Attukal Pongala on March 10

via PNS | Thiruvananthapuram published on March 2, 2009

Close to three million
women would converge in the capital city on March 10 to offer Pongala
to the Goddess of the Attukal Temple here for seeking her blessings.
The turnout of devotees at the all-women festival, recognized by the
Guinness Book of World Record as the largest religious congregation of
women at one place, is expected to go up by at least five lakh this
year. The turnout at the Pongala festival here last year was more than
22 lakhs.

Elaborate arrangements have already been made for the
ten-day annual festival at the temple which began on Monday and would
conclude with Pongala festival on March 10. Temple authorities said
more arrangements, including those for the security of the devotees and
their amenities, would be made in the coming days. It is believed that
Attukal Bhagavathy, the deity of the temple, is an avatar of Kannaki,
the heroine of Tamil epic, Silappathikaram.

R Ravindran Nair and
KP Ramachandran Nair, chairman and secretary of the temple trust
respectively, told newsmen here that the Pongala festival on March 10
would begin at 10.30 am with the Aduppuvettu, preparation of the Holy
Hearth. The Pongala Nivedyam, consecration of the pudding made by the
lakhs of participating women devotees would begin at 2.45 pm on that
day, they said.

There would be special patrolling of residential
areas under the Museum Police Station limits in connection with the
upcoming Pongala festival. This was decided at the Maithri Suraksha
(community policing scheme) meeting of residents associations coming
under the police station.

Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan
said the other day that instructions had been given to the police to
tighten the security arrangements for the festival in view of the
special circumstances. As many as 2,500 policemen and 300 women
constables would be deployed for the festival, he said

Closed
circuit televisions would be installed to monitor the crowd movement
and the places in and around the temple during the festival period. A
24-hour control room manned by senior police officials would be opened
in the temple.

The Minister said the police would ensure the
security of the pilgrims who arrived at the temple during the festival
period and women who arrived for offering the pongala on March 10.

Inspector
General of Police (IGP), Thiruvananthapuram range, would supervise the
security arrangements to be made by the City Police Commissioner and
the Deputy Police Commissioner. The volunteers of the Janamaithri
Suraksha would be roped in for the security arrangements, the Minister
said.

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.

Cutting across caste, class and even
religious barriers, women would converge on the capital city to cook
Pongala of rice and jaggery in fresh earthen pots on make-shift
hearths, seeking the blessing of the presiding deity of the shrine.

Lakhs
of devotees from distant areas would reach the city well in advance for
the festival on March 10. After the Holy Hearth near the temple was
lighted by the chief priest (Tantri), the fire would exchange hands and
lakhs of hearths would be lit to prepare the Pongala.

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