30 lakh women to attend Pongala fest

via PNS published on February 26, 2010

THIRUVANTHAPURAM : Kerala’s capital city, Thiruvnanthapuram, will transform into a virtual Yagashala on Sunday with smoke billowing from millions of hearths over which women from within Kerala and outside will prepare the holy Pongala (rice-jaggery pudding) as an offering to the goddess of the Attukal Bhagavathi temple in the city.

Celebrities from various fields, girls from the glamour world, stars of the big and small screens, bureaucrats, politicians and spouses of political luminaries will become one with the most ordinary women from the lowest strata of the society at the abode of the goddess to offer the Pongala to her on the ultimate day of the annual festival at the temple which had begun on February 20.

Attukal temple, also known as the Sabarimala of Women, had found a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest convergence of women at one place at the same time. The entry was made in 1997, when 1.5 million devotees converged here on February 23, the festival day that year. Temple authorities expect around three million women to offer Pongala to the Goddess this year. About 2.5 million women devotees had offered Pongala here last year.

The ritual of offering Pongala to the Goddess will start at 10.30 am Sunday after the kindling of fire with the Diya handed over from the temple’s sanctum sanctorum by the Tantri, in the Pandara Aduppu, the main hearth arranged in the courtyard of the temple, escorted by the cheerful Manthras rising from lakhs of throats. The flame will then be handed over to the participating women for preparing lighting their Pongala hearths.

The ritual will conclude at 2.45 pm with the sprinkling of holy water in the earthen Pongala pots. Over 200 assistant priests will sprinkle the holy water in the Pongala pots of the millions of devotees to reach the Goddess’s blessings to them. The eight-day annual festival of the temple will come to an end on Monday night with the ritual Guruthi Pooja.

It is believed that Attukal Bhagavathi, the deity of the temple, is an avatar of Kannaki, the heroine of Tamil epic Silappathikaram. According to local ballads, after destroying Madurai, Kannaki traveled to Kerala where she rested for a while at Attukal before moving on.

There is another belief among the locals of Thiruvananthapuram that Attukal Bhagavathi temple – located a couple of kilometers off the southern end of Thiruvananthapuram city – was built centuries ago by the head of a prominent local family who had a vision of the Goddess in a dream. In this vision, the goddess is believed to have instructed the devotee to construct a temple, dedicated to her in a sacred grove at Attukal.

The Southern Railway will run special trains between Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam to clear the extra rush of passengers during Attukal Pongala. A Special train will leave Kollam at 04.00 hrs and will arrive at Thiruvananthapuram at 06.00 hrs Sunday. The Mangalore-Thiruvananthapuram Parasuram Express will have additional stops at Mayyanad, Paravur and Kappil for the festival. The Lokmanya Tilak Terminus -Thiruvananthapuram Netravati Express will stop at Murukkumpuzha and Kazhakuttam. The Hyderabad-Thiruvananthapuram Express will have additional stops at Kappil, Chirayinkeezh and Kochuveli as part of the Attukal Pongala.

The Palghat-Thiruvananthapuram Amritha Express and the Mangalore-Thiruvananthapuram Maveli Express will stop at Mayyanad, Paravur and Kappil. The Thrivananthapuram-Ernakulam Vanchinad express, the Thiruvananthapuram-Mangalore Malabar express, the Thiruvananthapuram-Ernakulam Intercity Express and the Thiruvananthapuram-Mangalore Maveli Express trains will also have additional stops at all stations between Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam.

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