Thousands of hearts have been lit all across Thiruvananthapuram city where women devotees grouped on February 20 for the Attukal Pongala for making the annual offering to the deity, Attukal Bhagavathy. The Attukal Pongala – for long identified as the Women’s Sabarimala – had, in 2009, registered the Guinness Book of Records as the largest gathering of women.
The makeshift brick stoves were lit soon after the chief priest at the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple lighted the ‘Pandora Aduppu’ – the main hearth – at 10.15 a.m.
The grounds of the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, the epicenter of the festivities, and an area covering a ten-km radius in the state capital are lined with the makeshift stoves, flipping the entire region into a festival zone. The offering to the deity is chiefly made up of rice, jaggery, coconut gratings, and ghee. The ceremony is celebrated on the ninth day of the annual festival at the temple.
Early Wednesday morning, thousands of women lined up at the Attukal Temple to present prayers to the deity before preparing the Pongala presenting . The ceremony will conclude with the sprinkling of holy water on the hearths by 2.15 p.m.
Government departments and the State Disaster Management Authority have made elaborate arrangements for the smooth conduct of the festival this year. The police have deployed 3700 personnel as part of beefing up security. The police have also put the festival zone under surveillance using CCTV cameras and drones.
The Health Department, Fire and Rescue Service, Kerala Water Authority and the Power Department also have made arrangements for the conduct of the festival. The Kerala State Road Transport Department is conducting special services for the safe return of the devotees.