The Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, one of the ancient temples of South India, is popularly described as Sabarimala of the Women, as women form the major portion of devotees. The Goddess in the temple of Attukal is worshipped as the Supreme Mother, creator of all living beings and the mighty preserver as well as the destroyer of them all. The pilgrims from all over the country, who visit Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple and worship the Lord, do not consider their visits complete without a visit to the shrine of the supreme Mother Attukalamma. Vishnumaya took the incarnation of Bhagavathy to annihilate the evil and protect the good in the world in the present Era namely Kaliyuga.
According to mythology, Attukal Bhagavathy is supposed to be the divinised form of Kannaki, the famous heroine of Chilapathikaram, written by Elenkovadikal, the Tamil Poet. The story goes that after the destruction of the ancient city of Madurai, Kannaki left the city and reached Kerala via Kanyakumari and on the way to Kodungalloor took a sojourn at Attukal. The hymns of the Thottampattu sung during the annual temple festival, are based on the story of Kannaki. Moreover, architectural depictions of Goddess Kannaki seen on the Gopuram temple substantiate this mythology. Kannaki is supposed to be the incarnation of Parvathy, the consort of Paramasiva. The all-powerful and benign Attukal Bhagavathy reigns eternally supreme at Attukal and nurses devotees as a mother does her children.
The Pongala Mahotsavamis the most important festival of Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. The offering of Pongala is a special temple practice prevalent in the southern part of Kerala and some parts of Tamilnadu. It is a ten-day programme commencing on the Karthika star of the Malayalam month of Makaram - Kumbham (February-March) and closing with the sacrificial offering known as Kuruthitharpanam at night. On the ninth day of the festival, the world-famous Attukal Pongala Mahotsavam takes place. The entire area of about 5 kilometre radius around temple with premises of houses of people of all caste, creed and religion, open fields, roads, commercial institutions, premises of Government offices etc. emerge as a consecrated ground for observing Pongala rituals for lakhs of women devotees assembling from different parts of Kerala and outside. The ceremony is exclusively confined to women folk and the enormous crowd which gathers in Thiruvananthapuram on this auspicious day is reminiscent of the Kumbhamela Festival of North India. Anyone visiting the Attukal temple is first struck by the beauty and charm of the temple architecture. The temple structure is a harmonious conglomeration of both Kerala and Tamil styles of architecture. The beautifully carved figures of Mahishasuramarddini, Goddess Kali, Rajarajeswari, Sree Parvathy with Lord Paramasiva and various other depictions of the Goddess in and around the temple are undoubtedly the work of a gifted artist. Equally well presented around the corridors surrounding the temple, are the depiction of various other Gods and the epic stories of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu viz., the Dasavathara. On either side of the elegant front gopura - are the icons based on the story of Goddess Kannaki. On the southern Gopura, the puranic story of Dakshayaga is depicted in sculptures. The decorated gate at the entrance of the temple is by itself an excellent example of architectural beauty. There are two idols of the Goddess in the sanctum sanctorum. The original idol is preserved in all its pristine beauty covered in ornamental gold embedded with installed stones. The second idol of the Goddess is installed beside the original one. Within the temple, corridors are also installed carvings and sculptures of Lord Ganesan, the Serpent God, and Lord Shiva. At the center of the Sanctum within the Sreekovil, at a consecrated spot is installed the idol of the Goddess Attukal Bhagavathy emanating light and lustre to all.
According to the legend, the Goddess Bhagavathy revealed herself to a fervent devotee of a notable family viz. Mulluveettil family. It is said that one evening a young girl appeared before the head of the family while he was performing his oblations in the Killi river and requested him to help her cross the river. Impressed by her charismatic demeanor, the old man bent before her with awe and reverence and not only helped her cross the river but took her to his house nearby. Strangely enough, while the household members were amidst preparations for intending a warm welcome to the young girl, she vanished. That very night the Goddess Bhagavathy appeared as an icon before the old man in his dream and demanded that he should establish an abode for her in the nearby sacred ground of shrubs and herbs (kavu), at a consecrated spot marked by three lines. The next morning the old man went to the spot revealed to him in the dream and to his great surprise, he did find three marks indented on the ground. He lost no time in erecting a temple on this consecrated spot to house the Goddess. Many years later, the building was renovated by the local devotees. They also installed a beautiful and majestic icon of the Deity with four arms, bearing weapons of destruction in each, like spear, sword, skull, shield etc. The consecration ceremony of this Exalted Being was performed by no less a person than the high priest of the Badrinath Temple.
The temple is governed by a registered body viz. Attukal Bhagavathy Temple Trust. Ever since The Trust commenced its administration, there has been considerable improvement and development in the temple. The renovation of the temple, improvement of the roads leading to the temple, expansion of areas for Pongala, provision of facilities for the devotees to worship in the temple etc. have all been undertaken by the Trust. The newly constructed Gopuram ornamental gate in front of the temple and the southern Gopuram are richly decorated with visuals depicting the might acts of the Gods and Goddesses. The Trust has also constructed a temple to perpetuate the memory of Chattambi Swamikal a great saint of modern Kerala and daily offerings poojas, prayers, bhajana etc. are held to his glory. In addition to the effective administration of the Temple, many other public utility services are also undertaken by the Trust. A religious and spiritual magazine entitled Amba Prasadam has been started from October 1999 and it is being widely received by the devotees and the public at large. The special offerings are Pusdhpabhishekam, Laksharchana, Udayasthamana Pooja, Ardha Dina Pooja, Chuttuvilakku, 101 Kalam Pongala, Kalabhabhishekam, Ashtadravyabhishekam, Panthirunazhi, Panchamrithabhishekam, Bhagavathyseva, Sreebali, Muzhukkappu, Navakabhishekam, Kunjoonu (Choroonu - first rice feeding ceremony for children), Thulabharam, Vidyarambham, Archana etc. An atmosphere of festivity prevails every day at the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. Poojas arranged by devotees as Bhajan, Kodi Archana, Leksharchana, Akhandanamajapam (continuous chanting of the names of Goddess) are also conducted almost every day. All important days of religious observances are celebrated here. Very important among them are Mandala Vratham, Vinayaka Chathurthi, Pooja Vaypu, Sivarathri, Karthika, Ayilya Pooja, Aiswarya Pooia, Nirayum Puthariyum (Ramayana Parayanam), Akhandanama Japam.