The Attukal Bhagavathy Temple Trust announced on Wednesday that devotees will not be permitted to offer Pongala on the Attukal temple premises on February 27 given the Covid-19 scenario.
This year, the Pongala offering at the temple will be limited to the ‘Pandara Aduppu’, the main hearth at the temple. The main hearth will be lit at 10.50 am. The sanctification of the hearth will be held at 3.40 p.m.
In view of the Covid-19 threat, the government has urged devotees to offer pongala at their homes instead. District Collector Navjot Khosa urged the public to refrain from taking part in pongala festivities at public places on account of the pandemic situation. The Attukal temple trust was asked to ensure the same. Those offering pongala at private residences should ensure that social distancing is observed. The temple will not be deputing priests for sprinkling the holy water on hearths. Devotees who arrive at the temple to offer darshan are asked to observe the Covid-19 protocol and avoid wearing gold ornaments.
According to temple officials, the ‘Kuthiyottam’ ritual, annually attended by hundreds of boys, will be limited to the ‘Pandara Ottam’ by a single boy this time. The ‘Thalappoli’ ritual will be restricted to girls between the ages of 10 and 12.
Preparing ‘pongala’ is considered an auspicious ritual of the annual festival of the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. Women from all over Kerala and outside the state, cutting across age barriers converge in Thiruvananthapuram to offer pongala in public places to appease the Goddess.
The festival is marked as the largest annual gathering of women by the Guinness World Records.
According to local legend, Pongala festival commemorates the hospitality accorded by women in the locality to Kannagi, the divine incarnation of the heroine of the Tamil epic 'Silappadhikaram' while she was on her way after destroying Madurai city to avenge the injustice to her husband Kovalan. Attukal Temple is called the "Women's Sabarimala" as only women perform rituals, while it is predominantly men who undertake the pilgrimage to the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala.
In March 2020, Pongala was held as usual even amidst the Covid pandemic. Although there was a ban on foreigners participating in the event, there were no restrictions on devotees.