THIRUVANANTHAPUARAM: The Pongala festival will be held at Attukal Bhagavathy Temple here from February 28 to March 8. Attukal Bhagavathi Temple Trust chairman K P Ramachandran Nair, Trust president M Radhakrishnan Nair, Trust secretary M S Jyothishkumar and joint secretary P Parameswaran Thampi said here that the Pongala will be offered to the Goddess on March 7.
The ‘Kappukettu’ ceremony will be held at 7.15 am on February 28. The festival will conclude with ‘Guruthi’ on March 8. They said the Pongala, noted for its huge participation of women devotees, earning the temple a place in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1997 and 2009, would have a similar participation this year too.
The office-bearers said that according to the police estimates, around five lakh devotees more would be participating in the festival following the reports of the treasure unearthed in the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple. They project an inflow of over 30 lakh devotees to make the event another record-breaking one.
Devotees from across the State and also the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu,
Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka would be offering the Pongala. Pamphlets in the four south Indian languages will be distributed for the smooth conduct of the fest.
During the festival days, there will be cultural programmes, besides the regular temple rituals. ‘Gana mela’ by playback singers, dance programmes by film stars, comedy shows, music concerts by maestros, Kathakali and other temple art forms will be presented.
It is on the ninth day of the festival that Pongala is offered. As many as 265 priests will be engaged to sprinkle the holy water this year. The office-bearers of the Trust said that a 10-km stretch around the temple would be literally converted into a ‘yaga sala.’ Flowers would be showered from a helicopter hovering over the city.
‘Kuthiyottam’ and ‘Thalappoli’ are the two other main offerings of the temple. The ‘Kuthiyottam vrutham’ will be started from the third day of the festival. Boys below the age of 12 offer ‘Kuthiyottam’ after undergoing penance for seven days. Girls below 10 years offer ‘thalappoli’ during the ‘ezhunnallathu’
of the Bhagavathy.
The girls, accompanied by their women relatives, will offer ‘thalappoli’ when the Goddess is taken in a procession to the Manacaud Sastha Temple.
The office-bearers said that during the last five decades, the Attukal Temple had witnessed a giant leap. Roofing the temple with copper, acquisition of land surrounding the temple to facilitate the devotees to offer Pongala, construction of four towers (‘gopurams’), decoration of the ‘Nalambalam’ with sculptures based on legends related to the Bhagavathy, three wedding halls, tourist bus service, ambulance service and a memorial for Vidhayadhiraja Chattambi Swamikal have come up under the Temple Trust.
‘Nadapanthal’, the bund road from Karamana and renovation of the ‘Chuttamblam’ have also been completed.
Disposal of Waste
The office-bearers said they would bury the wastes and remnants of the Pongala rituals on the Temple’s own land by digging a pit. Wastes from the areas surrounding the temple and roads will also be shifted to the pit. Around 5,000 volunteers will make sure that the festival is conducted smoothly.
Various committees have been constituted for the smooth conduct of the festival. The devotees have been requested avoid plastic and carry cotton bags. They also have been asked to avoid wearing gold ornaments. Residents’ associations and other organisations which offer drinking water should get the permission from the nearby police stations.
Seeking Sponsor for Train
Later, speaking to Express, Trust secretary M S Jyothish Kumar said that they had requested the Railway authorities extend the special train now running between Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram to Kottayam. He said it would have been helpful for the devotees if the Railways had extended the train. But, Railway authorities have asked to bring a sponsor or pay from the Temple Trust’s own funds. It requires around Rs 4 lakh to allot the special train.