Thrissur: Kerala's famous Thrissur Pooram began on Thursday adhering to strict COVID-19 protocols after tusker Ernakulam Sivakumar, holding the idol of Neythilakavu Bhagavathy, opened the southern gate of ancient Vadakkunnathan Temple.
In view of the surge in COVID-19 cases in the state, only a very limited number of people were allowed to attend the ritual known as 'Pooram Vilambaram' (festival proclamation), marking the beginning of the Thrissur Pooram.
Earlier, the state government had decided to organise the Pooram celebrations to be held on April 23 without people's participation.
Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady Devaswoms - the two major organisers of Pooram festival - agreed to organise the festival without spectators.
The entry is restricted only to those who are associated with the pooram rituals.
Officials said the passes are issued only to those participants who have produced either RT-PCR negative certificates secured in 72 hours or certificates of taking two doses of vaccination against the COVID.
Although Paramekkavu Devaswom decided to scale down the pooram celebrations to be held on April 23, they will parade 15 elephants for the festival and organise famous Ilanjithara Melam, an assembly of percussion performance artistes held under Ilanji tree at the courtyard of the Vadakkunnathan Temple.
Thiruvambady Devswom said they will hold mere rituals as part of pooram and only one elephant will be paraded from their side, considering the spread of COVID-19 in the district.
Last year also, the Pooram festival was held in a low key manner amid COVID-19 lockdown curbs with just a handful of people and inevitable rituals inside the Vadakkunnathan temple.
Thrissur Pooram, an annual event held at the sprawling Thekkinkadu Maidan in Thrissur city on the pooram asterism in the Malayalam month of Medam, is known for the parade of richly caparisoned jumbos, performance of traditional music ensembles, fireworks and a sea of cheering people.
The festival is a gathering of Pooram and jumbo lovers around the globe who could be seen dancing to the rhythm of percussion instruments.
The two-centuries-old Thrissur Pooram had its origin in 1798, through a royal edict of the then Raja Rama Varma, popularly known as Shakthan Thampuran, a powerful ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Cochin.