THIRUVANANTHAPURAM March 12: Attukal Pongala, which has achieved the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest single congregation of women is much more than mere spirituality. It is assumed that over four billion women have gathered in the capital city of Kerala to offer pongala to the deity.
'Pongala' is the most important festival of Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. The offering of Ponkala is a very special temple practice in the southern part of Kerala. The ten-day- long celebration commences in the Malayalam month of Makaram-Kumbham (Feb - March) on the Karthika star. Ponkala ceremony is on the auspicious day of Pooram star which coincides with full moon. This festival commemorates the victory of Good over Evil, by the slaying of Pandyan King.
The story dates back to Kannaki and Silappathikaram. Legend has it that Kannaki took a sojourn at Attukal, on her way to Kodungalloor, after destroying Madhura city.
Every year thousands of woman from across Kerala visit the temple to offer pongala to the deity. Pongala, the sweet dish made of rice, jaggery and grated coconut, symbolises the food served by women of land to Kannaki.
Attukal pongala festival won Guinness Book of World Records as the largest single congregation of women with a record of 2.5 million participants. Temple authorities state that numbers of female devotees grow every year.
In those good old days, pongala preparation was restricted to the immediate premises of the temple, But as the temple became more popular and with increasing number of devotees, celebrations spread to more area and today it covers almost 25 km around the temple.
Apart from thousands of private vehicles, both Centre and state government facilitate free transportation for devotees on the day. Kerala State Road Transport Corporation mobilises over 400 buses while Railways arrange special trains for devotees.