Monday, 24 February 2014

Attukal Pongala-The gods smile.....

The sketchy scene of a few puffing pots, in and around the temple complex of Attukal....still lingers in the minds of some elders, as they recall the devotion brimming in their hearts....amidst teary eyes, and scorching hearts. The scene has changed completely. Now, the city of Trivandrum comes to a standstill, and the people here find a reason to smile....as the goddess showers her blessings upon the lakhs who pay homage to her through this strenuous act of divinity. The 'Pongala' is a spatially impaired term, and is mainly associated with South India. In this festival, women cook rice; with raisins, molasses, coconut gratings, banana, nuts, and so on as an offering to the goddess who reigns supreme in this time. Though we find such pongalas across temples in India, the Attukal Pongala is one, that stands apart. It even finds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, for being the largest event involving women's participation. Surely.....these days belong to the women, and their devotion and eagerness, lights up the entire city. We don't sleep, we don't stop, nor do we twitch. Our entire 'eye & bye' is engaged in service to the people who come from all parts of Kerala to take part in this mammoth event, disregarding their pains and hardships.

If the Ganga cleanses the human mind and body, of all it's banes, then the Attukal Pongala is no different. Lakhs of women congregate every year, and the city responds to the burning pots with utmost enthusiasm and anxiety. The Attukal Pongala has now become a festival of Kerala, and an inevitable local holiday. The shops are closed, the schools are shut, the roads are havens, and the people are out in service.......and the temple is shining. A fact of truth would be, that this festival has evolved and evolved again, because of the people's participation. One glance out on the roads and you will find an 'ideal type' for a sociological study. People from different walks of life, mingling and helping each other to make this event a grand success. You find shops closed, but owners catering; you find schools closed, but teachers involved in this religious masterpiece; you find non-vegetarian hotels open, but devoid of people; you find the roads open, but people who resort to walking; you find the heat to be high, yet the mind to be calm; you find the women swooning, and the men then supporting; you find the fire burning, and the humanly siren going; you find the women weeping, for the others who could not come; you can see the people enjoying, as the inner pain is laid to rest. This....is the essence of the Attukal Pongala. So much is the intensity and importance of this festival, that you find people spending the eve on the pavements reserving their seat for the following day of devotion.

People come in mass numbers, and occupy their positions even kilometres away from the temple. The Pongala has grown so much, that we find the expanse of the city to be inadequate. The only objection people seem to have, is the mass pollution that the ritual causes....that is visibly disturbing for any onlooker. But, the people have generalised that they are more than willing to 'let off some steam' for the purpose of entering the good books of god. Some cynics argue that the entire festival should be halted, since it's ecological costs are on the higher scale. But it's obvious that the festival has now become a part of culture of Kerala, and that it does not need to pass a litmus test.

As the goddess at Attukal showers her blessings upon the thousands in Kerala, we can but hope that the pain felt activity that these women indulge in, bear fruit in the near future.

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