Attukal Pongala Festival is one of the most important festivals of Kerala, South India. It is celebrated in the premises of Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, located in Thiruvananthapuram city. Approximately 40 lakhs of women devotees attend this festival. The famed pongala festival is the single largest congregation of women in the world, which has already made into the Guinness book of Records in 2009.
Every year, this festival celebration is a unique sight in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala.
This famous festival is a 10-day programme commencing on the Karthika star day of Malayalam month Makaram-Kumbham, which usually falls in February-March. On the ninth day, the world famous Pongala Festival takes place in the temple premises, which spreads into 5 kms radius to accommodate the lakhs of women devotees coming there to prepare pongala offering. Ponkala ceremony is on the auspicious day of Pooram star which coincides with full moon. That day the whole city of Thiruvananthapuram takes a holy look. This year in 2019, this festival was celebrated on 20th February and an estimated 40 lakhs of women have gathered for this festival.
What is pongala?
Pongala is a sweet dish called payasam, prepared with rice,jaggery, coconut, and plantains, which is instantly cooked in the earthern pots. The preparation would start in the early morning and by noon everything would be over. The main poojari comes and sprinkles the rose water on to the devotees and to their offerings, which indicates that Bhagavathy has gladly accepted their offerings.
The women do this offering for the well-being of their husband and children.
Though it is a Hindu festival, the other religious people nearby offer their premises also for pongala preparation.
According to the legends, Bhagavathy Attukalamma is considered as the incarnation of 'Kannaki', the heroine of 'Silappathikaram' by Tamil Poet Illango in 2nd century A.D. Attukal temple, is one of the places where Kannaki took rest on her journey from Madurai to Kodungallur.
"Attukal Pongala" has entered into the Guinness book of World Records for the largest women gathering in the world.
In the year 2019, an estimate of 40 lakhs women participated in pongala festival at Attukal, on which was spread over several kms distance. You won't find anywhere else in the world such a huge participation of women alone. Such a large gathering goes on peacefully with the proper management of the government and voluntary associations.
Setting up makeshift brick stoves along either side of the main road, devotees braved the blazing mid-day sun and the intense, stinging smoke from the fires to offer thanks and prayers to the deity. Sweet pudding made from rice, jaggery, coconut gratings, banana and ghee - these are some of the dishes offered to the Attukal Amma on this festival day.
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