Attukal pongala is an annual celebration which throws the peaceful town of Thiruvananthapuram into a celebration. This celebration is an unique episode which occurs every year wherein the barriers of society are unchained and people from different walks of life irrespective of their different backgrounds embraces the true meaning of devotion which is selflessness. On the eve of Attukal Pongala all the homes in the Thiruvananthapuram leave their doors ajar and welcomes every devotee and do everything they can to ease the devotee’s hardships. This is the spirit of Attukal Pongala where every stranger helps the other without any inhibition for every service done to others is considered as a service to Attukal amma or as the people endearingly address her, Attukal Pongala
Attukal temple is an ancient temple which is situated in the capital city of Kerala and the main deity is Goddess Bhadrakali . The history about the temple has its roots in the legend that Attukal amma is Kannagi , the woman who is believed to be the incarnation of goddess Durga and was worshipped for her devotion and chastity . The story goes in this way that after her anger incinerated and reduced the historic city of Madurai into ashes for wrongfully prosecuting and beheading her husband Kovalan by the then King of Madurai ,for a theft he was innocent of, Kannagi travels from Madurai to Kodungallur and on the way she halts in Attukal. A temple was built on her name and amma is believed to have resided in Thiruvananthapuram as the mother of her devotees.
On the day of Attukal Pongala women from different corners of the world gather together to make gruel of rice mixed with jaggery commonly known as pongala payasam as an offering to amma. The uniqueness of this day is in the fact that it perhaps the only time in India or even the world where such a large conglomeration of women come together. This unique event has even etched its name twice in the Guinness World Records for being the largest gathering of women for a particular event.
Spending most of my childhood outside Thiruvananthapuram, it was only in the year 2011 I got the opportunity to witness this magnificent spectacle. As it is said to know something you have to experience it that was my tryst with Pongala . The eve of the festival which starts 10 days prior to the pongala , the air of the city is filled with a serene aura of prayers and anticipation. Road side stalls starts booming filled with vendors that sell earthen pots to people who throngs to this part of the world to witness and participate in pongala , the city which otherwise has its own rhythm becomes enthused with jubilation and the feeling is magical.
It is a festival that holds a lot of fascination to many people including me as the thought of so many women braving all the difficulties, coming together to pray to a deity who is the mother that loves everyone is really motivating. Even in today’s world which is privy to several discrimination and violence against women, here is a festival that celebrates womenhood , her strengths and her capacity to endure hardships and all this to pray for her loved ones is really empowering. The night before pongala several women comes from different places to offer their prayers ,sleeps or spend their night on roads without the fear for their security is indeed the way our world has to become as a place where every woman has a freedom which is not curtailed by the time of the day.
The Attukal Pongala will commence on 20th of February 2019 and more than 40 lakhs of women are expected to offer their prayers to their beloved Attukal ammachi.
Author : Varsha V Menon, advocate hails from Thiruvanathapuram