This one is for you Solilo 🙂 I am only sorry that I cannot give you any pictures that I myself have taken 😦 All of the pictures have been sourced from the web, and all of them belong to their owners 🙂
For all : This post is way too long, because I wanted to include as much as I could 🙂 and because I simply do not know how to organize :P! Way too many words, and way too much of rambling, so I do hope you will actually understand something. If you do, tell me. If you don’t, please smile nicely, or look the other way 😛 :P!
( The iconic picture associated with Thrissur Pooram, which shows the Devi of Paramekkavu Temple-in the background- being taken out for her procession. 15 elephants, the musicians in front, and a sea of people to welcome her and accompany her!]
( That is the link to the satellite image of Thrissur, for you to understand the layout 🙂 I do not know how to get the map here 😦 )
An Introduction to Thrissur, for it is necessary to know the geography in order to understand the Pooram 🙂
You see, Thrissur has been rather ingeneously designed and built. The central [now town area] area is actually a sort of rough circular area, around tiny hillock, which, once upn a time was a veritable forest of teak trees, and so was called Thekkinkkad [forest of teaks]. Later, it came to be known as Thekkinkkad Maidanam, after many of the trees were felled or removed for expansion. In the midst of the Thekkinkkad Maidanam sits Lord Shiva, known there as Vaddakkumnnathan [Lord of the North – Vadakku means North, Nathan means Lord]. The area of the Maidanam, in front of the West Gopuram [gate] of the temple, which is the front of the temple, is called the Sreemoolasthaanam, where all the dieties from the different temples come, to pay their respects to the Lord, of Thrissur. In fact Thrissur has been named after Lord Shiva… the full name being Thrishivaperur… the town in the name of Lord Shiva. Thri Shiva, Lord Shiva; peru, name; uru, town 🙂 To continue with a description of the town, (please also view the map, whose link is given at the top of this post), the Maidanam is encircled by a single road and it is called the Swaraj Round. Much like the Connaught Circus in Delhi, which has radial roads. The Krishna Temple is down the Shoranur road, north west of the Maidanam, and the Devi Temple is East of the Maidanam. The Devis from both the temples, basically meet at the Sreemoolasthanam. That is the gist of it. Now to the details 🙂
The Thrissur Pooram is celebrated in the first month of the Malayalam Calendar, Medam (മേഡം), on the nakshatram (star), Pooram (പൂരം), every year. The celebrations begin 10 days prior, and end the next day of the pooram.
3 May, 2009.
Starting at dawn and going on for the next 36 hours, Thrissur was the place to be in if you are a pooram fiend, a melam and panchavaadyam maniac, and an elephant ogler. There were many there that day, hundreds and thousands packed into a few kilometres square, defying the sun, the sultry, humid sweltering heat, the noise, the fragrance of Elephant Dung, and pee… :D, and basking in the outpouring of colours, music, and joy at being there, celebrating the Pooram of all Poorams… The Thrissur Pooram (തൃശ്ശൂർ പൂരം).
For all of you who do not know, and those who know about it, here is a gist of it, from an amateur pooram enthusiast. Amateur, because I am still learning much, and doing more each year, to soak in the ambiance, and allow the history and benediction to seep in 🙂 You will understand what I mean, as you read, I hope, with patience, what is bound to be an uncharacteristically long post for me 🙂 Indyeah, I’m learning fast, aren’t I?? Lol. But I digress.
So to basics… What pooram means, and why Thrissur Pooram is touted to be the one beyond which there is no other 🙂 If you have followed the links, you would have found out by now, but I know there are some like me, who like to be told anyway :D!
A Pooram is a temple festival, with caparisoned elephants, processions with music by uniquely fashioned percussion and other instruments like the chenda, maddalam, kombu, elathaalam, thimila, kuzhal etc. The musicians walk along with the elephants, and play the traditional Pandi Melam, Paanchaari Melam, or the Panchavaadyam, according to what the presiding deity is believed to favour 🙂 Poorams are also wonderful ways in which a microcosm of National Integration also actually happens around the temples. It is also the time when the Gods come around for a walkabout with the common man, in his world, and mingle freely to be blessed by the faith they shower upon Him or Her. I have always believed, as the Scriptures say, the God need blessings of man too 🙂
Back to Thrissur Pooram 🙂 This unique festival is believed to be more than 2 centuries old, and was begun by the then ruler of Thrissur, belonging to the Travancore royal family Raja Rama Varma(1751-1805), also known as “Shaktan Thampuran” (ശക്തൻ തമ്പുരാൻ), meaning the ruler with strength. He was understood to be a firm, and stern disciplinarian, who did much to uplift the commoner, improve the economy [by inviting the Portuguese, Syrian christian community to the town, to set up businesses, giving land to them to settle down too!], and ensuring the oppression by the upper caste Brahmans was firmly dealt with. Temple administration, and renovation improved vastly under his rule.
