Attukal Pongala festival was held recently in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala despite coronavirus (COVID-19) scare!! .

Attukal Bhagavathi Amman temple, Attukal, Kerala.
The Attukal Pongal is a  10-day  temple festival held at the Attukal Temple, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. Being a popular festival that comes in February/March every year, it is a huge gathering of   millions of  devout women on the ninth day. These women after invocation to the deity, prepare a  special divine food  made of rice in earthen pots  over the hearth in the open space close to the temple and offer it to the Goddess of the Temple - Bhadrakali or Kannaki. This interesting festival begins with  the ritual called 'Aduppuvettu' -  lighting of the pongala hearth (called Pandarayaduppu) placed inside the temple by the chief priest.  Marked as the largest annual gathering of women by the Guinness World Records February 23, 1997,  it is the earliest Pongala festival in Kerala.  In 2009, a new Guinness World Record was created this time  with  2.5 million attendance.Last year Attukal Pongala was celebrated on Wednesday, 20 February and this year it was held on
on March 9, 2020. The Attukal Pongala event starts at 10.20 a.m and ends at 2.10 p.m with the traditional Nivedyam.
Attukal Ponkala, Thruvanabthapuram, Kerala.

This year the festival was held with more religious fervor than before by the devotees who came in large number in this part of Kerala, despite the threats of  the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) scare. Both Saudi Arabia and Israel closed the major religious places and also stopped the entry of foreign tourists in the wake of Coronavirus. But in India all the major temples are open  and the devotees attend the rituals, etc without any fear or anxiety, thus submitting themselves to their fate. However, their strong belief has been that the ''Almighty above us will take care of their lives'' and with strong faith in the power above us, they keep moving forward.  In this respect more resolute are the devote Hindu women. Without any fear or tension, millions of Indian women attended one of the popular Hindu festivals of Kerala  near the state capital.  Attukal Pongala  was celebrated this year as usual with  lots of interest and deep devotion.

 Kappukettu’ ritual was held  at Attukal Bhagavathy Temple on Sunday,  thus marking the beginning of the 10-day Pongala festival here. The main event  Attukal Pongala  took place on March 9 with the lighting of pongala hearths  by 10.20 am and sanctification by 2.10 pm.
Attukal Ponkala, Thruvanabthapuram, Kerala. /

The  Thiruvananthapuram district administration did not want to take any chances  as roughly 4 million devotees  were expected to celebrate Pongla by making the  offering in the area around  the temple.They deployed the Inter-Agency Group (IAG) for emergency response and crowd management. Roughly, 250 well-trained volunteers were part of it to deal with emergencies during the pongala. They were given the task of maintaining proper public health activities including ensuring hygiene, giving medical aid for patients with symptoms, etc. 
The inauguration of stage programs held as part of the festival was  by actor Anu Sithara by 6.30 pm on Sunday. It is to be known that two  important offerings  are made during the festival as usual and they are  are Thalappoli and Kuthiyottam. The Thalappoli, an offering made by young girls below the age of 10 to seek the blessings of the goddess was held simultaneously with the Pongala on March 9.
As for Kuthiyottam, it  is a dance ritual  mainly offered by young boys between the age group of 6-12 years for the goddess. On the third day of the festival, these boys must observe austerity  at the temple and would  accompany the goddess in  her procession to the Sastha Temple on the night of Pongala after “Chooralkuthu’ ceremony.
 Yet another interesting event is the festival of Vilakkukettu. believed to be a catchy one  well  decorated structures bearing idols and pictures of the goddess are  reverentially carried to the temple by the devotees from different parts of the city. But the procession would begin on the  first day.  The ceremonial removal of Kappu (Kappu Azhippu)  would mark the end of this festival and the Kuruthi Tharppanam on the concluding day. Among many special instructions by the district administration, the devotees were advised  not to bring  plastic cover, disposable paper/plastic cups/plates, bottles etc.  Further,  they were advised to use  steel plates/cups/water bottles to avoid polluting the surrounding. Yet another instruction was  avoiding  non-fired bricks for preparing Pongala.