THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Flames of devotion engulfed the capital city on the occasion of the annual pongala festival on Saturday. Lakhs of women who gathered on the temple premises and streets offered sweet porridge to appease Attukal Devi.

The pongala ritual began at the temple around 10.30 am when priests performed sudhdha punyaham in front of the flag mast of the temple. It was followed by the “aduppu vettu” ritual in which a hearth, the pandara aduppu, was set up at the sanctified place around 10.45 am.

Thantri Thekkedath Kuzhikattu Parameswaran Vasudevan Bhattathiripad handed the lamp to melsanthi Arunkumar Namboodiri in the sanctum sanctorum. The melsanthi lighted the hearths in the thidappally and co-priest Kesavan Namboodiri lighted the pandara aduppu to prepare pongala.

Soon after the pandara aduppu was lighted, lakhs of devotees ignited their hearths to prepare the pongala, the sweet porridge, the goddess’ favourite.

The line of devotees extended to streets in a 10 km radius of the temple except on the side of Killiyar where pongala is allowed only up to the river bank.

The temple provided free food and water to the devotees who offered the ritual on its premises. In other places voluntary organisations and shrines, including temples, mosques and churches, provided refreshment to the devotees. The nivedyam ritual, when the porridge is considered to be savoured by the goddess, was at 2.15 pm. Hundreds of priests arranged by the temple sprinkled sanctified water on the pongala pots in places near the temple.

In other places local temples performed the sanctification ritual. Towards the north the line of hearths extended up to Vellayambalam and there after devotees were seen assembled in particular locations. On the west the line extended to bypass road.

The kuthiyottam ritual in the evening was attended by 871 boys.