Millions of women offer Pongala
Millions of women from Kerala, other states and even from outside the country on Thursday cooked Pongala (rice-jaggery pudding) on open hearths on the streets of Thiruvananthapuram and offered it to the Goddess of the Attukal Devi temple, known as Women’s Sabarimala, virtually turning the State’s capital city into a Yagashala.
The rush of women devotees of the Goddess on the occasion was so heavy that women had lined up for cooking the Pongala on the city streets in a ten-kilometer radius from the Attukal temple. Women from all walks of life – housewives, bureaucrats, film and television stars, politicians, spouses of VIPs, etc – cooked Pongala for offering to the deity.
Among the women who converged on the city was Elizabeth, wife of senior Congress leader and former Defence Minister AK Antony. “I am here, offering this Pongala to the Goddess, not to propitiate Her with any political objective. I am doing this as a prayer for cancer patients,” Elizabeth said.
The ritual of offering Pongala started at 10.30 AM Thursday after Tantri (traditional chief priest) Chennas Dinesan Namboothiri, handed over the flame from the sanctum sanctorum of the temple to Melshanti (head priest) Kannan Potti for kindling the main hearth in the temple. Then the associate priest kindled the hearth (Pandara Aduppu) in the temple’s courtyard.
After this ritual, millions of women devotees kindled the hearths they had set up everywhere in the city. The women cooked the Pongala to be offered to the Goddess in fresh earthen pots decorated with flowers. Pongala was cooked also by groups seeking the Goddess’s blessings for the proposed Vizhinjam port and for total liquor ban in the State.
The ritual concluded after 3.15 PM with the sprinkling of holy water in the Pongala pots by about 500 specially appointed priests. Pongala offering was the main ritual marking the conclusion of the ten-day annual festival at the Attukal Devi temple.
As per estimates, over three million women had participated in the Pongala festival last year but temple officials said on Thursday that they expected the number to be about four million this year. “A clearer estimate can be given later. But I think nearly four million women have participated in the Pongala festival,” said a temple committee member.
The Attukal temple had got into the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest convergence of women at one place at the same time in 1997 when 1.5 million devotees had gathered in Thiruvananthapuram for the ritual on February 23 that year.
As per belief, Attukal Devi, the deity of the temple, is an Avatar of Kannagi, the heroine of Tamil epic Silappathikaram. According to local ballads, after burning down Madurai city, Kannagi travelled to Kerala where she rested for a while at Attukal on the southern border of today’s Thiruvananthapuram city before moving on.
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