‘Attukal Pongala’to be held Tomorrow, Five more Coronavirus cases in Kerala

Despite five fresh COVID-19 cases being reported in Kerala, the Government on Sunday decided to go ahead with Attukal Pongala,  the famous temple festival where lakhs of women will participate. Pongala Mahotsavam at the Attukal Bhagavathy temple near Thiruvananthapuram will be held on Monday. The Kerala Government issued some guidelines to reduce the panic among people over Coronavirus.

The first coronavirus cases reported in India was in Kerala. The three students who came from Wuhan in China recovered with the timely intervention of the health department of the state, without the disease being spread to other people.

But, three members of a family in Pathanamthitta district who recently arrived from Italy and two of their relatives living nearby have been confirmed with coronavirus.

With a large gathering of people in the city, women prepare food in earthen pots and offer it to the goddess of the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. Attukal festival got publicity after this event was listed in Guinness Book of World Records in 2009 for being the largest religious gathering of women on a single day.

All the state, Central and private institutions, offices and Banks will observe a holiday on March 9. State Road Transport Department is operating 500 extra bus services for the convenience of the devotees while Indian Railways also made special arrangements for the travelers by operating seven special trains. Nearly 5,000 Police officers including 1,500 women Police officers were on duty in the capital city to see that festival goes off peacefully.

Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, located in the heart of the city, popularly known as Sabarimala of the women, believed to be an incarnation of Kannaki, the central character of the Tamil epic “Silappathikaaram” who traveled from Tamilnadu to Kerala after the king of Madurai wrongfully imposed the death penalty on her husband. She was believed to be rested for a while at Attukal and women are said to have cooked pongala to please her.

During this festival, women prepare ”pongala”, a mix of rice, jaggery and scraped coconut in fresh earthen or metal pots in makeshift brick stoves and offer it to Goddess.

Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja on Saturday said “We cannot stop this festival being held. So we have decided to tell women that anyone who has recently come from any of the coronavirus-hit countries and those who have fever or cold, should stay away from the festival. They can do it from their homes or at the hotels that they stay in.”

She requested to those with flu symptoms should stay away from participating in festivals and celebrations where people gather in large numbers.

“Months of preparation have gone into the conduct of the Pongala. So the decision is not to cancel Pongala,” Shailaja added.

The minister also visited the Attukal temple complex to supervise the preparations.

Thiruvananthapuram district Collector K Gopalakrishnan also said that many foreigners participate in the pongala ritual and arrangements have been made for them to make the offering in their hotel itself, instead of joining people.

Collector also said that 23 teams will be kept ready at various places during the pongala with 12 ambulances and residents’ association members have also been included in the teams at various places. Corona awareness camps have been planned at Railway Stations, bus stands and temples.