As I belong to the capital city of Kerala, Attukal Ponkala – an integral part of city’s celebrations has been associated with me since my childhood days. It’s a form of offering conducted in Thiruvananthapuram city, also known by the name Ananthapuri where millions of ladies offer Pongala to Attukalamma of the famous Attukal Devi temple. The event is recorded in Guinness Book of World Records as ‘the largest women gathering in any part of the world in a single day’, and every year around 4 million ladies participate in the event.
Till now I have been the part of this auspicious temple festival for more than 10 times since the age of 11. After my marriage, as I left the capital city, I got only fewer opportunities to come to the city the same day to give offerings to Attukal Amma.
Attukal Pongala is conducted as a part of 10-day celebrations of the temple that falls in the month of Meenam, as per Malayalam calendar, and Pongala is conducted on ‘Pooram’ star day of Meenam month when it’s terribly hot in Kerala. But advantage is that there is less chance for rainfall, which may spoil the event. It normally falls one day after the famous ‘Chottanikkara Makam’ of the famous Chottanikkara Devi temple.
On the pongala day, Hindu ladies flow in folk to the temple and premises. Temple premises will be booked by devotees before one week itself, by making hearths and placing earthen pots. On the Pongala day, millions of pots will be placed throughout the city. The whole streets, roads and premises of homes will be occupied by devotees around 5 km radius around the temple, and it’s not easy to take the count of devotees.
Once the millions of hearths are lighted, whole city turns to a Yagasala. Ladies make jaggery and milk payasam (pongal) as offerings using firewood and spend one day in chants till they return in the afternoon. People spend one full day under hot sun, before the hearths, fire and fumes. Yet it’s sure, if you attend the festival one time, you will definitely wish to join the celebrations next year. That’s the magic of this festival, and every year devotees’ number is increasing.