The Attukal Temple gains its fame countrywide from its principle deity, the Goddess Kannaki who is a manifestation of Lady Parvathi, Lord Shiva’s divine consort in Hindu mythology. Legend has it that Kannagi was married to a lecherous man by the name of Kovalan, who abandoned his wife after falling in love with a dancer. He lavished his vast fortune on her and when spent, he came back to Kannangi, a broken man. The chaste woman took her husband back and wanted to sell her precious anklets to the King of Madurai to restore their lost fortunes. However, the Queen of Madurai had similar anklets that were stolen, and when Kovalan presented his wife’s anklets to the king, he was accused of stealing them and was beheaded.
Furious, Kannagi rushed to the citadel upon hearing the news, and she broke open her other anklet, displaying the rubies within, where the Queen’s anklets were said to have contained pearls. She cursed the city for the misdeeds of its rulers, and due to her chaste nature, the curse reputedly came true. Kannagi was said to secure salvation after the city’s goddess appeared before her. Another story relates an old man meeting a girl on the road, who asks him for help crossing a nearby river. Concerned that she was abandoned, he took her home to find her parents, but then she mysteriously disappeared. She appeared to him in the form of a dream and told him to build a temple on his property, which bore three golden lines on the ground. Legend tells of Attukal Temple being built on the spot.
The temple is famous for its vibrant and exciting Attukal Pongala Festival, which has the largest gathering of women ever recorded in the Guinness World Book of Records. About 3.7 million women are estimated to gather each year, with this number growing annually. The female devotees congregate in the month of Kumbham (during February-March), in order to prepare a special concoction known as Pongala (rice that is cooked with coconut, ghee and sweet jaggery and other ingredients) in small pots in the open to please the goddess. The festival lasts for ten glorious days with the ninth day being Pongala Day where the women offer the Pongala in the clay pots. The entire city of Thiruvanathapuram transforms into a sea of women extending for about 7km away from the temple centre. Public transport on that day becomes exclusively reserved for women as the festival is all about celebrating the divinity of the feminine by females. The festival is indeed a unique occurrence in a country so steeped in patriarchal beliefs and is a spectacular sight to behold.
After experiencing the heady rush of Pongala in one of the most vibrant cities on India’s southwestern coast, indulge yourself within the lush trappings of a Kerala resort that promises to pamper its guests in style. Enjoy a delightful boat ride on the scenic Poovar River and a host of many other excursions offered at the Poovar Island Resort. It is recommended as a quality beach hotel Kerala offers to the discerning tourist, and it is the perfect place to unwind after soaking in some of the region’s most attractive sights, sounds and, since this is India, smells.