Thrissur Pooram is the most spectacular, interesting, cultural festival of Kerala. This festival is aptly called Pooram of all Poorams. The word “Pooram” means ‘the meeting point of all the arts’. Rich art and culture of Kerala that is splendid during this marathon 36 hours festival.
Thrissur Pooram is celebrated in asterism Pooram in the month of Medam according to Malayalese calendar. This refers to April-May according to Gregorian calendar. This festival was introduced by the erstwhile Maharaja of Kochi, Rama Varma. The celebrations are held at Thekkinkadu grounds around the Vadakunnathan temple. Large number of spectators and devotees assemble to watch this joyous festival. People get to witness the meeting of deities of ten different temples. Processions of decorated elephants and dazzling displays of fireworks are the two major attractions. In addition, during this festival, there are several other enthralling musical programmes and events.
Thrissur Pooram Festival History:
The tradition of celebrating Thrissur Pooram as seen today was commenced in Cochin. Prince of Kochi [Cochin], Rama Varma also called Sakthan Thampuran [1775-1790] introduced the Thrissur Pooram festival.
Earlier, Thrissur Pooram, one-day temple festival was held at Aarattupuzha, 12 km south of the Thrissur. All the temples located in and around Thrissur regularly participated in the ceremonies. Everything was going smoothly. However, one day the Chief of the Peruvanam area of Cherpu denied access to other temples. He wanted to uphold the supremacy of Namboodiris, the dominant Brahmin caste in Kerala.
Prince Raja Varma, the architect of Thrissur, decided to put an end to Namboodiri supremacy. He wanted to assuage the wounded confidence of his subjects. Rama Varma undertook the task of renovating Vadakunnathan temple. Earlier, this temple was bounded by high walls and controlled by Namboodiris. Rama Varma took the responsibilities of the Vadakunnathan temple that he looked after. He also opened the temple to all. Other temples with deities were invited to pay obeisance to Lord [Sri] Vakunnathan, deity of Vadakunnathan temple.
Rama Varma directed main temples of Thrissur, Thiruvampadi and Pamamekkavu that were never controlled by Namboodiris. He requested them to help other participating temples. The Prince, Rama Varma, even chalked the schedule of the 36 hours festival. Thus, the Pooram was open to all. Also, the festival acquired its secular nature from the very beginning. The Pooram attracts Christians, Muslims and people of all castes who participate with vigour and zeal.
Religious Programmes on Thrissur Pooram Festival Day:
The ancient traditions are followed. Thrissur Pooram is confined to temples of Devi [goddess] and Sastha [Divine combination of Shiva and Vishnu]. Ten deities from the neighbouring temples pay obeisance to the presiding deity of Thrissur. The chief participants include Paramekkavu and Tiruvambadi. Other participants called ‘Cherupooram’. These include Kanimangalam, Karamukku, Choorakkattukara, Laloor, Ayyanthole, Neithilakkavu, Chembukkavu and Panamukkampilly.
Pooram festival extends for 36 hours. It begins with ezhunellippu of the Kanimangalam Shasta in the morning. This is followed by ezhunnellippu of the other six minor temples on the Pooram Day. The word “ezhunnellippu” means a ritual. It symbolises the visit of Devi from Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi temples to the Vadakkunnathan temple. This grand festival is known as Thrissur Pooram. Yet, it is celebrated on the concluding eight-day Utsavams of nine temples.
Rituals and Celebrations on Thrissur Pooram Festival Day:
Major participants of the Pooram, Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi provide a spectacular show. These include the best of Kerala art and culture to the onlookers. The mentioned major participants display their artistic prowess. The groups of artists vie with each to prove their mastery over their respective art. They provide a rare show of talent to the spectators.
Massive and colourful processions are organised by temples. Theses start from Krishna Temple and Devi Temple. The groups enter the Vadakumnatha Temple through the western gate. They exit through the southern gate of the temple and come face-to-face with the competition.
A major attraction of the Pooram festival is ‘Panchavadyam’. Over 200 artistes from various disciplines including Thimila, Maddalam, Trumpet, Cymbal and Edakka attend the Pooram. They unleash their talents and leave the audience spellbound. The noon is reserved for another special event called, ‘Pandemelam’. This is when masters of playing the drum, trumpets, pipe and cymbal participate.
One of highlights and most enchanting facet of Thrissur Pooram is the procession of caparisoned elephants. During Pooram evening, on the grounds south to the Vadakumnatha Temple decorated elephants have procession. There are two rows of thirteen decorated elephants that stand facing each other. Best elephants are always selected for this special procession. Elephants get massive makeup, starting from being painted, bejewelled and attired in beautiful satin robe. Also, there are colourful silk parasols that are important part of their decking up. The majestic pachyderm has the honour of bearing. An umbrella holder, a peacock fan carrier and a yak-tail fly whisk wielder. This exhibition of the paraphernalia of decorative elephants is called ‘Aana Chamayal Pradarsanam’. Commissioning of elephants and the parasols is vital and done with utmost secrecy. Winning the competition is a matter of pride for the organisers.
There is vacant space between the two rows of elephants. This is occupied by an orchestra of percussion and wind instruments. Just when this orchestra reaches its crescendo, parasols are exchanged with more colourful and exquisite ones. This ceremony is called ‘Kudamattom’. It is very exciting for crowds who applaud whole heartedly every time the parasols change. The revelry continues till late in the evening. The deities of different temples arrive on the regally decorated elephants. Even the sight of meeting of the various Gods is brilliant and memorable one.
The Thrissur Pooram festival concludes with the dazzling display of fireworks. The crackers are ignited till the wee hours of the next morning. The shows by Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu Devaswams are the most reputed and popular of all. Thus, the festival begins in the early hours of the Pooram morning. It concludes at the break of the dawn, the next day on a cheerful note.