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Last Updated Saturday May 27 2017 11:23 AM IST

Attukal Pongala: Here's what you need to know

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  • Attukal Pongala

    As the devotees started packing up and leaving the premises, the cleaning staff were pressed into action. The temporary hearths will be cleared and the city will be back to normal in a couple of days. Photo: Rinku Raj Mattancheriyil.

    Attukal Pongala
  • Attukal Pongala

    The State Road Transport had deployed buses to all parts of the state to cater to the rush. Photo: Rinku Raj Mattancheriyil

    Attukal Pongala
  • Attukal Pongala

    And then, it is time to head home. The 'pongala' all packed up - to be distributed to friends and family back home. Photo: Rinku Raj Mattancheriyil.

    Attukal Pongala
  • Attukal Pongala

    Kids are dressed up in all the finery and taken to the temple for 'Thalapoli' ritual. And a lot of street peddlers make their presence felt. Photo: Rinku Raj Mattancheriyil

    Attukal Pongala
  • Attukal Pongala

    This year the 'Pongala' began at around 10.30am and ended with the priests sprinkling holy water by around 1.30pm. Various organisations provided food to the devotees who took part in the festival. Photo: Rinku Raj Mattancheriyil.

    Attukal Pongala
  • Attukal Pongala

    Attukal Pongala, which entered the Guinness World Records in 2009 sees a lot of foreign visitors every year. This is perhaps the first selfie of the festival which is going to do the rounds on instagram. Photo: Manoj Chemancheri

    Attukal Pongala
  • Attukal Pongala

    It was around 10am when the ceremonial fire was lit at the temple and passed on to the women who had gathered. And here is how a visitor makes friends with a local lady and helps her out. Photo: Manoj Chemancheri.

    Attukal Pongala
  • Attukal Pongala

    Women set up temporary hearths - this is a long shot of the Central Railway Station at Thampanoor. Photo: Rinku Raj Mattancheriyil

    Attukal Pongala
  • Attukal Pongala

    The scorching sun, the heat and dust were all forgotten as women from far and wide gathered in the city. Photo: Rinku Raj Mattancheriyil.

    Attukal Pongala
  • Attukal Pongala

    These visitors capture some wonderful moments of devotion which they may not come across anywhere else. Photo: Rinku Raj Mattancheriyil

    Attukal Pongala
  • Attukal Pongala

    There were women from all walks of life including celebrities like the award winner Priyanka and the former Malayalam actress Jalaja who took part in the festival. Photo: Manoj Chemancheri/Solomon Thomas

    Attukal Pongala
  • Attukal Pongala

    It is estimated that about four million women had gathered at the famous Attukal Devi temple in Thiruvananthapuram to offer Pongala to the deity. Photo: Rinku Raj Mattancheriyil

    Attukal Pongala

For people in Thiruvananthapuram, Attukal Pongala is not just a temple festival. Nor is it just an event, which goes down in the Guinness Book of World Records as one of the largest single gathering of women for a religious activity. It is much more than that – an affair with spirituality and celebrating women.

The legend

Attukal Pongala: What you need to know Vilakkukettu arriving at the temple. Photo: Onmanorama

The legend dates back to Silappathikaram and Kannagi. After setting Madurai on flames, Kannagi is supposed to have reached the banks of the Killiyar. She was tired and in mourning. The women of the land made and served her food, before she vanished and became presiding goddess at Attukal. And this is why, year after year, thousands come to offer pongala, from across the globe.

Attukal Pongala: What you need to know The temple, all decked up. Photo: Onmanorama

The pongala is rice cooked in pots – preferably earthen – symbolises the hospitable care that their forebears took of the forlorn Kannagi. It is prepared with care and love, sentiments, which still inspire the devout. Now, the word Pongala means also the act of offering the pongala, together with the various rites.

The spread

Attukal Pongala: What you need to know Everywhere you look, you see women. Photo: Onmanorama

In those good old days, the Pongala was restricted to the immediate precincts of the temple. Gradually, it extended; today, it covers almost 22kms around the temple. The pavements around the city become temporary hearths. It is not just locals who gather for the festival. People from far and wide, across the globe gather here.

Attukal Pongala: What you need to know It is not strange to see foreigners at Attukal. Some picking up pots from one of the many makeshift shops. Photo: Onmanorama

When?

The ten day festival culminates with the Pongala offered on March 11.

Where?

Attukal, Thiruvananthapuram

Alert

Attukal Pongala is primarily a women oriented festival. Men are not allowed near the temple on the Pongala day.

It is a local holiday. There may be roadblocks on the day.

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