Attukal Ponkala is the most important aspect of Attukal Bhagavathy Temple
festival. The Ponkala festival falls on the pre-final day of the annual temple festival, in the month of February / March. It is an exclusive festival for women. Attukal Ponkala is essentially different from the Tamil Pongal
in that this is a festival dedicated exclusively to the mother goddess.
Ponkala means golden pot; by extension it means the golden offering made to the goddess. It is believed that Attukal Bhagavathi likes the
payasam to be prepared in clay pots or 'Mankalam'. The word 'golden' has now come to symbolise the precious nature of the offering. Ponkala is offered to the goddess for the well being of one's husband and children. On the day of the Ponkala, lakhs of women devotees from different parts of Kerala and outside the state assemble in the temple premises. Usually a wide area, stretching over quite a few kilometers from the temple, is declared as the Ponkala area, in order to accommodate the thousands of women. They prepare the ponkala payasam, a sweet offering of rice, jaggery, plantains and coconut, in earthen pots. This is believed to be the most favourite offering of the goddess. Devotees offer other items as well, such as thirali appam, mandaputtu, panchamrutam and white rice pongal. The women usually fast on the day before the Ponkala, and the fast is broken only after the ponkala is prepared. An interesting feature of the ponkala day is that the Flying Club of Thiruvananthapuram sends a helicopter around the area, showering flowers and miniature pictures of the goddess down on the devotees. After Ponkala, the chief priest of the temple and his assistants go around and bless the devotees by sprinkling holy water and flower petals on them and the offerings. This is as a token that the goddess has accepted their offering. Then the women return home, with the prasadam.
The most significant thing about Attukal Ponkala is the spirit of unity with which the community of women partake in the entire festival. This is an occasion when the barriers of caste, creed and social status fade into insignificance.