The Thrissur Pooram will be held without allowing public participation in view of the drastic rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Kerala. The decision was taken at a meeting of the stakeholders convened by Chief Secretary V P Joy.
The decision follows days-long talks over how to conduct the festival, which thousands of people attend, at a time when the second wave of the COVID-19 has struck the state badly. The decision to curtail the Pooram festivities coincided with the government's decision to impose night curfew in the state from Tuesday onwards.
Thrissur Pooram will be held on April 23, Friday.
The Monday's meeting decided to limit the number of organisers on the festival ground. Kudamattam ritual will be restricted for a short span of time. Sample fireworks and Chamayal pradarsanam (exhibition of paraphernalia of elephant decorative) have been cancelled.
Only people with special entry passes will be allowed on the festival ground. The district collector and district medical officer have taken control of the conduct of the festival.
Kerala government officials and representatives from the temple managements organising Thrissur Pooram met again on Monday after the last round of talks on how to conduct the festival remained inconclusive.
The development comes in wake of the recent surge in COVID cases. The state recorded over 18,000 new COVID cases on Sunday taking the number of total active cases well past 90,000.
In a span of just two weeks, the test positivity rate (i.e., the number of people likely to test positive for the virus in a group of 100) rose from just under 3 to over 17 per cent.
While there had been calls from all quarters to impose strict restrictions for the Pooram (even cancel it altogether), it was strongly opposed by the Devaswoms.
They also demanded that RT-PCR tests should not be made mandatory for mahouts attending the Pooram and that those who have already taken a shot of the COVID vaccine be allowed in.
Billed as the 'mother of all festivals' in Kerala -- the Thrissur Pooram -- was cancelled for the first time on account of the Covid-19 outbreak last year.
The Pooram dates back to the late 18th century and was started by Sakthan Thampuran, the Maharaja of the erstwhile Kochi state.
The most keenly watched event of the pooram festivities is elephants parade -- of more than 50 jumbos, besides the firecracker displays, that starts in the afternoon and continues till the wee hours of the next day.