PTI, March 6, 2023, 9:24 AM IST
‘Attukal Pongala’, a mass gathering of thousands of women devotees to offer ‘Pongala’ to the presiding deity of the Attukal Bhagwati temple here will be celebrated on Tuesday.
As ‘Pongala’ is going to be celebrated this year without any COVID-19 restrictions, unlike the last two years, a huge turnout of women is expected this time.
Considered the world’s largest religious gathering of women, roadside brick ovens are set up in the state capital to prepare ‘pongala’ – a mixture of rice, jaggery and grated coconut – in fresh clay or metal pots.
The signal to light the brick oven is given by the head priest of the temple at a certain auspicious time.
The ceremony concludes with the sprinkling of holy water by the temple priests at a fixed time in the afternoon.
The preparation of ‘Pongala’ is considered an auspicious all-women ritual as part of the annual festival of the Attukal temple here, known as “Women’s Sabarimala”. Anticipating a huge turnout this year after the Covid-19 pandemic, police and fire departments have made elaborate arrangements to ensure that the public celebrates the festival without any mishaps or inconveniences.
The police imposed restrictions on movement and parking of heavy, container and goods vehicles in Thiruvananthapuram city on March 6 and 7.
Parking by devotees and public has also been banned on city roads and footpaths and on the way to the temple.
Devotees have also been instructed not to set up their cooking stations on footpaths.
They have been asked to leave space for emergency vehicles on the roads while cooking stations are set up.
The fire department, as part of their preparations, pressed into service around 130 civil defense volunteers and 300 fire rescue personnel.
The Pongala festival marks the end of the 10-day ritual at the temple.
This ritual made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2009 when 2.5 million people participated in it in one day.
According to local legend, the annual festival commemorates the hospitality extended by local women to Kannagi, the divine incarnation of the heroine of the Tamil epic ‘Silapdhikaram’ when she was on her way to avenge the injustice done to her husband Kovalan, after destroying the city of Madurai.
Attukal Temple is called the “Women’s Sabarimala” as only women perform the rituals, whereas it is mainly men who make the pilgrimage to Lord Ayyappa’s hill temple at Sabarimala.
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