THE MOTHER OF ALL POORAMS

Airports India - - NEWS - TEXT & PHO­TOS : JOE MILTON

Avisit to Thrissur, the cul­tural cap­i­tal of God’s own Coun­try – Ker­ala – is in­com­plete with­out wit­ness­ing the fa­mous Thrissur Pooram, which is one of the most spec­tac­u­lar fes­ti­val events on planet earth. Con­ducted ev­ery year in the Malayam cal­en­dar month of Medam (fall­ing ei­ther in last week of April or First week of May), it is a mag­nif­i­cent show which should find a place in your bucket list if you are a cul­tural en­thu­si­ast. The Pooram is a unique fes­ti­val in which the main de­ity of a Hindu tem­ple is taken out for a pro­ces­sion on ele­phant back, which com­prises of parad­ing of sev­eral ele­phants gor­geously dec­o­rated with var­i­ous ca­parisons and el­e­gant tra­di­tional cos­tumes, along with en­sem­bles of well syn­chro­nised per­cus­sions (Chenda, madalam, Idakka), and other tra­di­tional mu­si­cal in­stru­ments such as Kombu (long semi cir­cu­lar wind in­stru­ment), Ku­rumkuzhal (dou­ble reed wind in­stru­ment), Ilatha­lam (cym­bals) etc.

The most pop­u­lar leg­end says that the Thrissur Pooram was started by the erst­while ruler of Kochi prov­ince, ‘Shri Raja Rama Varma,’ more pop­u­larly known as the “Sak­than Tham­pu­ran,” in the 17th cen­tury. Prior to that, the prom­i­nent Pooram was the Arat­tupuzha pooram con­ducted in a lo­cal tem­ple sit­u­ated 10 km south of Thrissur town. But once it so hap­pened that some peo­ple from Thrissur could not at­tend the fes­ti­val as they got de­layed in reach­ing the venue due to in­ces­sant rain. Sub­se­quently, peo­ple com­plained to Sak­than Tham­pu­ran who found a so­lu­tion by evolv­ing the con­cept of Thrissur Pooram, wherein he or­dered all the lo­cal Poorams con­verge and cul­mi­nate into one ma­jor ex­trav­a­ganza or Pooram at Thrissur in the premises of Vakakku­nathan tem­ple. For this, he cleared the forested area around the tem­ple, mak­ing a huge cir­cu­lar ground for the con­duct of the Pooram. Grad­u­ally, Thrissur pooram turned out to be the mother of all Poorams. The Thrissur Pooram is built around the Vadakku­nathan tem­ple, sit­u­ated ex­actly in the cen­tre of Thrissur town, whose de­ity is Lord Shiva. Over the years, two

prom­i­nent groups have emerged as mu­tual com­peti­tors – namely, Thiru­vam­bady, whose de­ity is lord Kr­ishna and Paramekkavu, whose de­ity is Bha­gawaty. In mod­ern times, the real essence of Thrissur Pooram ap­pears to be its ma­jor sports tour­na­ment and frenzy and spirit as­so­ci­ated with the two com­pet­ing teams in all Pooram re­lated fes­tiv­i­ties.

The Pooram fes­tiv­i­ties kick­start with Kodiyet­tam, or the flag hoist­ing cer­e­mony, seven days prior to the main day. The fol­low­ing days wit­ness some rit­u­als in

the tem­ples par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Pooram and the town gears up by dec­o­rat­ing the tem­ples and erect­ing beau­ti­fully lit Pan­thals (tem­po­rary tow­ers) around the Pooram venue. The next ma­jor event is on the fourth day’s evening, known as the Sam­ple Vedikettu, which is es­sen­tially an eye catch­ing py­rotech­nic dis­play in varies hues, shapes and de­signs. It lasts for about an hour and is not about deci­bel mag­ni­tude but more about colour­ful dis­plays by both the com­pet­ing Thiru­vam­bady and Paramekkavu groups. On the fifth day, the main event is the Aana Chamayam or the ele­phant ca­pari­son /ac­ces­sories dis­play, when the Net­ti­pat­tam (golden head or­na­ment), and Ko­lam / Thi­dambu (large golden shield on which de­ity is car­ried), are dis­played in a daz­zling ar­range­ment, along with other ac­cou­trements such as Aalavat­taom (or­na­men­tal fan with pea­cock feather), Ven­chama­ram (white hairy royal fan), golden bells, dec­o­ra­tive um­brel­las etc. Once again the two com­pet­ing teams try to out­play one an­other even in this event.

