The annual 'pongala' festival is celebrated with great fervor at the Attukal Bhagavathy temple popularly known as the 'Sabarimala of women' at Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of the state of Kerala. Pongala, held on the ninth day of the ten-day-long festival, is the most important ritual of the temple. This festival is said to be the largest annual gathering of women in the world.
'Pongala' means to boil over, and it refers to the customary offering of things which pleases the goddess. Devotees from all walks of life, irrespective of their social status, religion and cast, throng the temple to offer the 'pongala'- a sweet rice, prepared in earthen pots with rice, jaggery and coconut, to the Goddess. Only women are allowed to participate in this custom.
The ritual of cooking starts early in the morning and by noon, Pongala would be ready. Then the chief priest of the temple arrives with the Goddess’s sword and blesses the ladies by sprinkling holy water and showering flowers. The ladies take this blessed Pongala back to their houses. It is widely believed that the Goddess Bhagawati can make your wishes come true if you participate in this festival and the women do the rituals for health and prosperity of their families.
There is a legend behind this festival. Attukal is said to be one of the places where Goddess Attukalamma, believed to be the incarnation of 'Kannaki', (heroine of 'Silappathikaram' by Tamil Poet Illango in the 2nd century A.D) took rest on her journey northward from Madurai to Kodungallur.
Pongala festival has found a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest attendance of women on February 23, 1997. 1.5 million women had participated in that year's Pongala.
How to get there
Air : The nearest airport is Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, located at Valiyathura, 6kms from the city and about 7 km from the shrine. Many international air carriers operate daily international flights to Middle East, Male and Sri Lanka from Thiruvananthapuram. Indian Airlines has direct communications to Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi. Jet Air (Gulf Air) has daily flights to Mumbai and Chennai.
Rail : Thiruvananthapuram central station located at Thampanoor is about 2 km from the shrine. The booking office is open Monday to Saturday from 8am to 2pm and 2.15 to 8pm. Sunday from 8am to 2pm. Railway enquiry Phone: 131.
Road : Thampanoor, about 2 km from the shrine is the main bus terminal in Thiruvananthapuram. It is located just opposite to the railway station. All of the long distance buses leave from here. (Bus Station - Phone: 0471-2323886)
Festivals - Kerala