In fact, the Thrissur Pooram actually took shape as a reaction against the denial of processions to the Aarattu puzha pooram, till then the largest pooram, in Kerala, of a couple of temples in Thrissur, citing the reason that they arrived late. An enraged Shaktan Thampuran acted immediately and proactively! He gathered together 8 temples from around Thrissur Kanimangalam, Karamukku, Choorakkattukara, Laloor, Ayyanthole, Neithilakkavu and Chembukkavu, Panamukkampilly, altogether 8 deities.), to participate in the festival, to take place at the gates of the Guardian Deity of Thrissur, the Vadakkumnathan (Lord Shiva), in the presence of the Devis of two other temples, The Thiruvambady (Krishna ) Temple, and the Paramekkavu (Devi) Temples. So we have now, a count of 10 participating temples, all gathering at the presiding Lord Shiva’s temple. The Devis from the Thiruvambady Krishna Temple and the Paramekkavu Devi Temple are the main protagonists of the show 🙂
The Vadakkunnathan Temple:
The Thiruvambady Temple:
The Paramekkavu Temple:
The festival celebrates the meeting of the Devis who are believed to be sisters, at the abode of Vadakkumnathan. The 8 other temples come with mini poorams (ചെറുപൂരം), on the morning of the festival, to share in the celebration.
More than 60 caprisoned elephants, over 500 musicians, and lakhs of people coming together for a few hours, over a limited area , with fervour, and enjoyment, I know sounds like a recipe for catastrophe, but then that is the beauty of it all – The meticulous schedule, also devised and planned by Shaktan Thampuran 🙂
Then, wearing these, the accessories (given below), called aanachamayam, are transformed into the golden, glittering, beautiful caparisoned elephants who gracefully and gladly go around with their precious cargo of deities! From the top row:
The round fans, made from Peacock feathers, and held aloft the elephants’ back while the Melam/ Panchavaadyam takes place: Aalavattom
The fluffy white things hanging down are called Venjaamaram, made from Yak’s fur 🙂 Together they are part of the different stages of the music as it plays.
Atop the elephants, they look like this:
The oval golden ornaments: nettipattom, worn on the forehead, of the elephant, along with the alavattom and venjamaram on display the day before the pooram 🙂
The Musical Instruments used for the Melam and Panchavaadyam:
10 days prior to the pooram, there is the formal announcement of the pooram with pomp and revelry in the respective temples, where the flag post is adorned, worshipped and the temple festival flag is hoisted. The celebrations have begun, instantly. And what is unique to Thrissur is that from that day on, the entire pooram enthusiasts take sides, either being part of the Thiruvambady (Krishna ) Temple, or the Paramekkavu (Devi) Temple My mother in law, who used to work at the Telephone exchange, used to tell us stories of arguments and fights and cold wars in the office, for those 10 days All because there is this intense feeling of belonging, each to his or her own Thattakam, or house and wanting to be the better one in front of Vadakkunnathan
You are now going to witness the Pooram, and to get a feel of it, even though you might not understand what is going on, do watch a few seconds of these clips 🙂
1. The Cheru poorams come, and kick off the show: around 6 am.
On Pooram day, the celebrations are begun by the Cherupooram ( the mini pooram) from Kanimangalam Sastha Temple (Sastha means Ayyapa), which arrives with the diety atop a single elephant, resting a while at the Veliyannur Kolassery Lakshminarasimha Moorthy temple, before paying obescience to Lord Vadakkunnathan (Shiva) at dawn.
The thidambu on which the deity is placed, at the base. This is then placed on the elephant, and held from behind as shown in the next picture, usually by a Namboodiri, a priest. Behind him sit the other men, who hold aloft the parasol or umbrella, the fans made of peacock feather called, aalavattom,and the fluffly cottony things, called, venjaamaram.You can see in the videos, how these are held aloft periodically according to the thaalam [the rhythm] of the music that is played. That makes it four people atop each elephant, during the processions.
