Monday, February 25, 2008

A Pilgrimage for Women: The Attukaal Pongala

Last Friday was Attukaal Pongala. Attukal is a the name of a place in Trivandrum which has a famous temple. Pongala is a type of payasam or kheer, a dessert. This "pongala" is offerred at the temple. I do not want to go into the myth of Attukaal as I see so many people have done that. It's one woman's love for her husband. That's the story of Kannaki . Something different about this festival cum pilgrimage is that the prayers are offerred by women and only women. You"ll see scores of women ( I heard the count was around 25 lakhs this year, yes 25!!!!) with little pots making the pongala atop small brick furnaces. This year fires were lit in front of the museum and that's a long way from the Attukal temple. People book their places in advance. I saw alot of women waiting patiently near the railway station the day before. Alot of people serve lassi or "morumvellam" or other cool drinks to the tired women at the end of the day as a kind of free service. Rickshaw wallahs offer their services free and so do many others. I would not advise anyone to travel in the city on that day since many parts of the city come to a standstill;unless you would like to see what happens. Do your shopping the day before, since shops too are not open. Traffic resumes it's normal pace after 6.30 in the evening or so. Alot of people eat outside in the evenings since the women folk will be tired after a whole day in the sun. So book tables in advance, even if it's to go to an exclusive restaurent like the Muthoot Plaza. Wherever you go, it's bound to be crowded.
As for me lots of Pongala came in- the dark variety loaded with jaggery and the white kind with less jaggery, more milk ,cashew nuts, raisins etc. Novice Writer tells the myth of Kannaki here:

* Pictures taken by Sivan. S