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Women’s Sabarimala festival: Iron hook pierced through the flesh of young boys

Swapna Mohanty | Updated on: 28 February 2018, 12:45 IST
Boys in Attukal Pongala festival

While people across the world would be busy celebrating the festival of colour on Tuesday, there would a 10-day-long Attukal Pongala festival, which will take place at Attukal Bhagavathi temple in Thiruvananthpuram.

Pic from Attukal Pongala festival

The annual festival also called women’s Sabarimala festival, which commemorates the victory of Good over Evil, by the slaying of Pandyan King has made a place in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2009 for the 2.5 million gathering of women. 


Also Read: Sabarimala temple case: SC refers matter to Constitution bench

While the festival is celebrated with pomp and devotion, there is one ritual that has raised the eyeball. A ritual called ' Kuthiyottam' performed in this festival, young boys observe a seven-day vritham or penance.


boys queuing after having bath in cold water

Young boys between the age of (5 years-12 years) are made to wear loincloth during these 10 days event and submerge in cold water, eat measly morsels on the floor. 

While women sit outside the temple roadside and cook a sweet dish that they offer as prayer in the temple.

On Tuesday first woman Director General of Police in Kerala, R Sreelekha called for an end to the age-old practice of ‘kuthiyottam’ in the state capital. Even the DGP wrote in her blog that this age-old practice should be stopped.

In her blog, she mentioned how the boys are not allowed to see their parents during this time. On the final day, the boys deck up yellow cloths, garlands, jewellery and put makeup on face including lipstick.

They silently stand in a queue waiting for the unbearable torture. The Tiny iron hook is pierced through their flesh and they keep screaming in pain and agony as blood comes out. Then ash is roughly applied to their wounds! People believe that this act symbolise their bond with divinity.

Boys boys decked up for the festival

Comparing the boys to the goats to sacrificed at Guwahati’s Kamaakhya temple. The DGP wrote in her blog, “All the boys in wet loincloths bore the same look of the sacrificed goats of Kamakhya.”

She also wrote that physical and mental pain to children is offenses registered under sections 89, 319, 320, 349, 350, 351 of the Indian Penal Code.

Iron hook being pierced

To know more about this existing ritual, Catch News caught up with the DGP, she said, “When I was 10-year-old, I have been offering Pongala (a mixture of rice, jaggery, and ghee) in this temple but this custom has been bothering me since childhood.” 

She also added that people in this area believe that by following this ritual their child would thrive well in life. Besides, the temple officials are following their tradition forgetting the pain and hardships the boys go through.

When contacted the temple authority to know they're part of the story, one of the officials said that this year, more than 900 boys would take part in this ritual and none of them are forced to do so.
Rejecting the charges by the DGP, the temple official said the Kerala high court directive that no-one should interfere in the temple rituals and customs.

First published: 28 February 2018, 12:45 IST