This is the thidambu of the Devi of Thiruvambady Krishna Temple (recognized by the peacock feathers adorning the Krishna image on the Thidambu)
2. The Ezhunellippu of Thiruvambady, 7 30 am, approx.
Then comes the ezhunellippu (എഴുനെള്ളിപ്പു്), the preparation to go out, atop the elephant by the Devi of one of the major temples, the Thiruvambady Krishna Temple, at about 7.30 am. The Devi ( whose symbol, or miniature idol, carried on the thidambu) sits atop the central elephant, flanked by two other resplendent tuskers, and they make their way slowly till about 9.30, when they reach Thekke Madhom, the abode of learned scholar sanyasis, who revere and arrange to worship her, and make Her stay with them briefly comfortable!
In the meanwhile, the other 7 mini poorams are all on their way to the central meeting place, called Sreemoolasthaanam, in front of Lord Vadakkunnathan, in Thekkinkkad Maidanam. Glowing, glistening with polished accessories, golden in colour, the nettipattam, on the forehead, the bells around the neck and ankles, the gentle pachyderms carry their precious personages with dignity, and pride, and that something one can just sense 🙂 Each cherupooram, mini pooram, comes before the central deity, pays their respects and leaves with music ringing in the ears. Melams, Panchavaadyams galore. The sounds of enjoyment of the people, louder yet. The waving of hands, in sync with the rhythm of the drumbeats… the kaalams changing, ie the rhythms becoming progressively faster, how can one not get a rush of adrenalin in the excitement?
3. The Madathil Varavu, 11 30 am (മഠത്തിൽ വരവു്)
While the mini poorams are winding their way from different parts of the town to the central deity, the Devi from the Krishan temple is preparing to come out to her beloved Thrissur natives once again, in yet another procession, called the Madhathil Varavu [coming from the Madhom, the place where she rested]. This is much looked forward to item of the day, for the Panchavaadyam (meaning 5 musical instrument: The maddalam, thimila, edakka, elathaalam, and kombu- the first three being percussion, then cymbals, and finally a sort of curved trumpet) , performed by over 50 artists, lined up in front of the three caprisoned elephants. The entire performance has been covered live by AIR for years, and of late, in recent years, by Malayalam Channels like Asianet, Surya and Indiavision. In fact these days you can see the entire pooram sitting at home, in Thrissur, thanks to the Local Cable Networks :D! But then, instead of reducing the number out in the heat, I have found only an increase in that sphere 🙂
At 11.30, the Madhathil Varavu starts, with the performance of the panchavaadyam going on under the shade of a massive banyan tree at the end of Pazhaya Nadakkavu (the name of the road). After almost half an hour of playing, the procession starts. Three elephants become 5 when they enter the central area, the Swaraj Round, then 7, 11 and finally 15 , by about 2pm, when the Panchavaadyam stops, and at that same stroke, the Melam, another musical performance, this time with the traditional chenda coming in, starts. You must understand that while the elephants proceed with the procession, there is no break in the musical perfomance, and the artists walk along with their instruments, playing without missing a beat! Superlative do you not think?!
4. The Ezhunellippu of Paramekkavu, 12 15 pm
At about 12.15, in the meanwhile, the Devi of Paramekkavu Temple is gearing up for her ezhunellippu. She comes out of the temple, atop the central elephant, of 15, arrayed in a single line, a stunning sight that one can never tire of, with a row of muscians in front of her, and a sea of humanity waiting for a glimpse and waiting for the procession to start. The stately passage of 15 elephants walking majestically forward till they read Vadakkunnathan, is indeed breathtaking. They enter the temple by the East Gopuram, and come around to stand in front , just inside the West Gopuram of the temple. On Pooram day, anyone can enter the temple, with any kind of outfit, with footwear 🙂
4.1 The Elanjithara Melam, 2 pm
As the other Devi proceeds from outside to the same West Gopuram, there begins another much awaited performance, by the musicians of the Paramekkavu Temple, the Elanjithara Melam. This too has been broadcast live by AIR, for years… Finally the Melam concludes and the pachyderms with the musicians circumambulate Lord Shiva, past the North, East Gopuram and reach the South Gopuram. An interesting fact is that the South Gate is opened only for two days in a year, for the Pooram, and the previous evening, another Devi temple’s deity has formally permitted it to be open (I am not entirely sure of the story behind that one :)). So the elephants, starting with the one carrying the Devi, herself slowly eases out of the long passage of the gopuram, just wide enough and tall enough to allow it, to the greeting to shouts, cheers, and a rumble of sheer joy that errupts the waiting mass of humanity gathered outside, in the Thekkinkkad Maidanam (forest of Teak), waiting to witness the next major item, the Kudamattom (changing ot the umbrellas, or parasols, atop the pachyderms!)
