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Attukal is a place situated about two kilometers to the south east from Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala. The Attukal Pongala Mahotsava is the most important festival of Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. This festival at Attukal has been entered into the Guinness book of world records as the largest congregation of women in the world. The Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, one of the ancient temples of South India, is popularly described as Sabarimala of the Women, as women form the major portion of devotees is located at Attukal. The Goddess in the temple of Attukal is worshiped as the Supreme Mother, creator of all living beings and the mighty preserver as well as destroyer of them all. The pilgrims from all over the country, who visit Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple and worship the Lord, do not consider their visits complete without the visit to the shrine of the supreme Mother Attukalamma.
The offering of Pongala is a special temple practice dominant in the southern part of Kerala and some parts of Tamil Nadu. It is a ten-day program commence on the Karthika star of the Malayalam month of Makaram-Kumbham which falls in the month of February to March and closing with the sacrificial offering known as Kuruthitharpanam at night. The term ‘Pongala’ means to boil over. It refers to the customary offering of things which please the deity of Bhagavathy. It consists of porridge of rice, sweet brown molasses, coconut gratings, nuts and raisins.
On the ninth day of the festival the world famous Attukal Pongala Mahotsavam takes place. Thousands of women gather in the temple with materials for cooking Ponkala or Pongala. The ritual of cooking starts early in the morning and by noon, Pongala would be ready. Then the Melsanthi or the chief priest comes with Devi’s sword and bless the ladies by sprinkling holy water and showering flowers. The ‘blessed’ Pongala is taken back to the house by the ladies. The complete area of the temple with premises of houses of people of all caste, creed and religion, open fields, roads, commercial institutions, premises of Government offices etc. emerges as a consecrated ground for observing Pongala rituals for more than 2.5 million women devotees assembling from different parts of Kerala and outside. The ceremony is exclusively confined to women folk and the enormous crowd, which gathers in Thiruvananthapuram on this auspicious day is reminiscent of the Kumbha mela or Makar Sankranthi Festival of North India.