The biggest catalyst for Attukal Pongala's growth from a local temple festival to the present city-wide spectacle has been the hype by media. Both the print as well as electronic media, including the ones run by the CPM, promote all kinds of religious and caste-based festivals to gain readership and eyeballs. Attukal has been no exception. However, has anybody looked at the numbers they cook up?
According to media reports, about 40 lakh women participated or were 'expected' to participate in the festival. Nobody asked the media how they arrived at this number and if they used any reasonable methodology. The truth is that this is an improbable number that the media cooked up.
Here's why the figures are cooked up and are improbable: According to the 2011 Census, the total population of women in Kerala is 1.6 crore. Out of this, only 54 per cent are Hindus, which means the total number of Hindu women are about 86 lakh. Of this, about 34 per cent are girls of 0-14 years of age, who are most unlikely to participate in the Pongala ritual. That makes the number of women above 14 years of age about 56 lakh. About 12 per cent of these women are 60 plus. If we assume at least half of the 60+ women are too old to participate in the festival, the figure will further come down to about 46 lakh.
If 40 lakh women indeed participated in the Pongala today, it accounts for about 86 per cent of all Pongala-age Hindu women in the state. Is this even remotely possible?
As a media story, the Attukal Pongala is as cooked up as the old ISRO-spy scandal or the unverified allegations by Saritha Nair.
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