Attukal Pongala begins sans massive crowd

‘Payasam,’ rice, ‘manda puttu,’ and ‘therali appam’ are the main offerings to the deity

In what is perhaps a first in recent memory, the famed Attukal Pongala got off to a start here on Saturday morning with the offering at the Attukal Bhagavathy temple being limited only to the ‘pandara aduppu’ – the main hearth.

The mammoth crowds associated with what is known as the largest annual congregation of women were absent this year following the State government and the temple trust’s decision to scale down the festival in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Pongala, literally the showstopper of the 10-day annual festival, sees women, particularly from the southern districts of the State, descend on the capital city, at times a couple of days ahead, to book their places to offer Pongala to the goddess Bhagavathy. This year though, devotees were being allowed inside only to offer prayers. The thousands and thousands of pots atop makeshift red-brick hearths made that usually dot the temple, its surroundings, and many thoroughfares in the city gave way to quiet Pongala offerings at homes.

People’s representatives, including Minister for Tourism Kadakampally Surendran; Mayor Arya Rajendran; Shashi Tharoor, MP; and MLAs V.K. Prasanth, O. Rajagopal, and V.S. Sivakumar were among those who reached the temple ahead of the lighting of the main hearth.

After the rituals inside the temple, temple trantri Thekkedath Kuzhikkattillathu Parameswaran Vasudevan Bhattathiripad handed over the flame from the sanctum sanctorum to melsanthi P. Easwaran Namboothiri to light the Pongala hearth at the ‘thidapally’ and the ‘Valiya thidapally’ of the temple. The ‘pandara aduppu’ (main hearth) was lit around 10.55 a.m. in an atmosphere of piety and worship.

Simultaneously, devotees kicked off the Pongala preparation at their homes too. ‘Payasam,’ rice, ‘manda puttu,’ and ‘therali appam’ are the main offerings to the deity. Prayers and ululations marked the preparation of the offering at the temple.

The ‘nivedyam’ (sanctification) will be held at 3.40 p.m. COVID-19 has forced a change in this ritual too. ‘Pottis’ (priests) from the temple will not fan out across the city to sanctify the hearth as always. The sanctification will be done by the devotees themselves, to coincide with the nivedyam at the temple.

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