Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, one of the ancient temples of south India, is dedicated to the Goddess Bhagavathi, one of the forms of Parvati
. It is situated on the banks of the Killi river, in Thiruvananthapuram
. The temple is beautified with carvings of the various manifestations of the goddess, as Mahishasuramardini
, Goddess Kali
, Rajarajeswari, Sree Parvati with Lord Paramashiva
and various others.
Legend is that Devi Bhagavathi gave darshan to a devotee, the head of the Mulluveettil family, as a 12-year-old girl near the Killi river. In a dream she demanded him to establish an abode for her in the nearby sacred ground of shrubs and herbs (kavu), at a consecrated spot marked by three lines. The devotee later built a temple at this sacred spot. According to mythology, Attukal Bhagavathy is supposed to be the divinised form of Kannaki, an incarnation of Parvati and the famous heroine of Shilappadikaram. The story goes that after the destruction of the ancient city of Madurai, Kannaki left the city and reached Kerala via Kanyakumari and on the way to Kodungallur sojourned at Attukal.
The Attukal Bhagavathy Temple festival falls in February / March and lasts for ten days. This is an occasion when the entire city becomes focused on the temple. The streets are made colourful on the festival days with colorful processions. Offerings called 'Vilakku kettu,' huge structures made of pith, decorated with shining paper and garlands, and usually with the image of the goddess, are carried to the temple in a procession. Some of these look like miniature temples. Tender coconut frond and plantain leaf-stalks are also used in making these.
Ponkala, an exclusive festival for women, is on the ninth day of the festival. On the day of Ponkala, lakhs of women devotees assemble from different parts of Kerala as well as other states and prepare ponkala, a sweet offering of rice, jaggery and coconut, in earthen pots. After Ponkala, the chief priest of the temple goes around and blesses the devotees by sprinkling holy water and flower petals on them. On the concluding day of the festival, the goddess is taken out in a procession to the Sastha or Ayyappa temple at suburban Manacaud, a few km away. Caparisoned elephants, young girls with Thalappoli, young boys undertaking Kuthiyottam, and Nadaswaram parties form an important part of this procession. On the way, people receive the goddess in front of their houses with Nirapara and Nilavilakku, a Kerala custom in which the traditional measuring container called 'Para' is decorated and filled with paddy as offering to the goddess.
Other festivals and observances of the temple are Vinayaka Chaturthi, Dussehra, Shivaratri, and Karthika Deepam.
The temple is governed by a registered body, Attukal Bhagavathy Temple Trust. The Trust undertakes and monitors the work related to the renovation of the temple, improvement of the roads leading to the temple, expansion of areas for Ponkala, and provision of facilities for the devotees to worship in the temple.
Trivandrum International Airport, Thiruvananthapuram Central Railway Station, Thiruvananthapuram Central Bus Station are the nearest access points.