5. The Kudamattom
This is a moment of goosebumps, especially when you see the sea of people outside raising cheering voices, all of them calling out to the Devis, coming into their midst! The 30 elephants, 15 on each side, face each other, at a respectable distance of about 150 metres [approx. :)] and then begins the Kudamattom [the changing of the umbrellas or parasols. ] You will find a glimpse of these in the videos put in here 🙂 This is a sort of competitive event, where the colourful parasols, umbrellas are changed, in response to the other set, on the opposite side. Innovations, and creativity in the types and shapes of umbrellas are always increasing, year by year. This year there were cut outs of Ganesha, and other deities, flowers, peacocks etc. Each of them is terribly expensive , but then there are sponsors for them, mainly the non Hindus. that is what is so wonderful about it all! The way the entire community comes together to celebrate the festival.
Take at look at this pic. and drink in the multitude witnessing the Kudamattom: (Click on the picture to enlarge)
The Kudamattom finishes by around 6 30 pm, after which there is a lull in the celebrations, mostly for the reason that people need to recharge for the next session. Lol.
6. The Night Processions
Then at night, around 11 30, there is a procession, similar to the mornings and afternoons, by both temples, when the procession is preceded by people carrying lit torches. A beautiful beautiful sight! People turn out in large numbers for this too!
7. The Fireworks! (വെഡിക്കെട്ടു്)
Finally, the moment of reckoning. That is the moment of fireworks display. Said to the best anywhere in Kerala, because of the intensity of the experience… a small area, surrounded by buildings, people, the Thekkinkkad Maidanam, in front of Vadakkumnathan Temple is the place where the fireworks are laid out. Another competitive item. And it is blasted off at about 3 am, the next day, to be viewed by persons, people, people people around the road, Swaraj Round, atop all the buildings flanking the Round, down all the radial roads, and far as the eye can see, there are people looking up, going oooh and aaah.. and … *sigh* Much as I am against firecrackers and all…. this is one time I forget to feel guilty 🙂 Cant help it, the situation is such!
The fireworks actually begin with one side, either the Paramekkavu or Thiruvambay temple, starting off with small fireworks, then pretty amuttus (അമിട്ടു്), gundus (ഗുണ്ടു്) which are louder, and so on, each of them rising from pits dug in the ground in front of Vadakkunnathan Temple, to the final finishing, as it is called, where you feel, see, and hear in massive explosions, and experience the thrill of it all. A video added below will tell you 🙂
After one side finishes, the other side begins. This is also seen as a very competitive event! By about 5 am, the fireworks display concluded, and the major part of the Pooram is done. Usually, at this point, visitors from other places begin to move out of Thrissur, and buses and trains are jampacked for the next few hours :D!
8. Koodikaazhcha (The final meeting) -കൂടിക്കാഴ്ച
After about 8 am, in the morning, the next day, both the temples bring their Devis, accompanied by their lot of 15 elephants each, and their respective musicians playing the melam and panchavaadyam, to the Eastern gopuram of Vadakkunnathan, at the Sreemoolasthanam. This is a meeting to formally bid farewell, and promise to meet again, on Pooram Nakshatram, the next Medam month of the new Calendar year. Finally, the two elephants carrying the Thidambu of the Devis, come forward, link their trunks, in a gesture of undying loyalty and faith, and familial love, after which they part ways, each to its own temple, carrying the precious Devi proudly aloft for all the natives to finally bid them good bye, till next year.
And that, finally is what my brief report on the Thrissur Pooram is all about. Solilo, I wonder if you are now more informed or confounded. But I must tell you that I loved doing the writing, all of it typed into the new post box, researching, and looking out endlessly for pictures and videos. Gave me the pooram feeling once again! So thank you for that!
If you have read up till here, and are still clear headed, an award for patience for you 🙂 🙂 And if you still want more….
Here are a few more links to look up, if you are interested and have time 🙂
On Shakthan Thampuran – Raja Rama Varma (1751-1805)
Word count: 3226 + 4 :D!
No, actually, 😯 !
And… 🙄 !!!
Pictures are all taken from Google Search – Images 🙂