Significance of Attukal Pongala

Without any persuasion or advertisement, more than a million women assemble in the Indian southern city of Trivandrum in Kerala on the day when Pooram Nakshatram and Poornima coincides in the Malayalam month of Kumbham (February - March). In 2015, Attukal Pongala is on March 5. Their sole aim is to cook rice with jaggery and coconut for Attukal Amma and seek the blessings of the Goddess who is the incarnation of Kannagi.

Attukal Pongala is held on the ninth day of the 10-day festival at the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. The goddess worshipped at Attukal temple is Kannagi who is an incarnation of Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva.

Kannagi is the heroine of famous Tamil poem Silappathikaram - the Epic of the Anklet. The story has it that Kannagi’s husband Kovalan was unjustly put to death by the ruler of Madurai for stealing the anklet of the queen. Kannagi proves the innocence of her husband at the court and in anger sets the entire Madurai city on fire. She then leaves the city and on her way to Kodungalloor shrine stops at Attukal.

It is said that the Goddess appeared as a child before an elderly man who was performing his evening oblations at the Killi River. The child wanted to cross the river but the old man was surprised to see a small girl at that odd time. So, he helped her in crossing the river and decided to take her home. Couple of minutes after reaching home, the young girl was not to be seen. During that night, Goddess appeared in the dream of the old man and told him that she had drawn three lines in a sacred grove nearby and she would like to reside there. Next morning, the old man went to the place and to his surprise found three marks at the suggested place. He built a small temple there and as time passed the Goddess brought prosperity to the region and the local people renovated the shrine to the present status.

People believe that the Goddess showers her blessings on women and children. She suffered injustice and her suffering symbolizes the suffering of women in all ages. The goddess provides strength to overcome the numerous impediments. Children like her because she appeared in the form of a child and the Goddess has a special place for children in her mind.

Record books have been rewritten by this unique gathering of women. Some people call it the Kumbh Mela of South India and for some the temple is the Sabarimala of women. Words often fail to catch true spirit of the thousands of women who sit on the roads of Trivandrum city making porridge for the Goddess.
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