Attukal Pongala Festival at Trivandrum
Attukal Ponkala Festival is a world famous annual festival celebrated at Attukal Temple, in Trivandrum, Kerala. Attukala Pongala festival, is an exclusive women’s only festival, which has entered the Guinness Book of World Records for being the World’s largest religious gathering of women. Attukal Bhagavathy Temple is called as the ‘Sabarimala of Women’, and expected a gathering of 25 lakhs (2.5million) women in the city from all over on Tuesday 10th march 2009.
‘Pongala’ literally means “to boil over” and is an offering of boiled rice in earthern pot to Attukal Devi, an incarnation of Goddess Parvathi Devi, the presiding deity of Attukal Bhagawathy Temple (Shakti cult). Women prepare Pongala Payasam, a sweet offering of boiled rice with jaggery, coconut gratings, nuts and raisins in earthen pots. Some people also prepare other sweet dishes like therali appam, elayappam, panchamrutam, and mandaputtu (prepared with rice powder and jaggery).
Devotees who gather to offer Pongala to Attukal devi increases in numbers every year. The rush is so intense that the entire Trivandrum City, about 5-10 km radius around the Attukal temple, becomes the holy grounds for women to offer Pongala nivedyam to Goddess. From temple grounds to courtyards of houses, to bus station and railway station to public roads one can see only devotees offering Pongala to Attukal Devi.
The Pongala cooking rituals starts around 10.30 in the morning and by noon the ponkala would be ready. The ceremony concludes at around 2.30 PM when the temple priests starts sprinkling of holy water (theertham) on the Pongala payasam offered by devotees. The Flying Club of Thiruvananthapuram sends a helicopter around the area to shower flowers to the honour of the Goddess.
Pongala as social gathering has more relevance in the new age. It is a get together of people who have devotion to the almighty and therefore cherish untainted values of humanism and brotherhood. Pongala rediscovers the niceties of folk ways in the urban melieu. It teaches the highly sophisticated urbanhood the need for love, mutual respect and understanding. It is no mere social gathering, but a divine satsang that teaches love, friendship and devotion.