Attukal Pongala Festival is celebrated in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The date on which it is celebrated keeps changing every year, for example, this year it was celebrated on March 9th 2020, and next year it will be celebrated on February 27th 2021.
The date of the festival depends on Karthikakshatrawhich is celebrated in the Malayalam months of Makaram or Kumbham, which usually falls in February or March. The festival is celebrated for around 10 days, where lakhs ok women come together on the 9th day to offer their prayers to Goddess Bhagavathy.
Attukal Pongala History
The festival of Attukal Pongala Festival has a mythological tale behind it, which makes the faith of the women strong and powerful.
It was said that there was a beautiful woman who married a wealthy merchant from Kaveripattinam by the name of Kovalan. Their happily married life had a brief span because Kovalan fell in love with Madhavi, who was a dancer.
Kovalan left his wife and moved in with Madhavi. But after a few years, he realized his mistake, and he returned to his wife. Kannagi forgave him, but they had no money left to survive.
The only thing that Kannagi had was a pair of precious anklets that she gave her husband to sell so that they could get some money to get by. Kovalan went to Madurai to sell the anklets. At that time Madurai was ruled by Pandya King Nedunj Cheliyan.
Coincidentally, when Kovalan went to Madurai to sell those anklets, the Queen of Madurai lost her anklets, and they both were almost identical/ When Kovalan tried to sell off the anklets, he was accused of stealing the Queen’s anklet. He was presented in front of the King, to be beheaded.
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Kannagi was furious when she learnt that her husband was beheaded, and she went to the King’s Court. To prove her husband’s innocence, she broke the anklet open. As opposed to pearls being in the Queen’s anklet, her anklet had rubies. This proved that Kovalan was wrongfully killed.
Even though the King and Queen realized their mistake, but it was too late as the damage had already been caused and it was irreversible. In that angst, Kannagi tore her breast out and threw it on the city to curse it. Because of the curse, the entire city was set ablaze.
After she set the city on fire, she went to Kodungalloor in Kerala, and a temple was built in her name by natives years later. It is also believed that Kodungalloor Devi Temple, which is situated south of Guruvayoor, is where she finally settled.
She is celebrated because she was considered to be a courageous and strong woman, in traditional and cultural history in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. She is considered to be the embodiment of purity and chastity. Along with that, she is also worshipped for her strength, that she was completely devoted to her husband even though he had abandoned her.
Attukal Pongala Significance
The temple is also known as the ‘Sabrimala of Women’, and it attracts lakhs of women every year.
Lakhs of women come together to celebrate this festival and offer Goddess prosperity and success.
The Chief Priest of the temple carries the sword of the Devi and bless all the women present, thereby sprinkling holy water and showering flowers on them.
This festival talks about a woman’s strength and power and what she is capable of. It is celebrated to celebrate what Kannagi stood for and how powerful and strong she was.
This gives inspiration to millions of women who fast for nine days and come together to celebrate this festival together and motivates them to fight for their rights and stand for what is right.
It is all the more significant because the festival of Attukal Pongal was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records back in February 1997, where around 1.5 lakh women had attended the festival.
How is it celebrated?
This festival is held in the months of February or March, and it lasts for ten days. On the 9th day, auspicious Attuka Pongala is done. Women come from all the different states, and all walks of life to celebrate this festival together. Women from different countries also come to the temple to celebrate this auspicious festival.
On all the ten days of the festival, every street, road, school, college, and public place is filled with women who celebrate this festival with pomp and excitement. Women prepare an offering which is called ‘Pongal’. This is an offering that is made in earthen pots and is made with a combination of rice, jaggery, and coconut.
The pongala is spread over nearly 5 km from the circumference of the temple. Women fast for 9 days, to celebrate in the Pongala.
The festival starts off with the Kappukettu festival, where a famous vocal ballad ‘thottam pattu’ is sung. This song tells the story of Kannaki, which is sung by a particular family. This song is sung in a green shed which is made with coconut leaves in front of the temple. This ritual goes on till the 10th day of the festival.
When they reach the part where Madurai was destroyed, women light a fire to prepare for Pongala.
There is an offering which is made during the 10 days of the festival, which is Vilakku Kettu. Vilakku Kettu is a lamp that is decorated with glitter, cloth, and flowers to make it beautiful. These are taken to the temple, where they are lit.
Apart from other rituals, Devi is taken out of the temple in a procession that is very colourful and bright. It is believed that Devi is taken out of the temple, to see and meet her devotees, and also to meet her brother Dharmasastha. The devotees welcome her warmly with flowers, coconuts, fruits, and garlands. The next day they return to the temple after all the procession, where on the last day a special ritual is performed by the main priest.