Tens of thousands of women offer ‘pongala’ at Attukal Devi temple in Thiruvananthapuram

The rituals began shortly after the chief priest lit the main hearth near the shrine, signalling the start of the annual event.


Published Feb 25, 2024 | 1:09 PMUpdatedFeb 25, 2024 | 1:10 PM

Women gathered to offer pongala. (Facebook)

Under the slightly cool relief of a cloudy sky, and a brief drizzle, tens of thousands of women gathered in Kerala capital Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday, 25 February, to partake in a sacred ritual known as ‘Pongala.’

The ritual, considered one of the largest religious gatherings of women in the world, saw makeshift brick stoves line the roads for several kilometres in the city as women prepared offerings to honour the presiding deity of the famous Attukal Bhagavathy temple.

The rituals began shortly after, at 10.40 am, when the chief priest lit the main hearth (Pandara Aduppu) near the shrine, signalling the start of the annual event.

Also Read: Women arrive in large numbers ahead of ‘Attukal Pongala’ on 25 February

Devotees lined up

Attukal pongala

Devotees lining up outside the temple on Sunday. (Supplied)

Women from all across the state and outside prepared the sweet dish ‘pongala’ — meaning, ‘to boil over’ — a mix of rice, jaggery, ghee and scraped coconut, in fresh earthen pots by lining up on either side of the roads for kilometres around the shrine in the state capital.

The ritual 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 took part in it.

Women have been arriving in the state capital since Thursday to grab good spots for setting up their brick hearths to prepare ‘pongala’.

The pongala festival marks the finale of the shrine’s 10-day ritual.

Also Read:Churches change Sunday worship timings in view of ‘Attukal Pongala’ 

The ritual

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’.

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, Ilango Adikal’s Silappadhikaram while she was on her way to avenge the injustice meted out to her husband Kovalan, after destroying Madurai city.

This year’s ‘pongala’ is in the news for another reason also — churches in Thiruvananthapuram changed their worship timings on Sunday to accommodate the huge number of devotees who turned up on the day to celebrate the festival.

Besides changing the worship timings, some churches also opened their grounds and even some portions of their buildings for those preparing the ‘pongala’.

To ensure that the festival is celebrated safely and cleanly, the Kerala government’s Suchitwa Mission has issued a green protocol.

(Disclaimer: The headline, subheads, and intro of this report along with the photos may have been reworked by South First. The rest of the content is from a syndicated feed, and has been edited for style.)