How is Thrissur Pooram Celebrated?•
Posted on October 10 2023
Thrissur Pooram is a major temple festival celebrated in Thrissur district, Kerala. The word pooram is a Malayalam word and is used to mean a group or meeting. The festival is celebrated on the day of Pooram star in the Medam month in the Malayalam calendar month which is between April and May in the English calendar. This is a tradition that has been followed for over two centuries and was initiated by Raja Rama Varma, also known as Shaktan Thampuran, who was an erstwhile ruler of Cochin and is considered to be the mother of all poorams.
The best aspects of this festival is that no special pooja is performed on this occasion and its secular nature. The pandals for this festival are usually set up by the Muslim community while the materials for the umbrellas used for the kudamattom are sponsored by churches and their members.
The biggest temple festival before Thrissur Pooram celebrations began around two hundred years ago was the Arattupuzha Pooram held in Arattupuzha. This is a one-day festival and shrines from nearby places participated in this pooram. On one particular year, there was heavy rain in Thrissur and the people from here could not make it to the pooram on time. When the people from Thrissur finally arrived late for the pooram, they were denied participation. Upset and embarrassed by this act, the people raised their concerns to Shaktan Tampuran. Feeling sorry for his subjects, the king unified all temples around the Vadakkunathan Temple and organized the Thrissur Pooram celebrations as a major festival.
According to the tradition, it is on this day all Gods and Goddess from ten temples in the surrounding regions gather together for a celebration with Lord Shiva at the Vadakkunathan Temple dedicated to Him. The main deities participating in the celebrations are the goddesses from the Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi temples. This is a seven-day celebration with elephant processions during both day and night accompanied by musical treats like Pandimelam and Panchavadyam. The festival gives onlookers an opportunity to savour the various folk art forms of the state.
Celebrations start a week ahead of the main pooram. On the first day of Thrissur Pooram, with flag hoisting and fireworks in the temple premises. Flags are hoisted in the Vadakkunathan temple and the participating temples as well as the Nalkkannal and Naduvilai areas of Thrissur city. After the flag hoisting, there is a very light bursting of fireworks to declare the commencement of the festival.
This is followed by the Poora Vilambaram tradition. As part of the tradition, the gate at the southern entrance of the Vadakkunathan Temple is opened by an elephant bearing the Neithilakkavilamma idol.
Four days after this, a fireworks show called the Sample Vedikettu is organized for an hour by the temple committee boards or devaswoms of the Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi temples at around 7:00 PM in the Thekkinkadu Maidan. There is a wide range of fireworks that are lit and displayed in innovative patterns.
The fourth and fifth days mark the main celebrations of the festival. The aana chamayal pradarshana and kudamattom are two other key highlights of the festival after the procession. The sounds from traditional percussion instruments is produced by over 200 artists and the event is called Madathil varavu. This event is a perfect accompaniment to these visual treats.
The Malayalam term aana chamayal pradarshana translates to display of decorated elephants. As the name indicates, this event is an amazing carnival of thirty beautifully decorated elephants with nettipattam or the golden caparisons brought from different temples in the state. The elephants are also decorated using ornamental fans designed with peacock feathers (aalavattom), royal fans (vechamarom), decorative umbrellas and sacred bells.
The word kudamattom roughly means the dance of the umbrellas. Two teams from the Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady groups participate in this event and engage in a friendly competition. One can witness a rhythmic and fast changing of sequined and brightly coloured umbrellas by people sitting on top of elephants. There are usually three people on top of each elephant.
On the sixth day, Thrissur Pooram celebrations commence early morning with the ezhunellipu or procession of the Kanimangalam Shasta Temple. The deity from this shrine enters the Vadakkunathan Temple through the southern gate and make their way out through the western gate.
After this, deities from the Panamukkumpally Sastha Temple, Chembukkavu Bhagavathy Temple and the Paramekkavu Temple enter the shrine through the eastern gate and exit through the southern gate. The deities from many other temples including the Thiruvambady Krishna Temple make their entry through the western gate and leave through the southern gate.
The processions from all sides come to a stop at the Nilapaduthara close to the western gopuram.
Towards noon, at around 2:00 PM, people throng in large numbers at the Thekkinkadu Maidan in the temple premises to join a procession that reaches the grounds from the Sri Krishna temple in Thiruvambady. They are joined by a procession from the Paramekkavu Devi temple. The crowd proceeds towards the Elanji temple in the temple ground and the excitement is at the peak when the processions from both the shrines come face to face with each other.
At this moment, the Elanjithara Melam commences, which is a performance of the traditional musical instruments of Kerala comprising several drums, cymbals, pipes and trumpets by a group of experts. The performance is categorized into three groups based on the speed. The third group is the loudest and fastest in nature.
The last and seventh day of the festival is called Pakal Pooram. The celebrations come to an end on this day with a fireworks display called Pakal Vedikettu in both the Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi temples. The fireworks show last for three to four hours and are said to represent a farewell or the saying of goodbye to the deities from these two shrines. The farewell is referred to as upacharam choli.
Thrissur Pooram is truly a festival of festivals and portrays the spiritual and cultural essence of Kerala state in true essence with full zeal, enthusiasm and vigour.
Written by - Deepthi K