The main Pooram starts on the sixth day, early in the morn­ing at 3 am, whereby all small Poorams from other tem­ples si­mul­ta­ne­ously com­mence. Al­to­gether, about 50 fully dec­o­rated ele­phants from 10 tem­ples take part in Poorams on the day. At 2 pm in the af­ter­noon, there is a spe­cial mu­si­cal en­sem­ble named Il­lan­jithara melam, which the lo­cals cel­e­brate with fer­vour. The other two prom­i­nent en­sem­bles are Pan­chavadyam and Pandymelam. There­after, the main teams, Paramekkavu and Thiru­vam­badi, en­ter the main tem­ple through the western gate, pay obei­sance to the main de­ity Vadakku­nathan and then exit through the south­ern gate and array them­selves with 15 ele­phants each, on ei­ther side of the Pooram ground, face to face at a dis­tance of about 100 me­tres. Space in be­tween the teams is oc­cu­pied by a fren­zied ocean of peo­ple. This face-off is the most spec­tac­u­lar part of the Pooram, known as Ku­damat­tam, mean­ing change of um­brel­las. Dur­ing this closely fought com­pe­ti­tion, each team dis­plays a va­ri­ety of de­signs of dec­o­rated para­sols on the ele­phants’ backs, at an ap­prox­i­mate in­ter­val of 5 min­utes. The mag­nif­i­cent event lasts for about an hour. This well or­ches­trated dis­play is wit­nessed by ec­static and cheer­ing crowd and is, in fact, the cul­mi­na­tion of sev­eral months of se­cret plan­ning and de­sign­ing of the um­brel­las by both teams, mak­ing it a must watch in the itin­er­ary of Thrissur Pooram.

Af­ter this, all the Poorams con­clude but the crowd lingers for the next big spec­ta­cle early next morn­ing, which is the main Vedikettu (fire­works) which boasts of its own spe­cial char­ac­ter, and high blast mag­ni­tude. It starts at 3 am and ends af­ter an hour. Both Thiru­vam­bady and Paramekkavu tem­ples com­pete vig­or­ously with one an­other to grab the head­lines next day. Un­like the Sam­ple Vedikettu, these fire­works are thun­der­ous and can be heard and tremors felt from miles away. The ac­tual feel can­not be ex­plained in words, but has to be ex­pe­ri­enced. The sev­enth day is the last day of Pooram, which con­cludes with the Pakal Pooram, which is less crowded and is meant for those who missed the main Poorams. It is also the farewell cer­e­mony of the Pooram. The mega fes­ti­val then comes to an end with a dis­play of small fire­works known as Pakal Vedikkettu. A ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tion is also an in­te­gral part of Pooram cel­e­bra­tions which show­cases sev­eral ex­hi­bi­tions from var­i­ous so­cio-eco­nomic fields, be­sides com­mer­cial shop­ping stalls from across In­dia. One strik­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Thrissur Pooram is its sec­u­lar na­ture, and the fes­ti­val is par­tic­i­pated in with fer­vour by all Thris­suri­ans, no mat­ter what re­li­gion, caste, creed or class they be­long to.

This year, the Thrissur Pooram is sched­uled to be held on 5th May. Thrissur is at a dis­tance of about 50 Km from Cochin In­ter­na­tional Air­port (CIAL) and is eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble.

Pare­makkavu Team

Vadakku­nathan Tem­ple

Ku­damat­tam

An­other Chamayam Dis­play

Chamayam Dis­play

Sam­ple vedikettu

Ec­stat­ic­crowd

Dec­o­rated Pare­makkavu Tem­ple

Ila­jithara melam

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