Thiruvananthapuram: Women in thousands are
converging in the Kerala capital on the eve of the famed
"Pongala" festival of Attukal Bhagavathi temple, billed as the
world`s largest religious convergence of women.
A rare all-women event anywhere in the world, the main
feature of the festival is cooking sweetened rice on earthen
pots and offering it to Goddess Bhagavathi to invoke divine
Women will squat along roads and by-lanes since the wee
hours tomorrow to prepare the offering and wait till the
afternoon when the `pongala` would be sanctified by sprinkling
holy water by temple priests.
Attukal pongala has made its way to the Guinness Book of
World Records as the largest religious congregation of women
on a single day.
The temple management claims that around 3.2 million
devotees performed the ritual last year and the turnout is
expected to be higher this year.
According to the temple lore, the ritual commemorates the
hospitality accorded to Tamil mythical heroine Kannanki,
herself divine, by the local women while she was on her way
to Kodungallur in central Kerala after avenging the treachery
done to her husband Kovalan by the Madurai king.
Majority of devotees from outside come as groups and find a
suitable place to perform the ritual, while locals provide
facilities, including food and drinking water, to those coming
to perform the ritual at their premises.
Though the festival was confined to the temple ground
during the early days, it has now spread to every nook and
corner of the city with the increasing number of devotees.
The temple management, state agencies and railways have
made special arrangements for the festival.