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Lakhs of Devotees Offer Pongala at Attukal Devi Temple

Held on the penultimate day of the Attukal temple festival, Pongala is the biggest ritual of the Thiruvananthapuram temple.

Neethu Reghukumar | CNN-News18

Updated:March 2, 2018, 5:16 PM IST
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Lakhs of Devotees Offer Pongala at Attukal Devi Temple
Women devotees prepare Pongala (offering) in makeshift brick stoves to appease the presiding deity of Attukal Bhagavathy temple in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday.
Thiruvananthapuram: The city was filled with lakhs of women devotees who came to offer pongala for the Attukal devi. Not just in the temple premises but in different parts of the city women were seen offering pongala.

The women braved the scorching heat and offered pongala with utmost devotion. Brick hearths for preparing the offering covered a radius of seven km from the temple.

The rituals began around 10:15 am on Friday when the chief priest of the Attukal Bhagavathi Temple lit the makeshift stove with fire brought from the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.

The fire was then passed on to the stoves of the women who had lined up on either side of the roads to cook their offering using rice, jaggery and coconut.

This year, women from neighbouring states also took part in the festival.

According to the traditions of this event, the women who take part in the Pongala festival have to be dressed in new clothes and every item used for cooking the 'divine' pongala has to be brand new.

According to the legend, Kannaki destroyed Madurai in Tamil Nadu after the king of Madurai wrongfully imposed the death penalty on her husband.

After that, Kannaki travelled to Kerala, where she rested for a while at Attukal and women are said to have cooked pongala to please her.

Various state government departments have made arrangements to see that festival goes off peacefully. Close to 4,300 police officers were on duty in the capital city, including 1,500 women police officers.

The organisers were assisted by the numerous clubs and other bodies, who set up more than 1,000 water kiosks and supplied free breakfast and lunch.

The doors of churches and mosques are also open for these devotees. At the palayam church and Juma Masjid, water and snacks were arranged for the women devotees.

However, a dampener to the otherwise non-controversial festival came from Director General of Police (Prisons) R. Sreelekha, who on Tuesday termed the 'Kuthiyottam' ritual at the famed Attukal Devi Temple as torture to the young boys who take part in a ritual. He demanded an end to the practice.

Kuthiyottam is a tradition where boys in the age group of 5 to 12 stay at the temple for seven days. During that period, the children sleep on the bare temple ground, take bath thrice a day, and have to wake up every morning at 3:30 am. On the final day, a tiny iron hook will be pierced into their skin. A thread will then be symbolically knotted through the piercing to symbolise their bond with divinity. The children then walk from the temple to another temple at Manacaud. They return to the Attukal temple and then hooks are pulled out and ash applied on the wounds.

Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said that there is no need to make this a controversy.

"The allegation of child rights violation can be examined in detail. This is a tradition going on for years and this time also all arrangements have been made for this by the temple. There is no need to make this into a controversy now."

A list of celebrities from governor P Sathasivam's wife, police chief Loknath Behra's wife, athlete PT Usha, offered pongala.

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| Edited by: Bijaya Das
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