ATTUKAL PONKALA Kerala

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1. The world’s largest only women festival is to be celebrated on February 20 2019. The festival entered the Guinness Book of World Record in 2009 for the largest number of women who converge at the Temple to personally prepare offerings for the Atukkal Amma, the Mother Goddess. We show festival step by step. Ladies sitting on the road during Ponkala.

2. Festival is celebrated at the Attukal Bhagavathi Temple Trivandrum. Ladies gathered in front of the temple waiting for their turn to get in.

3. Women devotees buying earthen pot. “Pongala, which means `to boil over’, is the ritual in which women prepare sweet payasam (a pudding made from rice, jaggery, coconut and plantains cooked together) and offer it to the Goddess or ‘Bhagavathy’.”

4. Young boy sells bay leaves to lady devotees. The ritual can only be performed by women and the streets of the city are full of devotees during the festival. “The Goddess-fondly referred to as ‘Attukalamma’ is said to be appeased by this ritual. The entire Thiruvananthapuram city lights up in festive fervour.”

5. Fruit stalls come up on the road like this one selling bananas.

6. Many road junctions have this make shift temple.

7. Mass cooking is done at road junctions. Food is cooked by men for the women. This is the ninth day of the ten-day festival when the eastern part of the city & a little over five kilometer radius turns into millions of makeshift brick hearths fired by coconut fronds. These are lit by an initial flame from the Temple to facilitate cooking of a payasam as an offering to the Goddess.

8. Tasty dish. The origins of the Temple are pegged to the Kannagi episode in the Silapathikaram, a famous work composed by Elenkovadikal in the Sangam era. To know more see link on last pic – tells you all about the festival or visit Festivals section.

9. Tasty dish.

10. Diced cucumber.

11. Women preparing the dough for Therali.

12. One lady is rolling the dough in the bay leaves, you can see the neatly rolled stuff in the vessel. The other lady is grating coconut.

13. Rolling dough in therali (therali means bay leaves).

14. Therali kept in a steamer.

15. Placed 3-4 bricks & kept dish on that. Now wait for the auspicious moment. The devotee offering to the Devi is done by about 3 pm.

16. Ponkala crowd in front of Sri Padmanabhaswami Mandir.

17. In the bye lanes ladies do their cooking outside their homes.

18. Van is distributing free hand fans to devotees, hence the crowd.

19. In the bye-lanes two foreigners take part in the ponkala ritual – helping with the preparations.

20. Sharing the fire to lit the hearth.

21. Dried coconut tree fronds used as fuel.

22. Offering ponkala ie being cooked in the pots.

23. Cooking ponkala in progress. Placed 3-4 bricks & kept dish on that. Now wait for auspicious moment. The devotee offering to the Devi is done, usually by about 3 pm. The open hearth is made of 3 freshly baked kiln bricks, usually 3 or 4 placed in a manner such that it can hold an earthen pot which will be used to make the payasam. The lit fronds fire the hearth & cooking starts at an auspicious time when temple fire is lit by the priest.

24. Water kept for boiling.

25. Cooking ponkala.

26. Lady praying.

27. Male devotee offering ponkala.

28. In steel utensil round balls is called MANDAPUTTU. It is made of rice flour, jaggery, coconut and green gram roasted and coarsely powdered.

29. A foreigner trying to make ponkala. To read article on the festival https://www.esamskriti.com/e/Culture/Festivals/The-ALL-WOMEN-Kerala-festival-is-Attukal-Pongala-1.aspx

30. View of devotees post returning making offering at the Attukal Bhagavathi Temple. It is a sight to behold: the city is once again a sea of humanity when the women make their way back to their homes on foot, train or four-wheelers, carrying with them the payasam blessed by their Devi, Attukal Amma.

31. This is PAYASAM – sweet pudding or kheer. Pranams to Atukkal Amma, the Mother Goddess.