Tens of thousands of women devotees offer Attukal Pongala

Woman devotees offer pongala at Attukal Devi temple. Photo: Manoj Chemancheri

Thousands of women converted Thiruvananthapuram into a special hearth sweetened with prayers on Sunday. The Attukal Pongala festival, which holds the record for the biggest assemblage of women devotees, was held at the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram in the morning. A helicopter showered flowers on the temple ground.

The temple's chief priest lit the 'Pandara Aduppu' aka a hearth to prepare the rice pudding (pongala) in earthen pots mixing rice, ghee, banana, jaggery and coconut, at 10.30 am. The ritual signals the lighting of the makeshift brick stoves of the numerous devotees who station themselves in various parts of the capital city. The ritual is expected to come to a formal close with the sanctification ceremony at 2.30 pm, by hundreds of priests specially deployed for the day.

The Attukal Pongala is celebrated on the ninth day of the 10-day annual festival at the Attukal Bhagavathy temple. Photo: Manoj Chemancheri

Arrangements in place
Around 3,300 police and 400 fire and rescue services personnel have been deployed for the festival. Shadow police, women cops in plain clothes, 24-hour control room, women's control room, 180 CCTV and drone cameras, and fire and rescue services control rooms are in place to ensure the smooth functioning of the event on the day. There are also four sanitation teams and seven public health teams, 20 ambulances and a 24-hour paediatric team in place, alongside other facilities arranged in connection with Pongala. Five squads are deployed to ensure food safety and no stalls will be allowed to operate without a licence. Traffic restrictions have been imposed in Thiruvananthapuram city till 8 pm. Around 500 buses will operate services for Pongal -- 300 in the district and 200 long-distance buses. 

The significance of the ritual
The Attukal Pongala is celebrated on the ninth day of the 10-day annual festival at the Attukal Bhagavathy temple. The shrine is devoted to Kannaki, the heroine of Ilangovadikal's Tamil epic Silappadikaram. As per the legend, she cursed the city of Madurai and its kings for wrongfully convicting her husband to death. While returning after the same, she stopped at Attukal and her rage was subdued. Believers say that pongala is conducted to celebrate Kannaki's victory over the Madurai kings.

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