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" Sarva Mangala Mangalie Sive Sarvardha

Sadhike Saraneye Thrambike Gowri Narayani Nomo sthuthe "










All set for pongala: Devotees setting up hearths to prepare pongala for Attukal

Bhagavathy today





'Attukal Pongala' on today


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The 'Pongala Mahotsavam,' festival at the Attukal Bhagavathy

temple here, one in which only women participate, is expected to attract nearly

two lakh women on today. The festival got underway on March 5 and will end on

March 14.


'Pongala Mahotsavam' is the most important part of the festival at the temple,

one of the oldest in South India. Women devotees prepare a dish containing rice

and jaggery and offer the same as 'prasadam' to Goddess Bhagavathy when the head

priest of the temple announces the auspicious time.


The administration has also geared itself up to provide facilities to

devotees, who started arriving in the city today to get a vantage point near the

temple to cook the offering. Temple officials said all arrangements had been

made for the successful conduct of the ritual. A large number of police

personnel, including policewomen, have been deployed near the temple and also

all over the city as part of the security arrangements, police said.


Ponkala Mahotsavam


'Ponkala' is the most important festival of Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. The

offering of Ponkala is a very special temple practice in the southern part of

Kerala. The ten-day- long celebration commences in the Malayalam month of

Makaram-Kumbham (Feb - March)on the Karthika star. Ponkala ceremony is on the

auspicious day of Pooram star which coincides with full moon. The festival

commences with the musical rendering of the story of the Goddess (Kannaki

Charitam) during the " Kappukettu ceremony " . The story invokes the presence of

Kodungallur Bhagavathy and the slaying of the Pandyan King. The song will

continue for all the nine days preceding Ponkala. The event of the Goddess

annihilating the Pandyan King is accompanied by much sound and fury of the

temple drums and " Vaykurava " by devotees, immediately followed by the lighting

of the hearths for the preparation of the offering for the Goddess. This

festival commemorates the victory of Good over Evil, by the slaying of Pandyan


Throughout the festival an atmosphere of celebration and festivity prevails and

there are the solemn observances such as regular conduct of Bhajans, musical

concerts, ballets depicting folk and temple arts etc. in the temple premises.

This is symbolic of the philosophy that human and divine affairs are inter-woven

so minutely in all its disquisitions. Processions of colourful floats of the

deity from all around, carried with pomp and devotion by the devotees

congregating in the temple premises provides a pleasing experience.




A Rare Charm of the Festival


On the 9' day of the festival, it would appear as though all roads in and around

Thiruvananthapuram city lead to the Attukal Temple. The entire area of about 5

Kilometres radius around the temple, with houses of people of all caste, creed

and religion open fields, roads and commercial institutions emerge as a

consecrated ground for observing Ponkala ritual for the lakhs women devotees

assembling from different parts of Kerala and outside. This ceremony is

exclusively confined to women folk. It is a delightful sight to see waves after

waves of women of all age groups without caste, colour and creed surging into

this area well in advance mostly carrying on their head materials such as

firewood, earthern pots rice, jaggery, coconut etc. to mark out specific spots

for the preparation of their offerings to the Goddess. The important ritual in

the 'Ponkala' is the preparation of rice or varieties of sweet rice using

hearths and the earthern pots in the open. The signal for lighting -the

hearth is given by the chief priest of the temple at a prefixed auspicious time

followed by the humming of the temple drums.


The ceremony concludes with the sprinkling of holy water by temple priests at

the appointed time in the evening accompanied by an aerial showering of flowers

to the honour and glory of the Goddess Almighty. The temple authorities make all

necessary arrangements for the welfare of this huge congregation with the active

participation of the voluntary agencies, local people, members of the festival

committee and the various government departments. They ensure law and order in

the area with the support of the police and the volunteers specially detailed

for the purpose. The enormous crowd which gathers here is reminiscent of the

huge gatherings of the Kumbha Mela festival of North India.


Kuthiyottam and Thalappoli


Kuthiyottam performed by boys and Thalappoli by girls are two popular rituals

made on the Ponkala day. A stream of young girls dressed in traditional attire

holding Thalappoli starts very early in the morning with the hope that the

Goddess almighty would be pleased to bestow on them beauty inward and outward,

health, wealth and happiness. Boys below the age of 13 years make the offering

of Kuthiyottam. These young boys represent the wounded soldiers of the Goddess

Mahishasura Marddini. On the third day of the festival these young boys receive

the prasadam (offering) from the temple priest and start a seven day penance to

purify their body and mind. For the purpose they have to pass through rigorous

physical and mental discipline such as sleeping on the floor, observing strict

diet restrictions, staying in the temple etc. Besides these, the boys have to

undergo such disciplines like prostrating 1008 times before the deity after

their morning and evening oblations.


The Divine Procession


No sooner are the boys adorned for accompanying the Deity than the grand

procession begins. The procession with illumination, floats and colourful

festoons on either side of the road generate a gala atmosphere. This is made

more attractive with various art forms like peacock dance, poykuthira dance,

kolkali, theyyam, kumbhadance, display of other art forms which are followed by

kuthiyottam, panchavadyam. Lastly a sight to behold is, the magnificent

procession of Attukal Bhagavathy on the caparisoned elephant displaying with

Alavattom and Venchamaram under the resounding echo of occasional gun shots.

Enroute it is a splendid sight to see the devotees who assemble on either side

of the road welcoming the goddess in reverence with different kinds of offerings

in salvers and " vaykurava " . The procession starting from Attukal temple reaches

the Sastha Temple at Manacaud in the small hours of the morning and after the

necessary pooja ceremonies performed there, the entourage returns to

Attukal. Thereafter, the deity is received back in the sanctum with

Deeparadhana. Soon after the Deeparadhana, the 'boys are delivered of the

penance in an orderly manner. At night, rendering of devotional songs takes

place which is followed by the ceremonial removal of the " Kappu " . The ten day

festival Culminates with the sacrificial offering known as 'Kuruthi Tharpanam'

at night.


Attukal Special Report



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