Blessed Showers and Sacred Fires: Celebrating Atukal Pongala in Thiruvananthapuram

Discovering Faith and Unity Amidst Nature's Shade at the Yagasala of Ananthapuri

Thiruvananthapuram: Attukal Devi’s blessing rained down early Sunday morning. Lakhs of devotees revelled in the good fortune of the axe-like downpour on their bodies. This year’s Attukal Pongala came with a unique twist. It is believed that it rained in Thiruvananthapuram before Pongala. The rain usually arrives the day before. However, that did not happen this time. Thiruvananthapuram was engulfed in extreme heat.

Elevated Devotion

Meanwhile, the unexpected morning rain arrived. It was a gentle rain that did not cause any trouble. It elevated women to new heights of devotion.

The drizzle continued in the temple premises and various parts of the city. The Central Meteorological Department also informed that light rain is possible in Thiruvananthapuram over the next three hours. However, the rain did not bother anyone. The clouds provided shade, relieving the heat. Thus, nature itself provided cover for those celebrating Pongala, even in the height of summer. Devotees revelled in the festival, soaking up its blessings. Thiruvananthapuram transformed into a Yagasala in every sense.

Unity and Tradition

Pongala pots crowded the Atukal temple premises. For convenience when returning home, Pongala pots filled areas near the railway station and Thampanoor bus stand. Pongala ceremonies began after Shuddha Punyah at 10 am. As Saamelshanti lit the large communal hearth and pandora hearth in front of the temple, the sound of chandala and firecrackers signalled the light of the devotees’ hearths. The flames quickly spread from the Pandara hearth to the miles of lined-up hearths, proving the strength of the women’s unity.

After the 2:30 pm puja, the Pongala concluded. Three hundred peacemakers were appointed for the offering. Air Force helicopters showered flowers from the sky during Nivedya. The goddess proceeded to the Manakkad Shasta Temple at night, returning Monday morning. The festival will conclude with Kuruti Tarpanam on the 27th at 12:30 am. Traffic restrictions were imposed in Thiruvananthapuram for Pongala. Five hundred buses ran for Pongala, 300 district buses and 200 long-distance buses.

The day fulfilled wishes for devotees who arrived in Thiruvananthapuram two days prior, waiting by assembled hearths near the Atukal temple. Devotees from far and wide flocked to the capital on Saturday. Many lined up stones weeks in advance, placing boards with their names. Crowds streamed into the capital from various places Saturday day and night. All roads led to the goddess’s feet.

Lighting the Sacred Hearth and Uniting in Devotion

Pongala celebrations began at 10 am Sunday after Shuddha Punyah. 10:30 Pongala began singing the section where the Pandya king was killed. Parameswaran Vasudevan Bhattathiripad took the lamp from the dug temple south of the Tantri and handed it to Melashanti Goshala Vishnu Vasudevan Namboothiri. After lighting the communal hearth’s fire, he passed the lamp to co-melshanti’s. They ignited the Valiyathitapalli and Pandarayatuppa in front of the temple. The flame lit devotees’ hearths within a 10 km radius.

Thus commenced the grand annual celebration of Attukal Pongala in Thiruvananthapuram. The outpouring of devotion could be felt across the capital city as rows upon rows of hearths were lit in offering to the beloved Attukal Amma. Through both blistering heat and cool rain, the steadfast commitment of the faithful remained firm. The blessings of the goddess were evident, as she brought relief from the summer sun while also accepting the sweet Pongala rice cooked with love and dedication. 

From ordinary citizens to visiting pilgrims, all could partake in her divine grace. The songs, dances, processions and rituals will carry on through the night. Still, the real miracle is the sense of sisterhood and unity created. Attukal Pongala brings together women, families and communities in a shared experience of the divine feminine. For another year, Thiruvananthapuram’s streets overflow with the sounds of hymns, drums and devotion.

Rohit Sharma

Rohit Sharma is a seasoned Political Journalist with a deep passion for Indian Politics. With over a decade of experience in the field, he has established himself as a trusted… More »

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