'Attukal Pongala' on Monday, fresh guidelines issued after 5 tested positive for COVID-19
Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government on Sunday decided to go ahead with "Attukal Pongala," one of the largest all-women religious congregations to be held on Monday, but issued fresh guidelines in the backdrop of five fresh positive coronavirus cases being reported in the state.
Since months of preparations have gone in for the famous festival, it has been decided to go ahead with it, Health Minister K. K. Shailaja told reporters here.
The health authorities have issued strict instructions that those having cold, fever or showing any symptoms of the virus, should offer 'pongala' only in front of their homes and avoid crowded places. The minister also visited the Attukal temple complex to supervise the preparations.
Many foreigners participate in the pongala ritual and arrangements have been made for them to make the offering in their hotel itself, Thiruvananthapuram district Collector K. Gopalakrishnan said.
The Pongala festival cannot be avoided. Those who have come from the virus affected nations should offer pongala at their homes, instead of joining people in the ritual at temples, the collector said.
Twenty-three teams will be kept ready at various places during the pongala with 12 ambulances. Residents association members have also been included in the teams at various places.
This will help in tracing those with fever and cold and those who have come from affected countries, he said adding awareness camps would be held at Railway stations, bus stands and temples.
Video clippings of those participating in the festival would also be taken. This would make things easier to get in touch with persons in case of any issues, Shailaja said.
The state had reported the first three positive cases in India for the deadly virus and had successfully treated them. However, Kerala confirmed 5 new cases of Coronavirus on Sunday.
Three of a family, who returned from Italy, tested positive for COVID-19. The other two are close relatives of the returnees. All five are under treatment in isolation wards at Pathanamthitta Government General Hospital.
The Union Health Ministry had recently advised to either avoid or postpone mass gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In case such gatherings are organised, the respective states should take necessary action to guide the organisers on precautions to be taken, a communication from the Ministry had said.
The ritual sees thousands of women from all over the state congregating in the state capital to prepare 'pongala' (sweet offering) as part of the annual festival of the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple here, which is popularly known as the "Women's Sabarimala".
The 'pongala', a mix of rice, jaggery and scraped coconut is prepared in fresh earthen or metal pots in makeshift brick stoves during the festival as offering for the Goddess.