Attukal Pongal

I was riding my bike not long after 8 in the morning on the 11th, heading into town for Attukal Pongal. When an event is the record holder for the most women gathered in one place – and the number is up to 4 million at this point – one would expect traffic to be a mess. Like most sporting events, though, people trickle in and pour out, so the ride in was a cake-walk. If by cake, you mean millions of women sticking to the shade but ready for some sacred fire, and by walk, you mean rolling through among a half-dozen other kinds of traffic. Gopikrishna is Maya’s son and took most of the photos in this post. Here’s the photographer at work. That’s Maya in the foreground, Sangeetha in the middle ground, and Gopikrishna in the background. He asked to see the camera, I showed him a couple basics, and he was off! When I say off, I mean I looked around and I couldn’t find him. As you see, though, he was doing great work in the meantime. Pongala is a ceremony wherein I set up a pot of water on three bricks (or would have, but Maya beat me to it), put some coconut palm fronds underneath, and wait for the temple fire to make its way to me. The temple has an eternal flame, and every one of the 4 million fires was lit from that flame. The fronds are folded in half and allowed to stick out, then pushed in a little at a time as they burn down. Maya, middle, and Naishnavi mess around while I get ready to burn! I ended up with sore thighs from doing hundreds of deep knee bends. The fire also creates a decent amount of smoke…times[…]

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