Saturday, February 23, 2013

Attukal Pongala Festival at Attukal Temple, Thiruvananthapuram


Attukal Pongal Festival (Attukal Ponkala) is a world famous annual festival celebrated at Attukal Bhagavathy Temple in Trivandrum, Kerala. Attukal Pongala is a 10 day festival which starts from the Bharani day on the Karthika nakshatra of the Malayalam month of Makaram - Kumbham (February - March) and ends with the sacrificial offering known as Kuruthitharpanam at night. Attukala Pongala Mahotsavam, is an exclusive women’s only festival, which has entered the Guinness Book of World Records for being the World’s largest religious gathering of women. Attukal Bhagavathy Temple is called as the ‘Sabarimala of Women’.

Attukal Pongala Celebrations

The 9th day of the ten day festival is the Pongala day. 'Pongala' literally means “to boil over” and is an offering of boiled rice in earthern pot to Attukal Amma, an incarnation of Goddess Parvathi Devi, the presiding deity of Attukal Bhagawathy Temple. Women prepare Pongala Payasam, a sweet offering of boiled rice with jaggery, coconut  gratings, nuts and raisins in earthen pots. Some people also prepare other sweet dishes like therali appam, elayappam, panchamrutam, and mandaputtu (prepared with rice powder and jaggery).

Every year more than a million women from different parts of India and world gather at the temple premises and in the temple vicinity to offer Pongala to Attukal Amma. Devotees who gather to offer Pongala to Attukal devi increases in numbers every year. The rush is so intense that the entire Trivandrum City, about 5 km radius around the Attukal temple, becomes the holy grounds for women to offer Pongala nivedyam to Goddess. From temple grounds to courtyards of houses, to bus station and railway station to public roads one can see only devotees offering Pongala to Attukal Devi.

The Pongala cooking rituals starts around 10.30 in the morning and by noon the ponkala would be ready. The ceremony concludes at around 2.30 PM when the temple priests starts sprinkling of holy water (theertham) on the Pongala payasam offered by devotees. The Flying Club of Thiruvananthapuram sends a helicopter around the area to shower flowers to the honour of the Goddess.
Let us all pray for the blessings of Attukal Amma

"Sarva Mangala Mangalie Sive Sarvardha Sadhike
Saraneye Thryambake Devi Narayani Namo Sthuthe"

Attukal Pongala ritual held at the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple inTrivandrum, Kerala, is noted for the largest gathering of women in a single place on a single day in the world. Attukal Pongala 2013 date is February 26.  Attukal Bhagavathy is an incarnation of Goddess Shakti and the Attukal Temple is known as the Sabarimala of women.

The Pongala festival will commence when the idol of the Devi will be embellished with ‘kappu.’ 
The world famous Attukal Pongala is on February 26, 2013. Pongala ritual commences at 10:30 AM on  February 25. Pongala will be offered to Goddess at 14:30 hrs. 
A unique Hindu festival, Attukal Pongala is an annual congregation of more than a million women to offer Pongala to Attukal Devi, an incarnation of Shakti, the Mother Goddess in Hinduism. Pongala, or Ponkala, is an offering of boiled rice in earthern pot. Attukala Pongala has entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest gathering of women in the world.Attukal Temple is located in Trivandrum, Kerala, and the deity is popularly referred as Attukal Amma.

Attukal Pongala takes place during the Malayam month of Kumbham (February-March). Millions of women gather on the day to cook Pongala. They arrive from different parts of India and from around the world. Each woman makes a hearth and cooks Pongala. Women also cook sweet dishes made out of jaggery and rice powder like – mandaputtu, appam and therali. The cooking ritual begins around 10.30 in morning and is completed with the sprinkling of theertham (sacred water from the temple) around 1530 hrs.

Every Hindu festival has the backing of a myth and Attuka Devi’s is associated with the Shakti cult particularly the story of Kannaki.

Significance of Attukal Pongala

Without any persuasion or advertisement, more than a million women assemble in the Indian southern city of Trivandrum in Kerala on the day when Pooram Nakshatram and Poornima coincides in the Malayalam month of Kumbham (February - March). In 2013, Attukal Pongala is on February 26. Their sole aim is to cook rice with jaggery and coconut for Attukal Amma and seek the blessings of the Goddess who is the incarnation of Kannagi.
Attukal Pongala is held on the ninth day of the 10-day festival at theAttukal Bhagavathy Temple. The goddess worshipped at Attukal temple is Kannagi who is an incarnation of Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva.
Kannagi is the heroine of famous Tamil poem Silappathikaram - the Epic of the Anklet. The story has it that Kannagi’s husband Kovalan was unjustly put to death by the ruler of Madurai for stealing the anklet of the queen. Kannagi proves the innocence of her husband at the court and in anger sets the entire Madurai city on fire. She then leaves the city and on her way to Kodungalloor shrine stops at Attukal.

It is said that the Goddess appeared as a child before an elderly man who was performing his evening oblations at the Killi River. The child wanted to cross the river but the old man was surprised to see a small girl at that odd time. So, he helped her in crossing the river and decided to take her home. Couple of minutes after reaching home, the young girl was not to be seen. During that night, Goddess appeared in the dream of the old man and told him that she had drawn three lines in a sacred grove nearby and she would like to reside there. Next morning, the old man went to the place and to his surprise found three marks at the suggested place. He built a small temple there and as time passed the Goddess brought prosperity to the region and the local people renovated the shrine to the present status.

People believe that the Goddess showers her blessings on women and children. She suffered injustice and her suffering symbolizes the suffering of women in all
ages. The goddess providesstrength to overcome the numerous impediments.
Children like her because she appeared in the form of a child and the Goddess has a special place for children in her mind. 

Record books have been rewritten by this unique gathering of women. Some people call it the Kumbh Mela of South India and for some the temple is the Sabarimala of women. Words often fail to catch true spirit of the thousands of women who sit on the roads of Trivandrum city making porridge for the Goddess.
Why do women gather in such large numbers? Most of the women make pongala to receive the blessings of Amma. Some do it for the welfare of her family. Some do it for favors received. Some do it for material gains. Some do it routinely. Each woman has a reason of her own. It is said that Attukal Amma never disappoints her devotees.

From a temple ritual, Attukal Pongala has now transformed into a celebration of womanhood. It is the celebration of Shakti – the one Mother, creator of all things or the primeval energy of the Universe that derives all divine and cosmic evolution. From her everything that exists was born to her all things will return. All animate and inanimate are her creations and she sustains them. She has a myriad forms - loving mother, girl, lover, sister, wife and the terrible that can annihilate. It is this Shakti, the great Mother goddess known by countless names, that is worshipped by millions of her representatives on the Earth on Attukal Pongala.

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