Attukal Pongala : History and Orgin Of Attukal Bhagavathy Temple

Attukal Pongala is a famous festival in Kerala when millions of women gather at Attukal Devi Temple to offer pongala to the goddess. Pongala is cooked rice mixed with ghee, jiggery, coconut and many other ingredients. Women will bring all the material and will cook in public and will then offer it to the goddess. This festival has been regarded as the largest gathering of women on a single occasion. It is a world record too.

History Of Attukal Temple

There are two stories related to the origin of temple. The first story goes like this. Mulluveetil is an ancient house in this place.

One day in an evening the karanavar(head of the family)was doing his oblation in the Killi River. There he saw a beautiful little girl nearby the river. The girl requested the karanavar to help her in crossing the river. The Karanavar helped the girl, stunned by seeing a little girl alone the river side, he took the girl to his house. The Other members of the family gave a warm welcome to the girl. After some time the little girl disappeared from that house. On that day the Karanavar saw a dream. In the dream the girl revealed herself as the goddess, the incarnation of Goddess Vishnumaya. The girl shown a grove near his house and said that she had drawn 3 lines in a particular spot in the grove, he should build a shrine in that place. The next day the karanavar went to the spot and saw the lines and immediately a temple was built in that place.

The second mythology of the origin of the Attukal temple is related to Chilappathikaram, a famous work composed by Elenkovadikal in sangam period. Chilappathikaram says the story of Kannaki and son of a rich merchant Kovilan. Kannaki was Kovilan's wife. After their marriage, Kovilan fell into love with a dancer Madhavi. He spent all his wealth for Madhavi. When he lost every thing he returned back to kannaki. At that time the only wealth remained with her was a pair of leg anklets. Kannaki told Kovilan to sell one of her anklet. Kovilan went to the market to sell this anklet. At that time Madhurai was ruled by King Nedunj Cheliyan1, who belong to Pandya Dynasty. When he came to the market soldiers of pandya Raja mistaken that the anklet with Kovilan belonged to the Queen of the kingdom. The Queen's Ornament was stolen by some one. Angered king Ordered to kill Kovilan. When Kannaki heard the news, she rushed to the Palace and showed the another anklet with her. The anklet of queen's was made of pearls but the kannaki's anklet was made with Ruby. Distressed king and Queen end their life after this incident. Thus Kannaki cursed that entire Madurai kingdom be burnt. She excluded children and old people from the curse. Her curse become a reality which results in huge economic and human loss. Later she withdraw her curse. After this She came to kerala through Kanyakumari. On the way to Kodungallur(a place in kerala) she came through Attukal and rested there. Ladies there gave a warm welcome to kannaki by making pongal. Later a temple was built in the place where kannaki took rest. This is another story behind origin of Attukal Temple.

Main Deity is Kannaki and the other deities in the temple are Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha, Lord Serpant, Madan Thampuran. Chattambi Swamikal, a famous Social reformer in the history of kerala found this divine temple as a place for meditation. A temple of Chattambi Swamikal can also be found here.

Offerings to Attukalamma

Attukal Devi
Pongal is usually a dish prepared in Tamil Nadu. Here the main Offering to the goddess is Pongal. Pongal is a sweet Dish made with Rice, Jaggery, Coconut and water in earthen pots. This dish is prepared in a fireplace made with bricks. These 5 elements show the relationship of Human life with Pancha Bhutas.

The Pongala Festival is held in the month of February/March. The festival lasts for 10 days. Auspicious Attukal Pongala is done on the 9th day of the festival. Women from different parts of the state, neighboring states, even from different countries come to take part in this festival. Every street, commercial spaces, public places, offices, schools, colleges are filled with Womenfolk for this pongala festival. Attukal Temple is also called 'Sabarimala Of Women. The pongala spreads nearly 5km from the circumference of the temple. Women take vratha for 9 days to participate in pongala.

Festival begins with Kappukettu function. From the first day of the festival, a famous ritual thottam pattu takes place. This is like a song which tells the whole story of kannaki. The right to sing Thottam pattu goes to a particular family. This is sung in a green shed which is made with coconut leaves in front of the temple. This ritual lasts till the 10th day of the festival. When they sing the part of destruction of Madurai kingdom on the 9th day, the Women light fire to prepare pongala as from announcement from the temple. Women are only allowed to take part in this festival.

Villakku kettu is an offering which is done during the 10 days of the festival. It is a huge lamp decorated with flowers, glitter paper, cloth etc. They are taken to the temple and finally, it is burnt in the temple.

Thaloppoli is another type of ritual done by girls under 10 years of age on the day of pongala . This is performed for health, wealth and prosperity of the family. The girls are beautifully decorated with the little crown with a peacock feather, new dress etc. They bring a Thalam to the temple which contains coconut, a lamp, rice etc.

Kuthiottam is a ritual performed by boys below 12 years of age. It is believed that these boys are injured soldiers of Mahishasura mardhini. They have to stay in the temple for 7 days. They are not allowed to go home for these 7 days. There is some food restriction for these children. They are only allowed to eat food items like fruits which are given from the temple. They have to complete 1008 bows within 7 days. The Kuthiotta vratha begins from the 3rd day of the festival.

On that day Devi is taken out of the temple in a colorful procession. It is believed that she comes out to see her devotees and also to visit her brother Dharmasastha(Dharmashasta temple is in Manacaud). The devotees give a warm welcome to Devi with flower garlands, coconut, fruits etc. These kuthiottom boys who dressed up as soldiers, also come along with Goddess. Next day they return back to the temple. The Pongala festival concludes with Guruthi pooja which is a special ritual performed by the main priest.

It is believed that those who pray to Attukal Devi with strong belief and devotion their wishes will be fulfilled by her.

Attukal Temple Contact Address / Location
  • Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, 
  • Manacaud PO,
  • Thiruvananthapuram - 695 009
  • Kerala, India.
  • Phone Numbers +91-471 - 2463130 (Office) 2456456 (Temple)
  • Fax +91-471 - 2456457

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