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Attukal Pongala - A festival of Women folk
Attukal Pongala is an very popular women's festival celebrated in the Bhagavathy temple at Attukal in Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala,India. It is a ten day event that falls in the Malayalam month of Makaram-Kumbham (February-March) and comes to an end with the sacrificial offering known as at night. A large number of women from all caste and creed from Kerala and from neighboring states make offerings for the Goddess by cooking pongala in the temple premise and its surrounding areas.
It is believed that Goddess Attukalamma is the incarnation of Kannaki. 'Pongala' means the offering of things which please the deity. It may consists of porridge of rice, jaggery, milk, ghee, coconut gratings, nuts and raisins or sweet dish prepared in leaves (ela ada), or appams (another sweetdish), and so on. The Priest lights the fireplace in front of the temple. This is then passed on from one woman to the other who light their hearth and prepare Pongala (the offering).
Festivities begin with a song about Goddess. These songs continue for nine days of the festival. On the ninth and the main day of Attukal Pongala thousands of women gather in the temple with materials for cooking Pongala. The ritual of cooking starts early in the morning and by noon, Pongala would be ready. Then the chief priest arrives and bless the ladies by sprinkling holy water and showering flowers. The Pongala is then taken back to the house by the ladies.
Later that day, the idol of Devi is carried to Manacaud Sastha Temple in a procession accompanied by procession. En route onlookers greet the procession with Nirapara (a measure filled with paddy and decorated with flowers). The procession reaches back, the next morning, marking the end of the festival. Musical programs by famous artistes add to the festivities.
Pongala festival has found a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest attendance of women.And it is the only festival in the world where only women folk participates.