The bricks, abandoned by devotees after the annual Pongala festival at the Attukal Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, are set to turn out to be a blessing for the homeless as the city corporation has announced that they would be used for construction of houses for the needy from next year. 

The city corporation has come out with an initiative to collect and reuse the bricks left over by devotees, to construct budget houses for poor. The devotees abandon lakhs of bricks after Pongala every year across the city and it would be used for the construction purpose from the next year under the state government's ambitious LIFE programme, according to the corporation. 

In all these years, bricks abandoned by the devotees would be either taken away by locals or by brick vendors who would then resell them. Each brick costs Rs 20-30 in local market. 

Thiruvananthapuram mayor VK Prasanth said the project would not only help poor to realise their life-long dream of building a house of their own but also keep the city clean after the mass religious fest. 

"The city is full of waste and bricks after every Pongala fest. Corporation staff used to launch a massive cleaning drive soon after the ritual is over. But, usually, our men will remove waste other than bricks. From next year onwards, they will procure bricks from every nook and cranny of the city after Pongala," Prasanth said. 

Project LIFE (Livelihood, Inclusion, Financial Empowerment) envisages to make Kerala a zero-homeless state by providing home for homeless. According to official figures, 4.70 lakh families remain homeless in the entire state. Besides bricks, an amount of Rs 3.50 lakh would also be given to each beneficiary as financial aid to build houses under the LIFE programme, the mayor pointed out.

Detailing the Corporation's housing plan, Prasanth said that each beneficiary would be identified from 100 Corporation wards and the procured bricks would be distributed among them. "At least 4,000-5,000 bricks are needed for the construction of each budget house we envisage," he added. 

Attukal Pongala, usually observed in February-March every year, entered the Guinness Book of World records as "the largest gathering of women", based on the turnout of around 25 lakh women in 2009. The numbers has increased further in recent years.

Women from various parts of the state and outside prepare pongala (a mix of rice, jaggery and coconut) in earthen or metal pots as an offering to Attukal Devi, the presiding deity of the Attukal Temple, in makeshift brick stoves. The ritual is performed with the participants lining up on either side of the roads in the city and its suburbs. With lakhs of participants, the line sometimes goes 10 kms long. 

(with PTI inputs)