Ananthapuri Transformed into a Virtual Yagashala

published on March 12, 2009


Women devotees flood Kerala capital
for Attukal Pongala
www.kaumudi.com



T’PURAM: Spirals of smoke rose from
hundreds of firewood stoves here Tuesday as an estimated three
million women devotees from Kerala,
Karnataka and Tamil Nadu converged on the path to the Attukal
Bhagavathi temple and cooked rice offerings for the goddess.

The offering is made on the penultimate day of the 10-day-long
Attukal Pongala festival, which is often referred to as the
equivalent of the Sabarimala pilgrimage for women.

Attukal Bhagavathi is believed to be an incarnation of Kannaki,
the central character of the Tamil epic “Silappathikaaram”.

“This time the number of devotees has crossed three
million. The women are seated on roads. This year several
more roads have been occupied compared to last year,”
Sreekumaran Nair, the temple superintendent, told IANS.

Only those women who had arrived
three days ago managed to get a place to cook near the temple.
About 20 sq km around the temple was choc-a-bloc with devotees.

The Guinness Book of World Records listed it as the world’s
largest annual gathering of women in 1997, when 1.5 million
devotees converged here on Feb 23.

“We have posted 2,000 policemen and 500 women constables
besides 15 deputy superintendents of police and three superintendents.
We have put up close circuit cameras at all important points,”
Commissioner of Police Ravada Chandrasekhar told reporters.

Miss World Parvathy Omanakuttan said this was the second
she was offering pongala.

“Last time I won the Miss India crown and became the
Miss World runner up after I cam here. Amma is really powerful
and one really experiences a feeling of satisfaction after
doing this pongala. I am really happy I am here,” said
Omanakuttan.

Women devotees arrived here with bricks, firewood, rice,
jaggery and coconut to cook the rice offering. They lit their
stoves after the chief priest lit the main stove in the compound
at about 10.30 a.m.

According to legend, Kannaki destroyed Madurai in Tamil Nadu
after the king of Madurai wrongfully imposed the death penalty
on her husband. After that, Kannaki travelled to Kerala, where
she rested for a while at Attukal and women are said to have
cooked pongala to appease her.

Like every
year, film actresses also turned up at the temple to prepare
the pongala offering.

“This is the 10th time I am offering pongala. I believe
Amma is really powerful. One has to be here to experience
the goodness,” said film and TV actress Chippy.

Malayalam superstar Suresh Gopi, who is present alongside
the priests when the main stove is lit every year, said that
he feels fortunate to be able to participate in the event.

“I keep aside all other work to be inside the temple
for the lighting of the main stove. Despite the massive crowd,
everything takes place with absolute calmness,” he said.

The day of the Attukala Pongala is a holiday in the district
except for IT firms.

“The whole city seems like a holy place due to the festival.
I will do my best to see that this is turned into a national
pilgrimage centre,” said Lok Sabha secretary general
P.D.T. Achary.

The railways ran special trains and added additional coaches
for the devotees.


25 lakh women offer Pongala to Attukal Goddess

PNS | Thiruvananthapuram

Kerala’s
capital city, Thiruvnanthapuram, transformed into a virtual Yagashaala
on Tuesday with smoke billowing from millions of hearths on which women
from different parts of the State and even from outside it prepared
holy Pongala (rice-jaggery pudding) as an offering to the goddess of
the Bhagavathy temple at Attukal in the city.

World famous
celebrities, girls from the glamour world, stars of the big and small
screens, bureaucrats, spouses of political luminaries, etc became one
with the most ordinary women from the lowest strata of the society in
the abode of the goddess to offer the Pongala to her on the ultimate
day of the annual festival at the temple.

Miss World India
Runner-Up Parvathi Omanakkuttan, nationally acclaimed playback singer
Chithra, big-screen stars Kalpana and Chippi, yesteryears’
super-heroine Annie, small screen star Sona Nair and others were among
the more than 25 lakh women who offered Pongala made in fresh earthen
pots with firewood as fuel to the Goddess on the streets of
Thiruvananthapuram city. Super-star Suresh Gopi, an ardent devotee of
the Godddess of Attukal, inaugurated Annadanam, the distribution of
food at the temple.

Temple authorities said more than 225 lakh
women participated in the Pongala, for which arrangements had been made
in a radius of seven kilometers of the temple. More than 20 lakh women
had participated in the ritual.

Attukal temple had made it
into 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.

The Pongala ritual got to a start at 10.36 am
Tuesday after the an assisting priest kindled the fire, handed over
from the temple’s sanctum sanctorum by Tantri Chennas Dinesan
Namboothiri, in the Pandara Aduppu, the main hearth arranged in the
courtyard of the temple escorted by the cheerful Manthras from lakhs of
throats. The fire was then handed over to the participating women, and
the preparation of the Pongala started.

The ritual concluded
at 2.45 pm with the sprinkling of holy water in the earthen Pongala
pots. Over 200 assistant priests sprinkled the holy water in the pots
of the over 25 lakh Pongalas to reach the Goddess’s blessings to them.
This was followed by showering of flowers from an aircraft. The annual
festival of the temple, started on March 3, would come to an end on
Wednesday night with the ritual Guruthi Pooja.

Thousands of
devotees from the State as well as from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had
reached the capital to ensure a spot nearest to the temple to arrange
their hearths. BY Monday evening, the city was flooding with the inflow
of women devotees.

This was the first time Parvathy
Omanakkuttan was preparing Pongala for the Attukal Goddess but she said
she was a regular visitor to the temple. “Whenever I am in Kerala, I
make it a point to visit the temples here, especially the Attukal
temple,” she said. “It fills me with bills. It is great to prepare
Pongala for the Devi,” she added.

Devotees with access to the
Internet across the world viewed Pongala on the temple website
www.attukal.org. Video feeds were streamed from 10 am to 11.30 am and
2.00 pm to 3.30 pm on Tuesday. The recorded version could be viewed
online for a month, temple authorities said.

It is believed that
Attukal Bhagavathy, the deity of the temple, is an avatar of Kannaki,
the heroine of Tamil epic, Silappathikaram. According to the 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.

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