In one of the world's largest all-women religious gatherings, thousands of devotees performed the 'pongala' ritual of the famed Attukal Bhagavathy temple in the Kerala capital on Sunday.Women, cutting across class and caste barriers, prepared 'pongala'- a mix of rice, jaggery and grated cocount - in fresh earthen pots in an area of about 8 km radius around the temple, seeking the blessings of the Goddess for plenty and prosperity for their families. The festival began on a devotionally charged note at 10.30 AM with the chief priest lighting the traditional hearth in the temple premises. The sacred flame' quickly passed to the hearths of devotees in the entire length and bredth of the city.
Women also prepared 'theraliyappam' and 'mandaputtu' as offering to the Goddess. The festival, which made its way into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2009, also turned out to be a celebration of secular and social values with the people of the whole city and suburbs lending help for the smooth conduct of the festival. Devotees from different regions and abroad had started camping on roadsides and open spaces since Saturday afternoon. Nearly 5,000 police personnel were deployed for managing the tide of pilgrims converging in the city. The myth behind 'pongala' is linked to the Tamil classic 'Silappathikaram' of poet Elangovadikal, which narrates the story of Kannaki, an incarnation of Goddess Parvathy.
The temple lore has it that Kannaki had brief sojourn at the palm-shaded hamlet Attukal on the banks of the Killiyar while on her way to Kodungallur in central Kerala. She showered her blessing on the village after the people there offered hospitality and the divine event is celebrated annually. Apart from the police, various government departments stepped in with their services to the conduct of the festival. In every junction, vouluntary agencies arranged for free meal, snacks and water for the devotees. Union Minister Shashi Tharoor, who represents the city in the Lok Sabha, state temple affairs Minister V S Sivakumar, city Mayor Chandrika and leaders of all other parties were present in the temple.