- On February 28, 2018, the Kerala State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights registered a suo motu case in connection with the Kuthiyottam ritual.
- The commission said it would examine if the ritual, reportedly involving piercing children’s sides with a hook, violated child rights in any manner.
What is the Pongala festival?
- The Kuthiyottam ritual is usually performed every year during the Pongala festival at the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
- The Attukal Pongala festival is the largest congregation of women for a festival in the world. Pongala, which means ‘to boil over’, is a ritual in which women prepare a pudding made from rice, jaggery, coconut and plantains cooked together, and offer it to the goddess.
- The ritual can only be performed by women, and the streets of the city are known to be jam packed with devotees during the festival.
What does the Kuthiyottam ritual involve?
- Nearly 1,000 young boys undertake a seven-day penance before Pongala day.
- These boys are said to represent the wounded soldiers of the goddess. “The boys have to observe strict discipline and stay inside the temple for seven days. The rigours include sleeping on the floor, strict diet restrictions, and bathing three times a day. They also have to prostrate 1,008 times before the deity.
- The ritual also reportedly involves piercing the child’s side with a small hook and knotting a thread through it to symbolise their bond with the Goddess.