Although living in Bangalore, it was always my dream to witness the biggest temple festival of Kerala, the Thrissur Pooram. I got this chance in April 2016 when my friend in Cochin booked a nice homestay in Thrissur for both of us. It was my first experience but I have never seen such a huge crowd gathering for any religious or cultural festival.
This most famous festival is likely to captivate anybody's senses with its horde of obedient and ornamental elephants, vibrant colors, sparkling fireworks, and cultural glory. Since its origin in the 18thcentury, the gala takes place at the Vadakkunnathan Temple in the town centre in April-May and continues for a week. It commiserates the assembly of gods and goddesses carted out in allegory by elephants embellished with costumes of religious importance.
The big festival begins with flag hoisting known as Kodiyettam done by all eight temples that participate the celebration. It is distinct in terms of rituals, scale, and involvement. The festival marks agracious competition between two sets of temples namely the Thiruvambady and the Paramekkavu temple group. During the festival, elephant processions also known as poorams begin from these temples to reach the Vadakkunnathan temple whose deity is Lord Shiva.
It is from the Thiruvambady temple that the pooram proceedings start. Elephants carrying the temple's deity walk out decorously via the temple doors accompanied by chenda melam. The elephants are festooned with Nettipattam, the conventional headgear. This spectacle is simply majestic, as it becomes tough to believe that elephants can march in unison and with divine bells, peacock feathers fans, and giant umbrellas for welcoming the gods and goddesses. Chenda malam involves a feet tapping rhythm from the Chenda, a native percussion instrument and a horn-likemusical instrument. Both produce some truly engaging music.
The spectacle that this procession creates is the giant of all celebrations that I have seen till date. It's just not easy. I had to paddle via the countless bodies swaying to the drum beats. The procession passes through the town and reaches Naduvil madam where a crucial ceremony, 'madathil varavu' occurs. In this ceremony, the Thiruvambadi goddess and the Krishna deities are taken to Brahmaswom madam. This is where a long panchavadyam performance thrills everyone with the local skilled artists and traditional instruments. This is also the time when one can see spectators even on top of trees and terraces.
The next ceremony is the ezhunnallathu that happens at 2 pm. It is a procession of the deity from Paramekkavu temple to the Vadakkumnaathan temple. There is a big ground here that showcases the most important ceremony, Kudamattom in which the two major temples participate. The procession featured 15 decorated elephants lining in the temple's front getting enough boost from the roaring crowd.Here, at the end of Pooram, both temple groups enter the temple from the west and come out via the southern gate. They arrange themselves face to face and exchange their vibrant and big umbrellas. This is also the time of thrilling melam.
At night, the masses throng to the Thrissur Thekkinkadu maidan for enjoying the most spectacular fireworks. It is a spectacle of sound and light via a series of crackers and sparklers. The radiant fireworks last for a few hours, which is a surprise in itself.
Although I was exhausted physically, the cultural spectacle of the festival kept me mentally amazed and spiritually uplifted.