The Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, one of the ancient temples of South India, is popularly described as Sabarimala of the Women, as women form the major portion of devotees. Attukal temple is also known as ‘the Sabarimala of Women‘, this temple attracts the biggest throng of women devotees for the annual Attukal Pongala festival. This temple and its main festival also reached Guinness Book of World Records, when 1.5 million women offered Pongala in Feb 23, 1997. It is estimated that about 2.5 million women offered Pongala in 2008. The number of women devotees reaching this place increases every year.The Goddess in the temple of Attukal is worshipped as the Supreme Mother, creator of all living beings and the mighty preserver as well as destroyer of them all. The pilgrims from all over the country, who visit Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple and worship the Lord, do not consider their visits complete without the visit to the shrine of the supreme Mother Attukalamma. Vishnumaya took the incarnation of Bhagavathy to annihilate the evil and protect the good in the world in the present Era namely Kaliyuga.
Attukal temple is the abode of the goddess, who is the supreme preserver and destroyer. She cares her devotees like a mother does her children. For the devotees, Attukal Devi (Attukal Amma) is supreme power, capable of delivering all the wishes of her devotees. Several women devotees testify the supreme power of this shrine, and tell you how Attukal Devi has blessed them with progeny and wishes of bountiful life.
Devotees from all parts of India come and bow before the all powerful goddess, seeking an end to their afflictions and to receive blessings. The temple is just 2Km from the main city center of Trivandrum and is located at a rural-looking area, although the surroundings are highly urbanized.
The History and Mythology
A few centuries ago, the head of Mulluveettil family was met with a young girl who asked him to help her cross the Killi river in which he was performing his ritualistic prayers. The Karanavar (family head) knew it was no ordinary girl, because of her charm and charisma. He bowed before her and willingly took her to the other side of the river. He invited her to his home nearby and the whole family was preparing to receive this girl. However, they couldn’t find her as she had disappeared by the time Mulluveettil family was ready to receive her.
The Karanavar and his family were a little puzzled. The Karanavar (family head) saw the girl once again in his dream, in the same day as he saw the little girl. The girl appeared as an icon and told him to give her an abode in the nearby kavu (a grove where shrubs and wild animals including snakes are left undisturbed). She told him that he would see three lines at a specific point in the kavu and she wanted her abode erected there.
With joy, the old man reached the Kavu and to his surprise, he found three lines marked on the ground. He knew it was a sacred spot and he wasted no time erecting a temple. The temple became the abode of the goddess, who later came to be known as Attukal Devi (or Attukal Amma). Local devotees offered their prayers in this temple and soon the fame of this temple spread far and wide. The people also offered to renovate the temple and a bigger temple with a new icon was installed. The goddess was represented as a woman with four arms, each bearing a spear, sword, skull and shield. The then high priest of Badarinath Temple led the consecration ceremony.
The girl that appeared before the Karanavar of Mulluveettil family is known to be Kannaki. Kannaki is the famous heroine of Chipathikaram, a Tamil epic written by Elenkovadikal. She is the incarnation of Sri Parvathy, the consort of Lord Siva. She took this incarnation of destroyer goddess, to destroy the evil and to preserve good. Kannaki was returning from Madurai, a city which she has destroyed, when she took a sojourn at Attukal and let the Karanavar see her as a little girl. She was on her way to Kodungalloor.
Attukal Ponkala is the most reputed festival of this temple. ‘Pongala’ means to boil over, and it refers to the customary offering of things to the lord Devi. Devotees from all walks of life, irrespective of their social status, religion and cast, throng the temple to offer the ‘pongala’- a sweet rice, prepared in earthen pots with rice, jaggery and coconut, to the Goddess. Only women are allowed to participate in this custom.
News & Events
Pongala festival has found a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest attendance of women on February 23, 1997. 1.5 million women had participated in that year’s Pongala.
Festivals & Programs
Attukal Pongala (Attukal Ponkala) is the most reputed festival of this temple, which attracts devotees from all parts of India. Tens of hundreds of women devotees throng together on the day of Pongala with their offerings to the Goddess and to seek blessings. The festival commences on Karthika day of Malayalam month Makaram-Kumbham (Feb-March).