The Pongala festival which is celebrated every year around late Feb and early March at the renowned Attukal Bhagavathi temple in Kerala’s capital city of Thiruvananthapuram is an experience with euphoria of religion, faith and beliefs. The festival has entered the Guinness records for being the largest single gathering of women for a religious activity. In 2015 around 4 million women participated in this festival.
The entire area of more than 5 kilometre radius around temple with premises of houses of people of all caste, creed and religion, open fields, roads, commercial institutions, premises of Government offices etc. emerges as a consecrated ground for observing Pongala rituals for more than 4 million women devotees assembling from different parts of Kerala and outside. The ceremony is exclusively confined to women folk and the enormous crowd, which gathers in Thiruvananthapuram on this auspicious day is reminiscent of the Kumbhamela Festival of North India.
Pongala (literally means to boil over) is a ritualistic offering of a sweet dish consisting of rice porridge, sweet brown molasses, coconut gratings, nuts and raisins. Devotees offer pongala to appease the presiding deity of the temple – the Goddess – popularly known as Attukalamma.
Women from near by and from distant places come to the city 1 or 2 days before the function to get a place as close to the temple to conduct their ritual. The hours and days of waiting can be seen from their body language as captured here in the process. From early morning of the festival the city starts to get crowded.
The earthen pots preparing the Pongala kept for sale..
The fire to start the Pongala originates from the temple and is then passed on to all the devotees through its volunteers.
The entire city is engulfed with smoke that it is indeed a great preservance for the ladies to bear the heat and flame to perform the ritual.
Pongala is prepared.
After the preparation, the offering is left where it was prepared for the volunteers to clean up. The pongala prepared will be taken by respective ladies to their homes.
End of a years penance & prayers until they offer again for coming year.
About Sreeranj Sreedhar
I am a travel, documentary & culture photographer hailing from the state of Kerala in India but currently working and residing in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. My passion lies in creating images that communicate a strong sense of place and cultural awareness of the people and the country.
Started my photography in the year 2011 and it has been a spiritually uplifting experience for me as I travelled through those moments and places capturing emotions and light to its beauty and story telling visuals.
To me photography is a journey and I am learning & unlearning everyday and I am thriving to improve everyday. I believe in the principle that good photography is all about capturing images based on ‘how you see’ rather ‘what you see’.
My gear includes Canon 5 D Mark II camera body with Lenses Canon 16-35 USM II L, Canon 24-70 USM I L, Canon 50 mm f1.8 and Fujifilm X100S camera.
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