Thrissur Pooram promises a veritable percussion feast and the majestic sight of 50 of the most famous elephants in Kerala lined up in all their finery. To top them all are the scintillating fireworks.
The percussion events start with Panchavadyam — an orchestra of five instruments); followed by Chempadamelam — a special performance with traditional percussion instruments; the popular Ilanjithara Melam — an assembly of percussion performance artists held next to the Ilanji tree (bullet wood tree) at the courtyard of the Vadakkunnathan Temple; and to cap them all is the 'Madathil Varavu’ — a conglomeration of over 200 artists accompanied by instruments like thimila, madhalam, trumpet, cymbal and edakka.
Towards the end of the pooram, after the Ilanjithara melam, both Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi groups enter the temple through the western gate, come out through the southern gate and array themselves face to face in distant places. It is followed by the final salute and departure.
Thrissur Pooram, which has a heritage of more than two centuries, was started by Shakthan Thampuran, who was the ruler of the Kingdom of Cochin from 1790 to 1805. There is a story of neglect and excitement behind this most spectaular temple festival in Kerala. At that time Arattupuzha Pooram was the most famous Pooram in Kerala. Due to intense rains in 1796, groups from Paramekkavu, Thiruvambadi, Chempukkavu, Karamukku, Lalur, Ayyanthol, Chakkulathukavu, Neythalakavu and Kanimangalam temples could not reach Arattupuzha for the Pooram that year. Following this, they were banned from attending the event. When the banned temple groups complained to Shaktan Thampuran, he decided to challenge the ban by starting Thrissur Pooram on the Pooram day in the month of May in the same year. Today, Thrissur Pooram is so famed that it has a place on the global tourism calendar.
The temple groups and venue
The main constituents of the Pooram are Thiruvambadi and Paramekavu temple groups. Eight subsidiary temples too are associated with the Pooram. Only Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu have the right to pyrotechnic displays, hold a parade in the Swaraj Round, and lead the line up for the world-famous Kudamattam (exchange of ornated parasols).
Although the main festivals of Pooram are held at the Vadakkumnatha Temple grounds known as Poora Parambu, Vadakkumnathan, the deity of the Vadakkumnatha Temple, plays the role of the host in Thrissur Pooram.
The sequence of events
This year's Thrissur Pooram was flagged off on May 4. As a prelude to the major events a pre-Pooram pyrotechnic display, colloquially termed 'sample fireworks', will be held on May 8 from 7 pm.
The main Pooram is on May 10. Marking its commencement the majestic elephant of Neythalakavu Bhagavathy will push open at the giant doors of the Vadakumnatha Temple's South gate (Gopuranada), which is otherwise closed all year round.
The Ilazhithara Melam will also be held on May 10 with the participation of the patriarchs of the percussion arts. The four-hour-long performance has phases called Idathukalasham, Adichukalasham, Thakritha, Tripuda and Mutinmel Chenda. The event begins slowly and gathers intensity over the course of the session, finally leading to
the descent to the south and the Kudamattam in the evening on the full moon day.
The grand pyrotechnic display will take place on May 11 at 3 am. Due to space constraints and safety reasons, the public would not be allowed inside the Swaraj Round during this time. Although not comparable to many other fireworks in the open air and in the fields, this fireworks display which takes place in the heart of a major city in Kerala is nothing short of phenomenal.
The day after the main festival is the Pooram for the people of Thrissur. The festival also features morning Ezhunnallathu, Pandimelam and Kudamattam.
Thrissur Pooram ends with a farewell ceremony called 'Upacharam Cholli Piriyal' at Swaraj Round. Thiruvambadi Sri Krishna Temple and Paramekkavu Bagavathi Temple idols are taken from the Swaraj Round to their respective temples to mark the end of the Pooram celebrations.
The festival ends with a display of fireworks known as Pakal Vedikkettu.
Other tourist attractions
When you go to Pooram, take a chance to explore Trichur City too. Here are some of the popular tourist sites:
Museum and zoo
In Kerala, apart from Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur also has a zoo. Steps are being taken to shift the Thrissur Zoo in the city to Puthur with more facilities. However, the Thrissur Zoo still has a lot to offer. The Historical Museum is located in the courtyard of the zoo. Admission is from 10 am to 6.30 pm on all days except Monday.
Guruvayoor Temple is one of the important tourist attractions of Thrissur. Adjacent to the temple, the Punnathoor Fort is also a popular tourist destination due to its inhabitants. Punnathoor Fort, also known as the Elephant Fort, is home to more than 50 elephants. You can watch them getting fed, bathed, and trained first hand. Punnathoor Fort is also a training ground for elephants.
Vilangan Hill is a scenic viewpoint close to the city. The city's buildings and courtyards can be seen from the top of the hill, as far as the Arabian Sea. There is a park for children to play on , an open theatre and a snack bar atp the hill. It will be an interesting experience to walk through the pathway surrounding the Vilangan Kunnu during the evenings. The distance to Vilangan Hill is less than 10 km from the city.
Kerala Kalamandalam, a university of Indian artforms, especially South Indian arts, also is located in Thrissur. They give training for Kathakali, Koodiyattam and Mohiniyattam at the institute. Although it is located 30 km away from Thrissur city centre, the Kalamandalam offers a unique opportunity that is worth the journey. Admission is daily from 9 am to 5 pm.
Athirappilly Falls and Vazhachal Falls are the most popular tourist destinations in Trissur. Athirappilly on the Chalakudy River is the largest waterfall in Kerala. Many South Indian and Bollywood films have been shot here. The short trekking down the steps to this waterfall is a must-try for tourists.
If Athirappilly is wild, Vazhachal is a waterfall that cascades down in layers. The forest is also a favourite haunt of endangered hornbills and is frequented by bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts. Athirappilly is located at a distance of over 50 km from Thrissur.