What went wrong at Thrissur Pooram this year? Spectators recount

Many opine that unnecessary restrictions and the police's stubborn approach ruined the festive mood for pooram lovers. Representative image/Vishnu V Nair/Manorama

Thrissur: Millions of Thrissur Pooram fans who forgo their sleep every year to attend the majestic pandimelam, panchavadyam performances and the vedikettu (firework display) were disappointed this year. Families usually throng the Pooram venue at night to avoid the sweltering summer heat during the day. Their favourite time of the year turned into a nightmare due to unnecessary restrictions and a stubborn attitude by the police, according to spectators. 
Police block elephant carrying idol
The ezhunallethu ritual held with a row of seven elephants in front of Paramekkavu by 11 pm was one of the most awaited moments. By 9 pm, crowds started gathering to enjoy the scintillating panchavadyam led by Chottanikkara Nandappa Marar. Meanwhile, Thiruvambadi’s panchavadyam that accompanied the Madathilvaravu ritual was happening on the other side. The ezhunallipu group, along with the elephant carrying the idol of the Goddess, saw the police barricades only when they reached Naduvilal.

The police blocked the elephant, orchestra players and the spectators here. They said that no one would be allowed to go forward as the Swaraj Round was already closed for the vedikettu. Even though the committee members argued that the Madathilvaravu traditionally ended at Naykanal and couldn’t change that, the police were adamant that they couldn’t let anyone pass. The provoked panchavadyam artists, stopped playing and returned to the temple. The elephant carrying the idol too returned, leaving hundreds of spectators disappointed.

Pooram committee members also weren't allowed
The police’s decision to ban the public from entering the Swaraj Round to see the vedikettu and the instruction to reduce the number of fireworks employees had already ignited protests. Meanwhile, the police, at night, informed that the Pooram committee members wouldn’t be allowed to enter the Vadakkunathan temple grounds where the vedikettu would be held. As a mark of protest, the illumination at Thiruvanbadi’s Naykanal and Naduvilal pandals was switched off. The conflict arose when the police closed the various roads to Swaraj Round, even hours before vedikettu began. This led to heated exchanges between the City Police Commissioner Ankit Asokan and the public.

Thiruvambadi conducts ezhunnallathu with just one elephant
Meanwhile, Thiruvambadi group had stopped the festivities of the night Pooram including the panchavadyam, alleging that the police were unnecessarily interfering to impose restrictions. It was followed by switching off the illumination in the pandals. The night ezhunnallathu by Thiruvambadi was held as just a ritual with only one elephant. The panchvadyam artists and the spectators had left by then. The police didn’t allow anyone to enter the Swaraj Round from the south, west and north sides. The Pooram lovers were disgruntled when the police blocked the Melsanti (main priest) of the Vadakkunathan Temple during the day and when Commissioner Ankit Asokan pushed away and shouted at the spectators during the Madathilvaravu ritual.

Waiting impatiently
Thiruvambadi group were firm in its decision to protest as it was unheard of for the police to obstruct the ezhunnallathu ritual. Besides stopping the orchestra and switching off the lights in the pandal, they even considered backing out of vedikettu. However, Thiruvambadi agreed to take part in the vedikettu following the meeting that was convened by the district collector and Minister K Rajan. Meanwhile, it was already past six in the morning. The spectators who had gathered to watch the firework spectacle spent time, sitting or sleeping at various spots in the Swaraj Round, unaware of the drama.

The ezhunallipu group, along with the elephant carrying the idol of the Goddess, saw the police barricades only when they reached Naduvilal. Representative image/Vishnu V Nair/Manorama

No one knew why the vedikettu that was supposed to begin at 3 am was getting delayed. The fireworks finally began around four hours later, by 7 am. Paramekkavu lit the fire for the grand vedikettu followed by the mega firework display by Thiruvambadi. The Pooram lovers who waited patiently throughout the night to witness the spectacle cheered it on, but it was clear the restrictions played a spoilsport with the festival spirit on the whole. 

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