news Thursday, March 05, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | March 5, 2015 | 9.40 pm IST Lakhs of devotees took part in Attukal Pongala, the largest congregation of women in the world, here in Kerala on Thursday. The event has been listed by the Guinness World Records as the single largest gathering of women in the world to offer prayers. Over the years the festival has become more popular with people from other religions also taking part in it. Women line up on either side of roads at the Goddess Attukal Bhagavathy temple in Thiruvananthapuram to cook their offering (pongala) on makeshift stoves of bricks and firewood. The pongala event takes place on the penultimate day of the 10-day-long Attukal Pongala festival. "I am a devotee of the goddess. I wait eagerly for this day. When we cook, we can feel her presence. I was a bit tensed because the pot which I got had a few holes. But everything went fine and the pongala has come out well," said popular TV actress Karthika. Elizabeth Antony, wife of former defence minister A.K. Antony, was also present there, cooking the pongala. The most prestigious place for cooking is inside the temple compound. Women have to reserve their place to cook pongala on the festival day. The second best place is situated a few kilometres away from the Attukal temple on the roads leading to the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple. The rituals began around 10.30 a.m after the chief priest of the Attukal temple lit the makeshift stove brought from the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. The fire lit by the priest is then passed on to other stoves. Women cook their offering using rice, jaggery and coconut. "I am offering prayers after a Christian friend in the Middle East asked me to offer the pongala to the goddess," said a middle aged woman. Attukal Bhagavathy is believed to be an incarnation of Kannaki, the central character of the Tamil epic "Silappathikaaram". According to legend, Kannaki destroyed Madurai in Tamil Nadu after the king of Madurai imposed the death penalty on her husband. Kannaki travelled to Kerala, where she rested for a while at Attukal. Women cooked pongala to please her. The festival ends after the chief priest sprays holy water on the offering. The temple has 300 priests to perform this ritual. Tweet  IANS

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