Alappuzha: In a divine spectacle reminiscent of the sacred rituals at the famed Attukal temple in the state capital, Chakkulathukavu Sree Bhagavathy Temple, in Neerettupuram in the eastern part of Alappuzha, unfolded its most significant festival, Pongala, on Monday, drawing thousands of women devotees from different parts of the state and even outside. The air resonated with the fervent chanting of ‘Amme Narayana, Devi Narayana,’ and the beats of traditional percussion instruments filled the atmosphere, culminating in majestic ‘Ezhunnallippu’ (procession) of Goddess Bhagavathy in 51 Jeevithas - the specially-made divine palanquins decorated with red velvet cloth and copper plates that are embossed with the image of the deity, at 11.30 am.
Adding a touch of grace, over 500 Vedic scholars oversaw the ceremonies as the atmosphere was charged with religious fervor. Underneath the expansive sky, a sea of earthen pots, or 'pongalas,' bubbled with a concoction of rice, jaggery, coconut, and ghee, meticulously arranged in rows extending several kilometers guarded by women of different ages. The rhythmic clanging of cymbals and the soul-stirring beats of traditional drums set the stage for the ceremonial offering.
Earlier, Pongala festivities commenced at 10.30 am with the ceremonial lighting of Pandara Pongala hearth by Chief Karyadarshi Radhakrishnan Namboothiri. Chief priest Ashokan Namboothiri kindled the main hearth from the divine fire inside the sanctum sanctorum, exchanging the sacred flame from one oven to another, duly taken up by the devout women, who in turn ignited their own hearths, and placed the pot upon it, offering prayers to the goddess with unwavering devotion.
As the aroma of the sacred Pongala wafted through the air, the festival at Chakkulathukavu Sree Bhagavathy Temple stood as a testament to the unwavering faith and collective spirit of the women devotees, creating a divine tapestry of devotion and tradition. The devotion of the women devotees manifested in long queues extending nearly 70 km, along the main and sub roads leading to Thakazhi, Tiruvalla, Kozhancherry, Chengannur, Pandalam, Kidangara, Podiyadi, Mannar, Mavelikkara, and Harippad. Over 3000 volunteers and 500 police and Fire Force personnel were deployed to ensure safety. They patiently waited their turn to make the sacred Pongala offering and attained salvation. Devotees believe that the goddess would fulfill their wishes upon pleasing the deity.
Prominent personalities including Mavelikkara MP Kodikkunnil Suresh were present during the lighting of the 'pandara aduppu' aka Pongala hearth. The round-the-clock KSRTC control station functioned seamlessly, facilitating budget tourism services for groups of devotees traveling to the temple. Special chain services from Tiruvalla, Edatwa, Alappuzha, Ambalappuzha, Harippad, and Changanassery units further streamlined the pilgrimage journey. In a commitment to eco-friendly practices, the event organizers implemented a comprehensive ban on plastic, emphasizing adherence to green rules.