All roads led to the famous Chakkulathukavu Bhagavathy Temple today for the annual Karthika Pongala festival. Thousands of devotees from across the state and neighbouring Tamil Nadu had gathered at the temple premises in the morning.
Pongala festival began with the priests bringing a lit lamp from the sanctum santorum and lighting a makeshift hearth in the temple. The fire was then transferred to thousands of makeshift hearths that dotted the area. In the evening, the ritualistic Karthika sthambam would be lit up.
Here's the story behind the temple and how the Pongala festival started.
The myth and the origin
Long long ago, Neerattupuram was a dense forest. Not many ventured into the fearsome woods. But once, a hunter and his family went inside the forest. A fierce snake attacked them and the hunter defended himself with his mace. It hurt the snake, which later vanished into the forest. The hunter, who wanted to make the kill, followed the serpent. He saw it curled around a snake pit. The hunter saw that it was injured and hit it again.
His axe had hit the pit and he saw water gushing out of the pit - and surprisingly the snake had vanished again. In its place stood the sage Narada who advised the hunter to find the 'Vana Durga 'idol inside the snake pit and worship her. The hunter did it religiously. Later on, the Namboodiri family of Pattamana Illam took over the administration of the temple. They built a temple, which gradually gained popularity.
Story behind the Pongala festival
The story behind the Pongala festival is also linked to the hunter who found the 'Vana Durga'. The hunter and his family used to make food in earthen vessels and make an offering to the Goddess before they started their day. One day, they could not observe this ritual. The next day, it is said, before the hunter could make the offering - the vessels in the premises was full of food. The hunter and his family believed that it was the Goddess, herself who prepared the food. They continued the ritual.
There is a much recent story which is linked to the Pongala festival too. It is said that early on 30, March, 1981, the pilgrims who came to the temple were surprised by the smell of incense sticks. The priest who opened the shrine was surprised to find the lamps lit and the goddess decked up in all finery. The astrologers who gathered decreed that the 'Karthika' day in the Malayalam month of Vrishchikam was to be considered special for the goddess. A tradition, which is continued even to this day.
Chakkulathukavu Temple is located in Neerattupuram on the Thiruvalla - Edathua route.