by the Goddess as part of the festival will be removed. At 1 am on Thursday, the ‘kuruthi tharpanam’ ritual will take place, marking the formal conclusion of this year’s Pongala festival.
With the authorities expecting at least a 40% increase in the number of devotees offering Pongala compared to the last time a full-fledged event was held, the government and City Corporation have made elaborate arrangements to ensure a smooth conduct of the ritual.
Apart from 3,300 police personnel, 150 volunteers and 250 Fire and Rescue officials will present in and around the temple. Around 3,000 cleaning workers also have been appointed to ensure sanitation, said the Temple Trust. Moreover, 1,270 public taps have been installed in the festival area. The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) too will conduct 400 services to the temple.
An important development related to the Pongala this year is insuring the festival for an amount of Rs 14 crore by the Temple Trust. As a huge increase in devotees is expected, the insurance amount could be utilized for the benefit of devotees who face some emergency situation, said office-bearers of the Temple Trust.
City ready to welcome devotees
The capital city of Thiruvananthapuram too is spruced up to receive and host lakhs of women devotees for Attukal Pongala. Facilities which are ready include washrooms, food and drinking water.
However, it would be better for devotees note these points:
• The hearths should be lighted at 10.30 am on Tuesday and ‘nivedyam’ is to be offered at 2.30 pm.
• Devotees should bring steel plates and cups as distribution of food and drinking water in plastic containers is banned.
• Ingredients for preparing the ‘pongala’ offering such as rice, jaggery and cardamom are available almost everywhere in the city. The earthen pots in which the pongala is cooked on hearths and firewood also could be bought.
• Cotton clothes are the ideal attire while preparing pongala considering that summer is on its peak right now.
• Drink water regularly to avoid dehydration as the atmospheric temperature is currently very high.
• Avoid bringing children to the areas where pongala is prepared.
• Avoid crowding and jostling at bus stops and railway station as buses and trains have been arranged in all directions after the ritual.