by Suchitra Reghuram
Thrissur pooram is a very popular festival of a South Indian state, Kerala. It is a temple festival celebrated in Vadakkunnathan temple in Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala, which was earlier known as Thrissivapperoor. Later, Thrissivaperoor was anglicized and named as Thrissur. It’s the fourth largest city and third largest urban agglomeration in kerala. Thrissur pooram is held on the day of the star “Pooram” on “Medam” according to the malayalam calendar, which falls on April. This pooram is known as “Pooram of all poorams”. It is one of the mammoth pooram festivals in kerala where around 50 elephants stand in array with all its decorative fancies.
People from all caste and creed celebrate Thrissur pooram at its venue. All communities actively participate in all parts of the festival. Most of the pandal works are done by the muslim community and the materials for the umbrellas for the kudamattom ceremony are offered by the churches and their members. Thus it’s a good sign of secularism. This festival upholds communal harmony. This also invites international tourists to its venue because of its wonderful festivals. It’s conducted in a huge ground with lot of fireworks and festivities. The Circular road around the pooram ground is called Swaraj round. This round will be filled with pooram lovers of all states. It’s been a good time for small scale business dealers. Thrissur pooram was initiated by Raja Rama Varma legendary known as Shakthan Thampuran, the Maharaja of Cochin, by 1790-1805.
Before Thrissur pooram the largest temple festival in Kerala was a one day festival held at Araattupuzha known as Aaraattupuzha Pooram. Many temples in and around the city participated in the festival. Once the participants could not make it on time due to persistent rains and was denied to take part in the pooram procession. The participants were discomfited by the denial and went on shelter of Sakthan thampuran and narrated what had happened. That’s when the maharaja decided on a festival uniting the temples around Vadakkunnathan temple and organised commemoration of Thrissur pooram as a mass festival. He invited temples with their deities to the city of Thrissur to pay curtsy to Lord Vadakkunnathan, the presiding deity of Vadakkunnathan temple. It’s believed that all the dynastic gods and goddesses convene on the day to celebrate together.
In 1798, Maharaja considered 10 temples into two groups as western group and eastern group. The western group was named as Thiruvambadi sri krishna Temple consisting of Thiruvambadi, Kanimangalam, Laloor, Ayyanthole and Nethilakkavu as the main group. The eastern group called as Paramekkavu Bhagavathi Termple, consists of Paramekkavu temple, Karamukku, Chembukavu, Choorakottukavu and Panamukkamppilly. The pooram celebration was to be conducted centered around the Vadakkunnathan temple with all the temples sending their whole procession to pay obeisance to vadakkunnathan, Lord Shiva, the presiding deity. Shakthan thampuran holds the credit of initiating and benchmarking the main events to be followed for the pooram celebration. The principle participants are always Paramekkavu Bhagavathi temple and Thiruvambadi sri krishna temple. The Paramekkavu temple is situated at Thrissur swaraj road and Thiruvambady temple at Shornur road.
Swaraj ground is the venue for the firework celebrations and starts at 7.15 pm in the evening. Before the main celebrations begin they conduct a sample festival of fireworks known as “sample vedikettu”. This happens on the fourth day after the flag hoisting of thrissur pooram. It is a one hour show presented by the two main groups. The fireworks have innovative patterns and display varieties of fireworks. The elephants are decorated with caparison or headdress known as Nettipattam, Elephant accoutrements ( chamayam ), ornamental fans made of peacock feathers ( alavattom) , Royal fan ( venchamaram ), sacred bells and beautiful umbrellas are prepared by the competing groups. These enrich the exquisiteness of elephants in the fiesta. The paramekkavu exhibit this at the Agrasala in Thrissur city and Thiruvambady displays the caparisons at the church mission society high school in thrissur city on the fourth and fifth day before the pooram. At the end of the pooram, after the Ilanjithara melam, both Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi groups enter the temple through the western gate and come out through the southern gate and array themselves, face to face in distant places. The two groups in the presence of melam, exchange colourful and crafted umbrellas competitively at the top of the elephants – called Kudamattom, which is eye catching lure of the pooram. Pooram concludes with a spectacular firework show.
Ilanjithara melam is a gathering of percussion concert artist held at ilanji tree at the compound of Vadakkunnathan temple during the Thrissur pooram festival. This performance is considered to be the best stage for conventional Kerala music and largest assembly of drumming artist of any poorams. This melam begins at 2.30 pm and goes for around eight hours continuously. The exact number of instrumentalists who participate in this melam is 222 but it even extends to 250 because of its eminence. There will be 100 chendas, 75 elathalams, 21 kombu and 21 kurunkuzhal as instruments. Ilanjihara melam is then followed by fireworks.
The firework ceremony is held as two parts – a sample one known as sample vedikkettu held a day before pooram and the final one where chemicals are extensively used to gear up the final celebration. The two groups competitively crack many charming, ground breaking and pioneering fireworks, which make spectators thrilled and excited.
This celebration has even caused several allegations against the organizers for the violation on the regulations regarding sound pollution. In the past there were many accidents caused during the event and also while manufacturing the firework chemicals. They have even turned fatal.
Elephants are also used for this celebration. The competitions between the groups are also shown in the performance of the elephants which are used continuously for a long time and in large numbers. Even though it’s a treat to the viewers, it’s dangerous too. The continuous use of elephants makes them exhausted and they even run amok. The main pooram or the firework displays happens on the seventh day after the flag hoisting of the celebrations. It takes place at 3 am in the morning at Swaraj round in Thrissur city ending by 6 am. The seventh day of pooram is the last day of pooram, Called as “Pakal Pooram”. For the residents of thrissur, pooram is not only a festival but also a time for hospitality.