Attukal Ponkala Mahotsavam is one of the most important festivals of Kerala, held at Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. This festival is exclusively for women, without caste or religious difference. Lakhs of women from Kerala and other parts of the country participate in this festival. The spirit of unity is an important feature of this festival.
It is an annual festival commencing on Karthika star day in Malayalam month Makaram-Kumbhom,which falls in February – March, with the chanting of thottampattu (a song praising Bhagavathy) and continues for nine days. On the 9th day, Ponkala is made and offered to the goddess, and the 10th day it concludes. This year, according to the calendar, this great festival of Attukal Pongala of Kerala is celebrated on 10th of March 2009.
Ponkala– Ponkala means golden pot. It is a sweet payasam made with rice, jaggery, plantains and coconut, in earthen pots,and offered to the goddess. The women devotees assemble in the temple premises with the payasm ingredients, the earthern pots, bricks and firehood. The cooking preparation starts morning and by noon would be over. The queue of the women come for ponkala making, stretches into few kilometers. Ponkala payasam is believed to be the most favourite offering of the goddess. After the ponkala, the women return home with the prasadams, having achieved some great satisfaction.
After Ponkala, the chief priest of the temple and his assistants go around and bless the devotees by sprinkling holy water on them and their offerings. This is considered as the goddess has gladly accepted their offerings. Then the idol of the Devi is taken in a procession to the Manacaud Sastha Temple accompanied by thalapoli, kuthiyottom, annam, vahanam and, caparisoned elephants with percussion.
Significance – This ponkala is done by the women for the well being of their husband and children.
Legends– Bhagavathy Attukalamma is considered as the incarnation of ‘Kannaki’, the heroine of ‘Silappathikaram’ by Tamil Poet Illango in 2nd century A.D. Attukal temple, is one of the places where Kannaki took rest on her journey from Madurai to Kodungallur.
Attukal Pongala has entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest gathering of women.