Thiruvananthapuram | Thousands of women devotees from across the state and outside today took part in the annual Pongala festival of the famous Attukal Bhagavathi shrine here, rated to be one of the largest all-women religious events of the world. Cutting across class, caste and even religious barriers, devotees congregated around 10 km radius of the temple in highways and bylanes and prepared ‘Pongala’ (a mix of rice and jaggery) in earthen pots as offering to the Goddess for the prosperity of their families.
The festival has been attracting an average of 3-5 lakh devotees every year, which prompted Guinness Book of World Records to record it as the biggest congregation of women on a single day for a religious ritual. As per local legend ‘pongala’ festival commemorates the hospitality accorded by women in the locality to Kannagi’, the divine incarnation of the heroine of Tamil epic ‘Silappadikaram’, while she was on her way to Kodungalur in central Kerala after taking revenge against wrongdoers in the ancient Tamil city of Madurai for her husband’s death. Though in the early years it was purely a local festival of small gathering of women, over the last few decades ‘pongala’ has become a major religious event in the state.
Elaborate security and crowd management arrangements had been made for safe and smooth conduct of the event. Large number of women police personnel were deployed at different parts of the city and in temple premises as part of security arrangements. Different organisations had made arrangements for drinking water and food for devotees at various points in the city. Besides the religious importance, the annual festival has also become a boon to earthen pot-makers in South India as thousands of earthen pots are in demand during the event.
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