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Aatukal Pongala Festival

The Pongala festival which is celebrated every year around late Feb and early March at the renowned Attukal Bhagavathi temple in Kerala’s capital city of Thiruvananthapuram is an experience with euphoria of religion, faith and beliefs. The festival has entered the Guinness records for being the largest single gathering of women for a religious activity.

The entire area of more than 5 kilometer radius around temple with premises of houses of people of all caste, creed and religion, open fields, roads, commercial institutions, premises of Government offices etc. emerges as a consecrated ground for observing Pongala rituals for more than 4 million women devotees assembling from different parts of Kerala and outside. The ceremony is exclusively confined to women folk and the enormous crowd, which gathers in Thiruvananthapuram on this auspicious day is reminiscent of the Kumbhamela Festival of North India.

Pongala (literally means to boil over) is a ritualistic offering of a sweet dish consisting of rice porridge, sweet brown molasses, coconut gratings, nuts and raisins. Devotees offer pongala to appease the presiding deity of the temple – the Goddess – popularly known as Attukalamma.

Women from near by and from distant places come to the city 1 or 2 days before the function to get a place as close to the temple to conduct their ritual. The hours and days of waiting can be seen from their body language as captured here in the process. From early morning of the festival the city starts to get crowded.

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