Pongala Entrepreneurs And Their Wares
It is not only the act of making Pongola but also the selling of Pongola pots that is spiritually driven writes Shameem Faruque
On Feb 28, 2015


Trivandrum city is gearing up for one of its most popular spiritual tradition, Attukal Pongala.


The flames leaping out of the earthen stove [ Aduppu ] is meant to cook not only the devotee’s offering to the Goddess but also to cleanse one’s inner spirit. But before the actual Pongala day some devotees consider it their spiritual calling to sell those lovely hand –made earthen pots [ Kalams] born out of the Klin.


‘Kalyan Sarees ‘ and ‘Joy Alukkas’ loom large, places where huge business is done. As a stark irony of life a few sit with earthen pots right opposite to the grand shops, to do their business. But here no one makes any huge profit. There are no high expectations. But they surely yearn for ‘Attukalamma’s [Mother Goddess of Attukal Temple] blessing.


Anil Kumar

Most of those who have lined up the city streets to sell Pongala pots are already struggling to pull their life through. But like a promise made every year they come back with hordes of many sized pots to the same spot, not to amass wealth by selling them but for the inner peace and satisfaction that they feel as a blessing from ‘Attukal Amma’.


Chandiri in her fifties is a mother of three and Grand Mother of six. Her husband is addicted to alcohol. Her harsh life has made her stronger. She works as a maid but today stands at the East Fort gate with the pots she has bought from Nagercoil , neatly arranged and waiting for buyers. She sleeps on the road side, feeling secure as “there is enough security at the show room opposite”. The 3rd, 4th and 5th will see a buying spree.

Ebinazer ans Sella

“I have taken a loan on high interest as usual to buy all these,” says this tough lady. The total expenditure may vary from sixty to eighty thousand. Out of the loan, a good chunk goes as labour charge and for the vehicle that brings it from Tamil Nadu. “Once the pots are sold, every penny will be paid back,” says a hopeful Chandiri.


Anil Kumar is a daily wager whose wife is differently-abled and has two kids. “I booked for my pots three months prior. I got them from Thazhakudy, near Nagercoil. If I am not able to pay back the loan after this, I will work and return the money,” he says smiling. There is no doubt in this devotee’s mind. As he sits guarding his pots, it looks more like a prayer than anything else.


Meet Ebinazer J and Silla, an interesting couple, down-to-earth and rather melancholic. “I call her Sillamma,” says Ebinazer. They are just two of the hundred or so who depend on bamboo basketry as their livelihood, at Kallar and Vithura.


As usual they have come with their beautiful hand woven baskets and ‘Muram’. This craftsmanship is ethnic and been passed down generations. “But with the surge of plastic goods, our baskets are becoming fast outdated. And the new generation refuse to take this up which is quite understandable,” he says. “We are acknowledged by the central Ministry of Textiles.”


Ebinazer shows his ID card but it is of no help, he feels. They no longer take ‘Eera’ or ‘Eatta’ from the forest but buy it for thirty five rupees each. This small scale industry is dying unless the Govt. revives it. Ebinazer and Silla are holding on.



At one side stands Lakshmi, a graying face of a goddess herself. But laughs and says that she is “just fifty”. From Tirunelveli, for the past five years she comes to ‘Attukalamma’ with her bounty of pots. Her pretty granddaughter Arthi is by her side. Though her son stays in the city, for her it is a ‘one man’ show.


There are many more of such ‘entrepreneurs’ during Pongala season. They will disappear from the roads soon after. But next year they will be back again to nestle into this spiritual warmth, Attukal Pongala, literally living on the street, struck by the divine current that would last through the year.

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