Attukal Pongala is a harvest festival that is celebrated at the Attukal Bhagavathy temple. The reason behind this festival is worshipping the goddess Kannai, who is an avatar of Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. This festival is mainly celebrated by the women in an ancient temple called Bhagavathy temple, which is situated at Attukal in the Thiruvananthapuram district. This festival takes 10 days to be completed.
The event begins from Bharani day of the Malayalam month of Makaram-Kumbham and ends on the tenth day. On the ending day, they make sacrifices at night which is known as Kuruthithapanam. The ninth day of this event is very crucial, it is the main attraction of the event because on that day Attukal Pongala Mahotsavam takes place. Thousands of women from different places, castes, and creeds cook Pongala near the temple and offer them to the Goddess. The women from Kerala and Tamil Nadu offer the Pongala to please the deity, Pongal means “to boil over”. Pongala is made with porridge of rice, sweet brown molasses, coconut, nuts, and raisins.
History Behind The Festival
The history of celebrating this festival is quite interesting. It is one of the largest all-women congregations in Kerala. In Bhagavathy temple the Goddess Kannaki is worshipped as the main deity. There is a mythology behind this temple, the story tells that Kannagi was married to Kovalan who is a son of a wealthy merchant. After the marriage, Kovalan met a dancer, whose name is Madhavi, and forgot his wife. After meeting Madhavi, Kovalan spent all his riches on her. Kovalan once stole an anklet of the queen, and then he was given the death penalty by the king of Madhuri for stealing the anklet of the queen. Then his wife Kannagi proves his innocence. After that, she leaves the city, on the way she stops at Attukal.
The festival starts with a song named Thottampattu, which is a song about Bhagavathi. As the festival continues for ten days, these songs also continue for nine days. On the tenth day, the main event takes place, where thousands of women gather in the temple and prepare Pongala to offer to the deity. The preparation of Pongala starts with a ritual called Aduppuvettu. The ritual refers to the lighting of the Pongala hearth called Pandarayaduppu which is then placed inside the temple by the chief priest. Then the chief priest comes with Goddess’s sword and gives blessings to the women by sprinkling holy water on them and showering them with flowers. After that, all the women take their Pongala back to their homes.
Attukal Pongala is a festival in which over three million women participate. It is such a festival that has figured in the Guinness Book of World Records on February 23, 1997, for being one single festival where a huge number of women participate in religious activity. For all the women who join in this activity, this temple is also known as the Sabarimala.