Thrissur Pooram is the most colorful of all the temple festivals of Kerala. It is celebrated in Thrissur at Vadakkumnathan temple in the month of Medam (April) where the regaining deity is Lord Shiva. Situated on a hillock right in the centre of the city, the spaciously laid out ‘kshetram’ or temple attracts thousands of devotees from all over the land during the Pooram festival.
It is a magnificent spectacle with fireworks, umbrella showing competition and a splendid elephant procession.
The best elephants of the state from the various temples in Kerala are sent to Thrissur to participate in the Pooram festival. At 3′ 0 Clock in the night spectacular display of fireworks begins. It lasts till 6′ 0 clock in the morning. By afternoon the festival ends.
Thrissur Pooran, the pooram of all Poorams, falls in April every year. It is intrinsically a people’s festival in all respects. It is different from other national festivals like the Kumbha Mela of Uttar Pradesh, the Vijayadashami pageantry of Mysore or the Rath Yatra of Orissa. Pooram is participated and conducted by people cutting across all barriers of religion and caste.
The unique catholic nature of Pooram could be traced to its genesis two centuries ago when Sakthan Thampuran (1751-1805), the very architect of Thrissur, became the ruler of the erstwhile state Kochi.
He took up the renovation of the Vaddakkannathan temple complex which was enclosed by high walls. The four massive gopurams of the temple have been ascribed to him. At a time when nobody would have dared to look straight at the almighty Namboodiris, Sakthan Thampuran stripped of their powers and took over the administration of the temple that claimed an antiquity of more than three centuries.
It was he who made the sprawling Thekkinkadu Maidan the major venue of Thrissur Pooram. Again, he entrusted the onus of holding the festival to the two public temples – Tthiruvampadi and Paramekkavu temples that had never been under the control of the Namboodiris. He himself is said to have drawn up the 36-hour hectic schedule of the Pooram festival.
Thrissur Pooram, the mother of all temple festivals in the state, is essentially one of spectacles. The two devaswams – Thiruvampadi and Paramekkavu – explore and exploit every source at their command to make this annual festival a memorable one. It is celebrated with a colorful procession of caparisoned elephants, parasol exchanges; drum concerts, display of pyro-techniques and refreshing scenes of public participation.
During the festival season, Thrissur, popularly known as the temple town turns into a town of colour, music and mirth. The Pooram programmes extending about 36 hours begins with the ezhunellippu of the Kanimangalam Shasta in the morning and is followed by the ezhunnellippu of the other six minor temples on the Pooram Day.
The ezhunnellippu programme, which is considered to be a ritual symbolizing the visit of the Devi from the Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi temples to the Vadakkunnathan temple. A major event of the Pooram festival is the Panchavadyam in which about 200 artistes from the disciplines of Thimila, Maddalam, Trumpet, Cymbal and Edakka participate.
Another major event of the pooram begins with the setting off of the ‘Pandemelam’ at noon in which about 200 artistes in the disciplines of drum, trumpets, pipe and cymbal participate. The grand finale of this festival of colour, music and fire works would be marked with a function of bidding farewell to the deities of the Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu Devaswams in front of the Western Gate of the Vadakkunnathan Temple.
A noteworthy feature of the pooram festival is the participation of large numbers of people and elephants. The pachyderms emerge out in all their regalia with newly fabricated caparisons. They make their way through the milling crowds drawn from all religions, castes and creed to the accompaniment of ecstatic percussion ensembles. The exhibition of the paraphernalia of elephant decorative, commonly known as ‘Aana Chamayal Pradarsanam’, the spectacular show of ‘Kudamattom’ in which parasols of myriad numbers, designs and colors are exchanged by the people atop the elephants.
The Pooram festival is concluded with a spectacular fire works display, which is held in the wee hours of the day after the Pooram. The Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu Devaswams present many innovative patterns and varieties of fire works, which make spectators going into raptures. This famous and mighty exhibit of the magnificent display of fireworks add to the popularity of the Pooram festival.
The most striking feature of the Thrissur Pooram is its very secular nature. The Muslim and Christian Communities actively take part in it and they play a very prominent role in the very conduct of the festival. Most of the pandals are the craft work of the experts from the Muslim community.
For the two days of the festival, the CMS High School, owned by the North Kerala Diocese of CST Church and located on the western part of the Swaraj Round, becomes virtually the Headquarters of the Thiruvampadi Devaswam. The temple elephants are tied in the school compound. The ‘Aana Chamaya Pradarsanam’ is also held here.
The parasols for the ‘Kudamattom’ are offered by the churches and their members. At a time when the secular fabric of the Indian Society is slowly disintegrating, one cannot be myopic to the relevance of Thrissur Pooram, the conduct of which should become worthy of emulation to other festivals in the country.