Being someone from Kerala, I am happy to write about ‘Thrissur Pooram'. Although a temple festival, Thrissur Pooram is a sentiment of all people of Kerala and all the Pooram lovers. Just like the Onam celebration or boat race in Alleppey, Thrissur Pooram heads the list of festivals in Kerala.
The centuries-old festivity is hosted befittingly in Thrissur which is the cultural capital of Kerala. To mark the week-long celebration, a flag-hoisting ceremony was held at participating temples on 24th April. The enthralling display of piety, rituals, and practices can amaze anyone in the vicinity. After being disrupted by the pandemic for two years, this year millions of spectators are expected as usual to witness the flamboyant event.
The famous Vadakkunnathan Temple with its antique architectural works and the legends associated with it make it noteworthy. It is a national monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act.
Thrissur Pooram was introduced by Sakthan Thampuran, aka Raja Rama Varma, the Maharaja of the erstwhile Cochin State. His initiative to conduct the festival uniting ten temples around the Vadakkunnathan temple late in the eighteenth century grew immensely. Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady are the two main temples that sponsor and organize the proceedings during these days. In recent decades, the festival has grown to be the most famous of all the Pooram festivals in Kerala.
Piety and Practices
On the main day, the festival commences with the procession in the morning. The procession is a custom that signifies the visit of deities from the Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi temples.
Religiously speaking the festival is confined to the temples of Devi, Sastha, and eight other deities in the neighboring Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple. The principal divine participant is Lord Shiva at the Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple.
Over the years, piety and devotional visits to the temples by participating groups have become more of a competition albeit with healthy and positive vibes. Led by Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi temples, the entire event is orchestrated to a sensual treat. Each group unfurls its aura to outsmart the other. In its quest to excel, the millions that gather get to witness 36 long hours of extravagant display of festivity. Eye-pleasing rituals, fireworks, participation of best and most elegant artistic-parasols-clad elephants, and Panchavadyam (combination of five musical instruments) leave you bewitched.
The famous processions enter the Vadakkunnathan temple premises on the penultimate day of the week-long Thrissur Pooram. They enter through the western gate and come out through the southern gate. What follows is a spectacular display of caparisoned elephants and the exchange of umbrellas. These practices are some of the highlights of the Thrissur Pooram.
In addition to these, daily rituals, prayers, other devotional practices, and the festive mood envelops the aforesaid temples from the day of flag hoisting. Ceremonial Kodiyettams (flag hoisting) are held in respective temples on April 24 to herald the Thrissur Pooram.
Thrissur Pooram is also known as Elephant Festival thanks to the optimum number of elephants paraded in the festival. Thirty caparisoned elephants are brought from various temples of Kerala by the two main organizing groups. Each group makes sure to show forth the biggest and top-ranked elephants available. Each set of processions carries the respective idols of Lord Krishna and the goddess.
There were times when over a hundred elephants were paraded. However, now due to restrictions only thirty are allowed. Even these thirty, the best available ones, adorned and majestic, stand out in the crowd.
It is the event where the deities, Thiruvambadi Devi and Lord Krishna, are taken out in a procession from their temple to the Vadakkunnathan temple.
Ilanji is Bullet Wood Tree and Melam is musical fair. The Musical Fair is orchestrated near the Ilanji tree situated in the temple's courtyard. The juncture becomes the assembly point of the largest number of percussion artists. More than 200 instrumentalists participate in the event. Traditional percussion ensembles such as Pancharimelam, Pandimelam, and Panchavadyam blend in to provide the perfect base. And the musical fest goes on for hours together enthralling the crowd. It commences in the afternoon and is followed by Kudamattom.
Kudamattom – exchanging of umbrella
‘Kuda' means Umbrella and ‘Mattom' means Change. The Kudamattom ceremony is a central part of the festivity. The flamboyant ceremony displays a competition of changing colorful canopied umbrellas. What makes it even more unique and worth watching is the whole activity is done by men sitting atop the adorned elephants. It is one of the magic moments for each team to show off. The swift rhythmic changing of brightly colored and sequined parasols is a key part of the fierce competition.
The external soul of Thrissur Pooram lies in the mighty fireworks on both sides. As per the custom, there will be a sample of fireworks before the main event. Thus, this year the sample fireworks took place on April 28 at 7.00 PM. The Thiruvambadi team took the first turn and the Paramekkavu team followed it up. Special fireworks like Silver Fish, Red Range, Red Leaf, Flash Flash, etc. were on display. A lot more vibrant pyrotechnics can be seen in the early hours on May 1.
Like every year, this time too large crowd patiently wait to witness mindboggling fireworks on display. They would also be praying that the rains stay away on these two days. And like preceding years, this year there are two new names given to a particular firecracker – K-Rail and Vande Bharat.
When? It is celebrated in the month of Medom according to the Malayalam calendar which falls in the month of April-May. thus, this year it is scheduled on April 30 & May 1.
Where? Vadakkunnathan temple, Thrissur. And the participating temples are Kanimangalam, Karamukku, Choorakkattukara, Lalor, Ayyanthole, Neithilakkavu, Chembukkavu, and Panamukkampilly.
How to reach? Rush, it is almost time. The nearest international airport at Kochi is 50 km away. The nearest railway station and bus stands are just 2 km away.
A Travel enthusiast and Foodie, craving to explore the intricate beauty of nature and its gift of delectable treats. Pens down his thoughts and experiences to present a delightful journey for his readers