Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pongala pictures

Women preparing the space to make the aduppu or oven. Pongala pot is placed over the oven which is made by placing three bricks in different angles. Niranazhi or a measuring cup made of bamboo full of rice grain, and a nilavilakku or brass lamp is also placed adjacent to the pongala pot.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The ezhunnallippu inside Sastha Temple

The ezhunnallippu taking a pradakshinam inside the Sastha Temple, Manacaud

Ezhunnallippu of Attukal Devi : video

The ezhunnallippu of the Attukal Devi entering the Sastha Temple, Manacaud. The Sasthavu at Manacaud temple is considered as the younger brother of Attukal Amma. So the ezhunnallippu has another purpose of paying regards to the younger brother. The ezhunnallippu is also a State ceremony with the march past of armed police.


Kuthiyottams taking rest after the long walk from Attukal devi Temple to Sastha Temple, Manacaud. They reach the Sastha Temple at mid night. They will wait till the ezhunnallippu of Attukal Devi arrives, and then goes back to the Attukal temple.

Tablos accompanying Ezhunnallippu : video

Kuthiyottams accompany Attukal Devi who starts her purathezhunnallippu or procession from the Attukal Temple at night.The procession will end at the Sastha Temple, Manacaud. This is the other most important ritual after the Attukal Pongala. The procession is accompanied by tablos and other art forms; The Kuthiyottams and tablos will reach the Sastha Temple premises at night. But the Attukal Devi will reach only in the morning, for the diety will be given numerous receptions by the people on the way. The video shows a tablo in the procession.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pongala at the hearts

This year's Attukal Pongala is over, but the sweetness of the pongala will remain in the million hearts who gathered here for a whole year, and invite them all to the pongala next year. A social gathering above a religious one, Attukal Pongala combines the religious with the social.A million new faces means a million new relationships. Even though the millions that have gathered have different physical identies, they have become united through a single spiritual identity. That is what religious gatherings like Attukal Pongala profess and practice.

A short break : video

Women taking a break after making Pongala.

Finishing touches: video

Women adding jaggery, scraped coconut and spices to Pongala.

Pongala pots boil over: video

Pongala fire was lighted at 10 AM, pots boil over along with all the sorrows.

Lighting the fire: video

Lighting the fire, Pongala pots begin to boil along with all the sorrows.

Pongala is near

Video taken minutes before lighting the fire

Making Therali

Therali is a sweet offering made of rice flour and jaggery with spices and banana added to it. The therali is cooked in steam with the bater covered in vayana, a spicy leaf with a spicy aroma.

Pongala moments

Scenes from Attukal pongala 2008. Women gathered before the Sastha temple, Manacaud, photo taken at 8 AM.

Pongala day

Women have made their aduppu, quite early in the morning and every where you see pots, the fire wood and women. Now they are waiting to light the fire; the fire would be lighted at 10 o' clock in the morning. This video was taken at 7 AM.

It's Pongala time : video

It's Pongala time, its crowd every where, virtually overflowing the roads. This is unique of Attukal Pongala, one can see people celebrating each and every moment. And no body wants to sleep today. This video was taken at 11.30 PM, 21 February 2008.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Kuthiyottam namaskaram: video

A video on namaskaram by kuthiyottam, Attukal Pongala festival 2008.

Pongala time, it's women's day: video

Women continue to capture the roads of Trivandrum city; a parade of feminine power. This video was taken at 4.30 PM.

Pongala time : video

The Attukal Temple premises were filled with women devotees on early morning itself. This video was taken at 7.30 AM in the morning. The crowd will gradually increase and by evening most of the surrounding areas of the temple will be filled up. Attukal Pongala has taken momentum

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The festival night: video

Night during Attukal Pongala festival; women have started flowing to the city for the largest women's gathering the earth would witness.

Countdown begins for Attukal Pongala

Women have started flowing to Attukal.
It's now 11o'clock at night, and the road to Attukal is alive. People walk watching the decorations and banners across the road and talking loud to beat the sound of the loud speakers that line the road. Now some one would grab your attention, it could be the women who sell the pongala pots or sometimes the men who sell rice and other essentials to make pongala, all neatly packed in covers. It seems that no body is going to sleep for the next two days.

If you look to either side you could see women all lined up to watch the theruvilakku that go by procession late at night. Now the women who come from distant places have also joined the hosts to watch the festival. Women who arrive early try to find a place near the temple premises, but it would not be always comfortable, because of the huge crowd. The option is to find a host; the people who live around the Attukal temple generously offer hospitality to the women who come from far away places or districts. Thus often a new friendship is also born.

