Saturday, February 19, 2011

Three Million Women at Close of Festival for Goddess Kannagi

Reported at online
3mn women take part in temple event
By Ashraf Padanna/Thiruvananthapuram
February 19, 2011

More than 3mn women swarmed the Kerala capital yesterday to offer ‘pongala’ to a Hindu goddess in what’s billed as the largest congregation of female devotees in the world.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, 2.5mn had participated in the women-only event in 2009. Authorities put this year’s figure at around 3mn.

Devotees from the southern districts of Kerala as well as the bordering districts of Thirunelveli and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu visit the city on the culmination of the 10-day annual festival at the Attukal Bhagavathi temple and cook the ‘pongala’ offering for goddess Kannagi.

The offering is prepared using rice, jaggery and coconut on makeshift hearths along the city roads. Then priests sprinkle sacred water on the cooked rice, and the women begin their return journey.

Yesterday’s festivities began around 11am when the chief priest of the temple lit an earthenware pot from the fire of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.

It was then passed on to the women devotees, who were lined up across the main roads of the capital city, occupying a staggering 13sq km of area.

Cricketer Sreeshant’s mother Savitri Devi, who came from the port city of Kochi, was among those who made the offering along with several film and television stars.

“I prayed not for my son but the whole Indian team who are playing against Bangladesh in Dhaka today and other matches in the World Cup. They had all come to our home and they are like my son,” Devi said. “I used to come and offer pongala every year and I believe it’s because the goddess’s grace that Sreeshant is in the team.”

The temple is dedicated to Attukal Bhagavathi who is believed to be an incarnation of Kannaki, the central character of the Tamil epic Silappadhikaram.

“I’m here for the first time. I am really excited to see such huge crowds of women,” said 43-year-old Retnamma Kumar, who came from Kottayam.

It's hard for me to wrap my brain around 3,000,000 women converging on one spot.  That's like five times the population of my home city!  Well, more power to them, and I hope their prayers and offerings bring positive results.  We sure as hell need it these days.  Perhaps if we had more worship of the Goddess and less worship of Mammon, particularly in the USA, we'd all be better off. 

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