Thiruvananthapuram: On Wednesday, Baby and Chandrika from Nedumangadu didn’t have any food or water till they offered for Bhagavathy. The scorching sun was too tiring, but, they said their devotion was keeping them strong. In the break between preparation of pongala and sanctification, the women made ‘mandaputtu’ and ‘therali’. This was a usual pongala scene where lakhs of women peacefully express their devotion to their favourite deity.
The pongala rituals began at 10.15am when tantri Parameswaran Vasudevan Bhattatiripad handed over the sacred fire from the sanctum sanctorum to chief priest N Vishnu Nampoothiri, who lit the hearths in cheriyatidappalli and valiyatidappalli. After this, the ceremonial hearth (pandaraaduppu) in front of the temple was lit. Then it was passed on to women who lined up on the grounds and roads within five-kilometre radius within minutes. They waited with prayers till the sanctification was done by 2.25 pm.

This year, pongala hearths lie scattered in several places as devotees chose shady spots such as premises of offices, apartments and educational institutions to escape from the intense heat. The temperature was 1.7 degrees Celsius above normal on Wednesday.

Unlike last year when police did not allow motorists to ply through major roads, traffic was uninterrupted during pongala hours.

Attukal temple trust authorities said that the festivities concluded peacefully. “Every year, we take a Rs 5 crore insurance for the devotees. So far, no untoward incident had happened. This year, we have assigned a city-based agency to take count of the participants. This figure will be submitted to authorities of Guinness Book Of World Records to revise our previous record,” said Attukal Bhagavathy Temple Trust secretary K Shishupalan Nair.

has entered Guinness records as the largest congregation of women in the world, first in 1997 with a record of 15 lakh women and 2009 with 25 lakh women.

R Raveendran Nair, general convenor of pongala, said that several Malayali groups across the globe offered pongala this year coinciding with the festival of Attukal temple.

Governor‘s wife Saraswathi Sathasivam, DGP Loknath Behra’s wife Madhumitha Behra, Cochin Port Trust managing directior M Beena, actors Chippy, Seema G Nair and Jalaja and her daughter Devi Nair were some noticeable presence among devotees who offered pongala this year. As usual, several foreign women also participated in the ritual.

The corporation cleaning workers swung into action soon after the holy water was sprinkled on pongala pots and devotees began to return. Five trucks and 250 staff were used for collecting the bricks used for Pongala, which would be used for building houses for the poor.

Kuthiyoottam, which was attended by around 800 boys was held at night.

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