You never feel the long distance if you start walking from East Fort, watching all the lights and glitters around you; at once you will find yourself lost in a huge crowd, you have reached the temple. It reminds you that you are only one among these million people who are going to gather here within hours, all in search of Attukal Amma's blessings; it's where every entity becomes one.

The Theruvilakku procession

Theruvilakku procesions are held during the Attukal Pongala festival nights. They are huge replicas of temple like structures carried on head by men. Theruvilakku is usually conducted as an offering to Attukal Devi. People would line up on either side of the road to watch these processions which usually pass late at night. Sometimes men dressed as women adorning glittering attires and ornaments would also accompany the procession dancing all the way. The man holding the Theruvilakku on his head would dance to the tune of the pandimelam that accompany. The Theruvilakku procession will end at the temple.

Theruvilakku at night


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Scenes from Attukal Pongala festival

Floral tributes

Scene from a floral shop near the Attukal Devi temple
There is no temple ritual without flowers and garlands. Florists around the Attukal temple have a good time during the Attukal Pongala festival. Most of them now employ more people to meet the huge demand of flowers and garlands. 'Making garlands is no easy job, skill is the most important part,' says Udayan who runs a flower shop. 'But this is a collective effort, and we enjoy the work,' he adds.

The idol march

Attukal Pongala festival is greeted by the local people by erecting huge sculptures of Attukal Devi and other Hindu dieties. Pictures of idols from different spots in the Attakulangara-Attukal road.

Praising Kannaki

Thottampattu, which tells the story of Kannaki in the Text Chilapathikaram, is sung in major Bhadrakali temples during festival. Each day a particular part of the story is sung, and even the temple rituals that day, reflect the spirit of the story.


Thottampattu at the Attukal Devi Temple during the Attukal Pongala festival 2008. Thottampattu, a temple ritual, tells the story of Kannaki in the Tamil text Chilappathikaram.

Trying fortunes

An old woman selling vatti, at the road side. Attukal Pongala is an opportunity for people like her.

Colours different

The banana market gets a boost during the temple festival months of February to April. A scene from the banana market at Manacaud in Trivandrum. This week has started with good sales due to the Attukal Pongala Festival.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The reed piper at Pongala

A boy selling reed pipes at the Attukal Pongala festival ground.

Luring kids

An army of plastic toys; a scene from the festival ground.

Temple festivals and micro economy

Attukal Pongala festival is typical of every temple festival that is conducted in Kerala, which is instrumental not only in boosting the cultural and religious morale, but also the economic situation of the common people in a subtantial way. It is a splendid opportunity one gets to try out fortunes in business though in a small scale. Usually women are seen more involved in such casual business affairs. For some of them it would be an ideal time to sell buttermilk, or sell good home-made pickles, some others will try their luck in selling snacks. Consumer products like toys, bangles, bags and temple offerings like garlands, flowers etc. are also sold. Attukal Pongala is festival is a wonderful example of how religious festivities complement the micro economy.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Celebration of local flavours

Attukal Pongala festival is also a place where you can taste local flavours. They range from the common murukku to mouth watering pickles from other states.

Potters' festival

Attukal Pongala can be termed a potters festival. If one goes by numbers, it shows an unimaginable figure. Roughly 2,700,000 earthern pots, if last year's participation is taken into account. Even though it is customary to offer Pongala in earthern pots, not every body does so. Some women, prefer to use the brass vessels, which they have been keeping for years for this sole purpose. If you deduct the mathematical output of this feminine superstition or obsession, the figures would still come above 2,000,000. It's an whooping figure! But the potters does not sell much says most of them.

Let's meet Madaswami from Marthandam. He has been making pots since he turned five, now he is sixty four. Hailing from a traditional potter's family, he has been coming to Attukal Pongala for years. He says that pottery is still a cottage industry in Tamil Nadu, and large scale production facilities has not yet arrived. The entire family is involved in the process; men prepares the clay and make the pots while women give finishing touches and get them burnt in the sun. Later they are shifted to a furnace where the pots are burnt in fire. The preparation of the clay itself involves many stages and lack of clay has become a new challenge. Now they have forced buy the clay for making pots which has cut into the profit. Madaswami says that the vocation is divine and requires purity of mind and body. It requires five days to make an earthern pot in the traditional way.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Festive mood in capital city

The capital city of Trivandrum seems to be in a festive mood as the Attukal Pongala is drawing near. Banners and arches adorn the roads, and potters line the either side of the way from Attakulangara to Manacaud. The crowd is incresing day by day, reminding that the pis near. The traffic has also become much congested. Traders have a good time, that they want to cash in with the paraphernelia for pongala. Special buses shuttle from East fort to the temple, and temporary bus station has been set up near the temple by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation. The Indian Coffee House has also started a restaurant near the parking ground.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A festival of colours

Sindhooram in different colours on display at the Attukal Pongala festival premises. Sindhooram is given as offering to the goddess. Sindhooram symbolises the most feminine attribute of the goddess, where the goddess herself identifies with women.

