Communal harmony: Churches change Sunday worship timings in view of ‘Attukal Pongala’ in Kerala capital

Some churches will also open their grounds and even some portions of their buildings for those celebrating the 'pongala'.


Published Feb 23, 2024 | 4:15 PMUpdatedFeb 23, 2024 | 4:15 PM

Attukal pongala. (Wikimedia)

Setting an example of religious harmony and brotherhood, churches Thiruvananthapuram have changed their worship timings for Sunday to accommodate the lakhs of women expected to turn up in the state capital for “Attukal Pongala” on that day.

Besides changing the worship timings, some churches will also open their grounds and even some portions of their buildings for those celebrating the “pongala”.

Reverend Wilfred Emilias of the Latin Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram told a TV channel that the Palayam St Joseph’s Metropolitan Cathedral’s grounds and a hall would be opened for the women devotees.

In addition to that, water and “sambharam” (spiced buttermilk) would also be provided to them, he said.

Most of the worship timings have been changed to Sunday evening or advanced to the previous day.

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Attukal Pongala

On the day of “Attukal Pongala”, the Kerala capital turns into “yagyashala” — where rituals are performed — as a large number of women devotees from various parts of the state prepare offerings on brick hearths lining the roads of the city.

The offerings are prepared for the presiding deity of the Attukal Bhagavathy temple here.

The “pongala” — a mix of rice, jaggery, and scraped coconut — or various other kinds of sweet delicacies are prepared in fresh earthen or metal pots.

The festivities start in the morning after the chief priest lights the “pandara aduppu”, the main hearth at the Attukal temple.

Following this, the women devotees light their makeshift brick stoves and begin preparing the “pongala” or sweet delicacies like “payasam” and “therali”.

The ceremony concludes in the afternoon with the sprinkling of holy water by temple priests at an appointed time. The pongala festival marks the finale of a 10-day ritual at the shrine.

Preparing “pongala” is considered an auspicious all-women ritual as part of the annual festival of the Attukal temple here, popularly known as the “Women’s Sabarimala”.

The ritual had made it to the Guinness Book of World Records in 2009 for being the largest religious gathering of women on a single day when 2.5 million participated in it.

As per a local legend, the annual festival commemorates the hospitality accorded by women in the locality to Kannagi, the divine incarnation of the protagonist of the Tamil epic Silappadhikaram, while she was on her way to avenge the injustice meted out to her husband Kovalan, after destroying Madurai city.

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