Ponkala or Pongala is perhaps the most important festival in the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, also very popularly known as the ‘Sabarimala of Women” in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala.
Pongala, is the ninth day celebration amongst a ten daylong celebration which commences from the Malayalam month of Makaram-Kumbham or February March by the Gregorian calendar, on the Karthika star and closes with the sacrificial offering known as the Kuruthitharpanam at night.
Attukul is a Hindu point of pilgrimage in Thiruvananthapuram, in Kerala. The Attukul Bhagwati temple is amongst one of the most ancient temples in the southern part of India. The Goddess worshipped in this temple, Mother Attukalamma, is looked up to as the Supreme Mother to all. She is the creator, the preserver and the destroyer to all.
- What does the word Pongala mean?
Pongala, the word literally means to boil over and it denotes and means the offerings of things made to the Gods and Goddesses to make them happy and to seek their blessing. Pongala ceremony is observed on the auspicious occasion of the Pooram star, coinciding with the full moon.
- And what is the Legend about Attukal Bhagavathy?
According to legends, Attukal Bhagavathy, is the reincarnation of the great Kannaki, who is again said to be the reincarnation of Parvati; the heroine of Chilappathikaaram, written by Ilanko adikal, the great Tamil Poet. The legend says that after the destruction of the city of Madurai, Kannaki left Madurai and reached Kerala via the route of Kanyakumarika; and en route stopped here.
- What happens on the Attukul Pongala then?
Pongala, as said earlier means to boil over, is a dish prepared by boiling rice, Jaggery and coconut in an earthen pot – it is sweetened rice, which only women are allowed to cook. The ritual of preparing this sweet rice or Pongala starts early in the morning and is finished off by noon. Then the chief priest of the Attukul Temple arrives with the Goddess’s sword and blesses all the women devotees by showering flowers on them and sprinkling holy water. The ladies then take this blessed Pongala back with them. It has been believed that Goddess Attukal Bhagavathy can fulfill your wishes with her blessings. She blesses the devotees observing this ritual with the boon of health and prosperity.
The Pongala ceremony is preceded by the musical renderings of the story of the Goddess Kannaki slaying the Pandayan King. The sacred event of the Goddess demolishing the Pandayan King is rendered with great gusto and accompanied by lot of sound made by the temple drums and the Vaykurava by the devotees.
The Pongala Mahotsav or the Attukul Pongala has found a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as it is considered to be globally the largest congregation of women. It is generally assumed that more than 2.5 million women congregate to celebrate this auspicious occasion from Kerala and other neighboring parts. Procession of colorful floats made of the deity carried with fervor makes for an experience to cherish.