Kuthiyottam: The greatest offering to Bhadrakali

Radhakrishnan Asari
Kuthiyottam is considered as one of the greatest offerings to Bhadrakali. Boys below the age of 12 are dedicated to the goddess as the kuthiyottams. For a week they live in vratha or a strict disciplined life. The vratha for kuthiyottam starts from the third day of the Pongala festival. The vratha includes bathing five times a day and two namaskaras (kneeling before the goddess), one in the early morning at 3.30 AM and the other at 3.30 PM in the evening. The children live at the temple premises during the week, and on the seventh day they would put all the make up, ornaments and other embellishments like the kireedam (crown), floral garlands and kozhunnu(twigs of a plant with fascinating and divine aroma). They would accompany the procesion of the goddess. There were 650 kuthiyottams during last year's Attukal Pongala festival. This year it is likely to be around 750. Mr.Radhakrishnan Asari of the Kuzhippattu House looks after the kuthiyottam, which is a privilege he got traditionally from his ancestors.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

All set for the Pongala festival

The Attukal Devi temple is all set for the kodiyettu tommorrow. The panthal (a shed made of thatched coconut leaves) is made right in front of the gopuram or the temple entrance, where the diety is invited to stay till the end of the festival, which is known as kudiyiruthu. The main rituals that will be performed tomorrow are the kappukettu and the kudiyiruthu. Kappukettu involves adorning a bangle which is made of the pineapple plant's fibre and the panchaloham(an alloy of five metals). The Attukal Pongala festival begins formally with the kappukettu and kudiyiruthu.
നാളെ ഒന്നാം ഉത്സവം 14.02. 2008 വ്യാഴാഴ്ച
കാപ്പുകെട്ടി കുടിയിരുത്ത് രാവിലെ 8.30 ന്

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Temple festivals: Thottampattu

Thottampattu at the Panthuvila Devi Temple, Varkala

Thottampattu is yet another important ritual in a temple festival if the presiding diety is Bhadrakali or Bhagavati. In such temples the festival begins with the kudiyiruthu which involves leading the diety to a temporary shed made of thatched coconut leaves in the temple premises, till the end of the festival. Thottampattu begins after the diety is invited to the thatched shed. The Thottampattu is a devotional song and at the same time a ritual, which tells the story of Kannaki in Tamil text Chilappatikaram. The ritual song continues for ten days, and the story told on each day is also related to the rituals in the temple.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Temple festivals:The Ezhunnellippu

Scenes from ezhunnallippu at Panthuvila Devi Temple, Varkala.

Procession or ezhunnallippu with diety mounted on elephant top is another important ritual of temple festivals. The procession will be recieved by the people at their door steps in customary way, which is regarded as auspicious and is supposed to bring prosperity to home. The ezhunnallippu is usually held during the last days of the festival. This year the ezhinnellippu starts from the Attukal temple after the Attukal Pongala, at 10 PM on 22 February. The procession ends at the Sastha Temple, Manacaud. The procession is accompanied by Kuthiyottam and numerous tablos.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Temple festivals: Importance of the flagpost

Scenes from flag hoisting ceremony(kodiyettu) at Panthuvila Devi temple, Varkala

Temple festivals usually begin with hoisting the flag of the diety or kodiyettu on the flagpost or kodimaram. If the diety has a permanent flag post, the flag is hoisted on it. In the other case a temporary flagpost is erected for the festival and the flag is raised. The erection of the temporary flag post involves a lot of rituals. Arecanut trees, that grow thin but tall, are generally used as temporary flag posts. The tree is first identified and then cut after obtaining permission from the tree goddess. It is cut in such a manner that the tree is not allowed to fall on the ground. It is then transported to the temple premises on people's shoulders after certain rituals. The tree is then made up to flagpost by the chief carpenter or moothassari. After finishing touches are made the flagpost is erected and the flag is raised, which also marks the beginning of the festival.

