Aattukal Pongala is the largest women gathering festival in Trivandrum. The Attukal Bhagavathy temple, in the capital city of Kerala state and its premises, is the venue for the festival. It is actually a ten-day festival in the Malayalam month of Makaram – Kumbham (Feb – March). On the 9th day, Aattukal Pongala Maholsavam takes place. The most remarkable factor is that women from any religion can participate in this festival. There is no caste, colour, creed or faith that matter in this festival. Aattukal Pongala has found its place in the Guinness book of world record for the massive participation of women in a single festival. You can experience the heights of devotion during this festival.
The Story behind Aattukal Pongala
There’s an interesting myth associated with Aattukal Pongala. The Aattukal Bhagavathy is considered to be a personification of ‘Kannaki’, the heroine of ‘Silapathikaram’. This was written by the renowned Tamil poet Illango during the 2nd century AD. After burning the town of Madhurai, Kannaki took on a journey to Kodungallore. On her way from Madhurai to Kodungallore, she took rest at Aattukal temple. The Bhagavathy appeared as child in front of old man, who was performing his evening oblations in river Killi. He was surprised to find a small child near the river during the wee hours.
The old man helped the child to cross the river and took her to his home. By the time they reached home, the child went missing. In spite of searching extensively, he failed to find her. That night, he had a dream of the Goddess telling him that she had drawn three lines in a sacred grove nearby and that she would like to stay there. The old man searched and found that place and built a small temple. The Goddess brought wealth and prosperity to the people in that area. The temple got renovated regularly and gained this fame.
Aattukal Pongala – The Festival
Photo by Manu Manohar Photography
The festival starts on Karthika day of Makaram – Kumbham Malayalam month with the chanting of Thottampattu. Pongala means to boil over. It is an offering by women to Aattukal Bhagavathy. Participating in this festival is a pride for woman in Kerala state. Many of them participate every year for the prosperity of their family and good health. Some of them participate as an offering to fulfil their wishes before the next Aattukal Pongala.
For Aattukal Pongala, the women make sweet payasam with jaggery, rice, coconut and plantains only in clay pots. Devotees assemble at temple compound but because of the huge crowd it stretches to kms around the temple. Sometimes it can go to more than 5 km radius around the temple. The devotees have to bring their own ingredients, clay pot, brick and fire to make the Pongala offering. The Pongala ritual starts early in the morning and finishes by noon. It begins when the priest lights the ‘Pandara Aduppu’ with devotional chanting. After finishing the Pongala, priests in 250 numbers will bless the devotees by sparkling holy water on them.
Pongala is the favourite offering to the Aattukal Bhagavathy. Women from all over the country come together for this festival. They take Pongala as Prasadam with them and distribute among family and friends. Many popular celebrities also join this festival keeping away their busy schedule.
The festival ends on the 10th day, the next day after Pongala. Before that, Aattukal Bhagavathy is taken by procession to Mancaud Sastha temple with the escort of decorated elephants, thalapoli, vahanam, annam and Kuthiyottam along with percussion. After the usual poojas, the procession reaches back at the temple the next day morning. Aattukal Pongala festival concludes after the Kuruthi Tharpanam in the night. The day of Aattukal Pongala is a district holiday in Trivandrum. The locals of Trivandrum do all the help for the devotees of Aattukal Bhagavathy. On Aattukal Pongala day devotees have all liberty to ask for any help from natives. The government runs special trains and buses for this grand event.
Featured Photo by Trilok Rangan