Dazed in piety and devotion, women from the nook and cranny of the state are all set to offer ‘payasams’ to their precious deity ‘Attukalamma’ on coming Sunday at the capital city. Like every year, their hearths will churn out pots of pongalas and hearts will chant millions of mantras. Not deterred by the eye-stinging smoke and sweltering heat, they will indulge in this unique experience. Attukal pongala, a one-of-a-kind festival is being celebrated to commemorate ‘Kannaki’ the reincarnation of Goddess Parvathi. It is believed that ‘Kannaki’ took rest in the capital city while she was on her way to Nagercoil. Attukal temple was built in the memory of this supreme deity, who is known for her chastity and bravery. But more than anything, Attukal Pongala is also one of the most awaited festivals of the year for its mouth watering delicacies.
From the ‘sharkarappayams’ soaked in jaggery and ghee to the lip-smacking therali appams, Pongala day brings out many specialties for those with a sweet tooth. Vijayalekshmi, a hardcore devotee, who never had to skip a ‘Pongala’ in the last 25 years says Pongala is one of her most cherishing time of the year.
“I like to make my sharkarapayasams really savoury so I use 750 grams of jaggery for my preparation. Grated coconut, ghee, njalipoovan banana (Musa), cashew nuts, raisin, 2 cups of rice and water are all needed for making pongala payasa. Earlier we used to cook theraliyappams also in pots but today since we have ‘iddalithattu’ (vessel used to make iddali) we mostly use that for the steam cooking of appams,” says Vijayalekshmi. She says women should fast on the day before and drink water only after the payasams are cooked.
Unlike the quintessential Malayali payasams that are often syrupy, pongala payasams are dry. They look more like rice made of jaggery than payasams.
But they are as delectable as any other payasams. There are many who also make white paayasams with sugar, white rice and coconut on the occasion, which is called vellachor or vellapayasam.
Bindu, who has been a participant of Pongala for many years says, she cooks ‘Therali appam’ and payasams on her Pongala outings. Therali appam is a steamed delicacy made in therali leaves (bay leaves). Rice Flour, jaggery, bananas, Ghee and Cardamom are the ingredients needed to make this spectacular dish. Make a hard cone with the bay leaves and fill them with the dough made of above ingredients. Steam cook them on an iddalithattu. Your therali appam is ready.
There is another delicacy called manda puttu, which is offered to the goddess to cure headaches and end troubles.
Manda puttu is made with green gram powder, coconut and jaggery. It is also a steamed delicacy.
“There is a belief that if manda puttu breaks while you are making it, it is a bad omen. So I don’t make it fearing that possibility,” says Lekshmi. It is only been five years since Lekshmi started going to Pongala, but ever since, she has become an ardent devotee and make sure she never misses it.
Another rare delicacy made on the occasion is a dish made with cooked green dam and jaggery. This dish is not very common. However, it is believed that Attukalamma likes this dish very much.