The Attukal Pongala begins with the kodiyettu on February 14, 2008.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The sky is clear

The clear sky in Trivandrum this morning, after the last night's drizzling rain. Yesterday the sky was cloudy almost all the time. The old generation says that it usually rains before the Attukal Pongala, that Attukalamma wants every thing neat and tidy. Superstition or not, rains will make the city clean,with less dust and dirt.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Festival of local flavours

Attukal Pongala is not only a temple festival but also a festival of traditional and local flavours. Its an occasion to taste different types of home made snacks, which women bring to sell. The common murukku, pakkavada, and ullippakkavada are some of them. There is also elayappam, (rice cake steam cooked in banana leaf, with jaggery and pieced banana added) which is also called valsan in many parts of Trivandrum. Usually elayappam is made on special occassions like religious festivals of Shivarathri and Karthika. But it has now found its place as a common snack in many local tea shops.

Pots have arrived, it's Pongala time

The first batch of potters have arrived at Manacaud junction, marking the arrival of the Pongala festival. They have come from Nagercoil, place adjacent to the Kerala state border. More batches are likely to come before next Wednesday.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The relevance of temple festivals

Temple festivals are unique in many respects. In the earlier days temples were one of the centres of village activity, and the festivals had a great role in mending the minds. Festivals brought together the rural folk and along with them the rustic values. But today, the scenario has changed; villages are slowly disappearing and the urban settlements extend to kill many rural landscapes and even their pretty old names; temple festivals have been reduced to mere exhibition grounds of tradition, culture and religious values. But festivals, like the Attukal Pongala festival has retained its rustic charm even amidst the choking city dust. It's a unique experience to see the urban hypocrisy giving way to rustic values; the entire metropolis turns to a village at least for a day to regain the values it has lost, all in the name of Amma.

Talking in future tense

The winding narrow way to the Attukal temple has many attractions that at once arrest the attention of the devotees. You can just ignore the way side traders who sell the agarbathies, pattu (silk cloth) and other paraphernalia offered to the Mother diety, for they they are all available from a number of other people who line up the gateway; but you cannot just ignore the inviting glances or affectionate calls from the palmists who line the way.
'Future of course is a riddle, and we seldom live the present recognising it. Most of our thinking, planning and deeds, we believe will converge at a point in the future. So future has become more important,and that's why every body wants to know about the future,' says Thampy who has been looking hands for the past twelve years. Thampy firmly believes that Attukalamma has been his saviour, and has never let him down.
Remani who has been here for the past 34 years, looks back with satisfaction, that the Mother diety has always been with her. She admits that the meagre earning she gets from this profession is not sufficient, but there is hope that one day Amma will shower all her blessings. To my question why the fortune teller has a bleak fortune, Remani says that Attukalamma is her fortune.
The age old Ammini, has been my greatest attraction, for her remembrances of the Attukal temple and Pongala goes back to 50 years ! She opened half a century of memoirs and said she came to the temple premises with her mother when she was just thirteen. 'For all these years the Mother diety had given me everything, and in my age I still live out of Amma's mercy.'
While I talk with them, I see some youngsters in their jeans and ears tuned to the FM hits approching to have a peep into their future. A young man in blue jeans spreads out his palms with shyness and glance around to find anybody watching. The palmist had already read his mind. With a smile he asks, have a love affair...The ice has been broken...Stereophones are unplugged from the ears...An enigmatic smile flashes his face.......'Will it happen', he asks....The palmist waits for a minute, to raise the tempo as in a film script, returns the same enigmatic smile as answer, the younster looked at me as if I am the villain. I respected his emotion and walked away to see what's happening around.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Of vinyl prints and bamboo structures

Preparations for the festival are in full swing. The main junctions on the way to Attukal temple have a fresh look. Most of the local tea shops, where people frequent during the Pongala, for a cup of tea or coffee, have a colourful look with new paints on their facades. Big hoardings are being erected at the main junctions, with bamboo poles, which also give jobs to many people. Even though the hoarding structures are erected in traditional way with bamboo poles, the hoardings are made of vinyl. The explosion of digital printing houses in the capital city, has been a boon for the advertisers. Now it is easy to get a vinyl print for less money and the client can also make a bargain. "Ten years ago the situation was different", says Appu, an artist. "We used to get lot of work, but now these modern gadgets came and we lost all the job, now no body wants us. Now no body wants an artist, even for a banner every one goes for a print out." Artists like Appu who did not adapt to the new situations, now paint houses for their living. Temporary sheds are also being made on road sides by traders who hope to make a fortune during the festival. One thing is sure it's great time for advertisers.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Hoardings everywhere

Hoardings have been erected in most of the junctions in the Manacud-Attukal road. Business houses, political parties, voluntary organisations and sports and arts clubs have joined the fray to give salutations to the Pongala festival.