Wednesday, February 26th was the auspicious Attukal Pongala – a celebration exclusively for women where women in millions gather in the capital city of Kerala to offer jaggery payasam to please the goddess Attukal Bhagavathi. The celebration is so famous for its harmony where people forget all differences, caste, creed etc and fill their minds with devotion towards goddess. Though I was not present there, I could feel the mood of devotion and spirituality even at home. Full narration was given to me by mother, one among those 3 million ladies who did ponkala yesterday, a practice she has never missed for years. Through this column let me tell you how the rituals were conducted yesterday, which created great waves of women republic in the capital city of Kerala, also known as Ananthapuri.
Rituals started at 9 am at the temple. Pongala rituals began when Thottampattu (a type of temple song) ended in Paattupura (the special place where thottampattu is sung). Rituals began at sharp 10.45 am, also known as Muhurtham in Malayalam. Lamps were lighted at Srikovil (main temple) accompanied by chendamelam (Chenda is a traditional musical instrument played during festival celebrations).
Main Brahmin priest of Attukal temple, Chennas Dinesan Namboothiri (Thandri) handed the lamp to melshanti K.M.Harish Kumar. Melshanti lighted the pongala pots of main hearths of the temple – Cheriya Thidapally and Valiya Thidappally. Nivedyam for goddess is prepared at Cheriya Thidapally. Then it was handed to his sub-ordinate (Saha melshanti) Kesava Namboodiri at ‘Chuttambalam’ of the temple, who lighted the famous ‘Pandara adupp’ (Main Ponkala pot of temple) and the whole atmosphere turned to a Bhakthi mood. Women who were waiting for this ritual taking Vrita lighted their pots too. Before that, they made suitable arrangements to do ponkala including preparing brick hearths, filling earthen pots with water and scrapping coconut and jaggery.
It’s from Pandara adupp (the main pot) fire passed to millions of pots around the temple premises. Also, announcement was made that rituals have started, accompanied by Chendamelam and all women who were waiting for that auspicious moment in 7 km radius, started preparing their offerings in the form of rice jaggery payasam known as pongala payasam, white rice, mandaputt, thiraliyappam, payar (peas) nivedyam, ilayada, panthirunazhi, aravana payasam and many more.
Famous personalities present at temple were Aswathythirunal Gaurilakshmi Bai of Travancore Royal family, Minister V.S.Siva Kumar, Mayor K.Chandrika, BJP leader O.Rajagopal, Travancore Devaswam Secretary K.R.Jyothilal, District collector K.N.Satheesh, City police commissioner P.Vijayan and Deputy Mayor Happy kumar.
Only women are allowed to make pongala and you can’t see even a single male near ponkala pots, making it a woman-dominated celebration. Also, you can see women freely moving through the city streets without fear, with full freedom as this day solely belonged to them.
Nivedyam started sharply at 2.30 pm and more than 300 shantis were assigned the job to sprinkle the holy water on each and every pot of offerings prepared by the women. Temple Trust assigns those people and they complete the task within 1 hour or so, covering around 14-15 kms. Whole traffic was blocked when all ladies start returning to home. It’s not a new thing, it happens every year. Before or after doing pongala, ladies visit temple at Attukal to make their prayers and rituals complete, ignoring the crowd.
Though city witnessed water problems due to breakage of pipes, different organizations did their level best to supply water and other essentials that ladies needed to prepare pongala. Also, free food and drinks were supplied by them and homes and each and every street of Thiruvananthapuram city. It’s nothing else, but this hospitality that brings people again to this auspicious day, despite all difficulties of hot Medam month.
Kuthiyottam and Purathezhunnallipppu functions were conducted in the evening as usual. 971 boys participated in Kuthiyottam this year. Celebrations this year ends on Wednesday with the function, ‘Kappuketti Kudiyiruthu’.