The annual Attukal Pongala, billed the largest congregation of women, will be held in compliance with Covid-19 protocols at Attukal Temple, Thiruvananthapuram, on February 27.
A high-level meeting chaired by Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran here on Wednesday decided to declare only the ward surrounding the Attukal Temple as festival zone. Rituals such as ‘Kutthiyottam,’ ‘Vilakkukettu,’ and ‘Thalapoli’, held as part of the 10-day Attukal Pongala festival, have been dropped from this year’s festival schedule. The plan is to confine the pongala to the temple premises and admissions to the temple compound will be given through online registration like on the lines of Sabarimala model. A decision on the maximum number of people who would be allowed to offer the ritual would be taken later. The meeting has also decided not to allow people to offer pongala on public roads or other public places. In view of the Covid-19 threat, the government is urging devotees to offer pongala at their homes.
As many as 5,659 new Covid cases were reported in the state on Wednesday along with 5,006 recoveries. The state also confirmed 20 more deaths taking the total toll to 3,663.
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.