Thrissur Pooram is an annual festival held in Thrissur, Kerala, every year, on the day of Pooram, in the Medam (April-May) month, as per the Malayalam calendar. Pooram is the day when the Pooram star rises with the moon. It is the largest and most popular of all Poorams in India. Thrissur Pooram is a grand festival of Kerala, merging both the spiritual and cultural essence of the state.
Thrissur Pooram is a splendid festival celebrated with a grand layout of arrayed elephants, eye-catching canopies and striking music. The festival is celebrated in Vadakkunnathan temple and the adjacent ground, Thekkinkadu Maidanam, in Thrissur. Considered to be the master of all Poorams, this annual festival is the brainchild of Shri Shakthan Thampuran, Maharaja of Kochi. The festival is celebrated by a healthy competition between two groups representing the geographic division of Thrissur, Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi. The two groups exhibit their ecstasy through grandly decorated elephants, traditional orchestral music called panchavadyam, rhythmic and bright colored parasols called kudamattam, showing smooth yet swift color changes, and exotic fireworks, in the wee hours of the day. The Goddesses of Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu, participate in the festival. Though the presiding deity in Thiruvambadi is Krishna, Goddess Bhagavathy, the second important deity, participates in this event. The other eight temples that participate in this festival celebrations are, Karamucku Bhagavathy, Laloor Bhagavathy, Choorakottukara Bhagavathy, Panayckambilli Sastha, Ayyanthole Bhagavathy, Chembukkavu Bhagavathy, Neythilakavu Bhagavathy and Kanimangalam Bhagavathy. However, exclusive rights to the festival are reserved by Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi. All the poorams from the ten temples arrive at Vadakkumnathan temple in the morning and the celebrations begin at 6:30 in the morning.
DEITIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE FESTIVAL:
Ma Bhagavathy is primarily worshiped on this day.
ORIGIN AND SIGNIFICANCE:
Many years ago, Arattupuzha Pooram was considered as the biggest festival in Kerala. Sakthan Thampuran planned for Thrissur Pooram and divided temples into two groups. There was a very interesting legend associated with the origin of Thrissur Pooram.
Arattupuzha festival was a grand one-day festival held at Arattupuzha temple, 10 kms from Thrissur. In the year 1798, the procession from the temple in Thrissur arrived late for the Arattupuzha Pooram, due to heavy rains, and was not allowed to participate in the Pooram. In the same year Sakthan Tampuran conceptualized and organized Thrissur Pooram, a festival which was to be celebrated in Vadakkunnathan temple in Thrissur, with participation from ten temples in Thrissur. This festival was more majestic and spectacular than Arattupuzha festival. Sakthan Thampuran, the ruler of Kochi, planned the details of festival in a very systematized manner, divided the participating temples into two groups, specified as ‘Paramekkavu side’ and ‘Thiruvambady side’, led by principal participants of Paramekkavu Bhagavathy temple and Thiruvambadi Sri Krishna temple respectively. The trend that was set 200 years back, is followed even today, and the Thrissur Pooram festival is celebrated with grandeur and richness, as laid down by Sakthan Thampuran.
According to a legend, Shankaracharya came to Thrissur and observed bhajan for 41 days. As a result, Shankara manifested as Vedakkunnathan in this Shiva temple.
Significance: Thrissur Pooram is one of the most picturesque festivals of Kerala, marked with splendid performances and vibrant colours everywhere. The word Thrissur is derived from the words ‘Thiru-shiva-Perur’ meaning city of Bhagwan Shiva, and ‘Pooram’ meaning a group. The festival holds an assembly of grand caparisoned elephants, amazing personal displays and playing of extravagant musical instruments. Lakhs of devotees, irrespective of caste, creed and colour, participate in the festival. It is believed that Devi and Devta meet each other on this sacred day. Celebration starts in the early morning, and ends at dawn the next day.
CUSTOMS, TRADITIONS AND RITUALS:
As mentioned in ancient scriptures, the festival is celebrated to relish the visit of Devi from Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu temples, to meet Bhagwan Shiva of Vedakkunnathan temple. The ten temples participating in the event are divided into two groups as follows:
Thiruvambady Group (Western group)
- Thiruvambady Krishna temple
- Laloor Bhagavathy temple
- Ayyanthole Shree Karthyayani temple
- Neithilakkavu Bhagavathy temple
Paramekkavu Group (Eastern group)
- Paramekkavu Bhagavathy temple
- Chembukkavu Bhagavathy temple
- Panamukkumpally Sastha temple
- Choorakkottukavu Bhagavathy temple
- Pookatikkara – Karamukku Bhagavathy temple
- Kanimangalam Sastha temple
The two groups compete with each other on parameters of grandeur of canopies, decorations of elephants and ecstasy of orchestral music. The traditions that are carried out in the festival of Thrissur Pooram are:
Kodiyettam: Kodiyettam or flag hosting marks the beginning of the festival, and is done seven days before the actual event. It is done by three different modes Dhawajadi, Anuragadi and Pahadadi, of which, Pahadadi is the oldest, and is to be done without any tantric rituals. The post is fixed after Valiya Balikallu and the length of the flag is less than the distance between Valiya balikallu and nalambalam. The flag stick should point to the north, with length less than the fins of Nambalam. The post should be decorated with Darba, Mango and Banyan tree leaves.
Melam: Traditional music of the festival is known by the name of Panchavadyam, which means, the orchestra of five instruments. The five instruments are a combination of Kombu, Idakka, Ilathalam, Maddalam and Timila, out of which, Kombu is a wind instrument and the rest are thumping instruments.
Kudamattam: This is an eye-catching ceremony, in which, a grand procession of 15 elephants with lavish decorations is organized by each participating temple.
Utsava Bali: Bali is performed from the day of Kodiyettam, to the last day. Specific spots are marked with Balikallu around the shrine and outside Nambalam. Thidambu is taken out from the shrine by a special vidya called Valiyapani. One has to pour Havis (rice with flowers) on the marked and some unmarked spaces. Through this ritual, one makes offerings to both natural and supernatural powers, with respective mantras.
Poorapara: This ritual is related to harvest. During the festival, houses are cleaned, painted, and decorated. Streets are decorated and illuminated with colourful lights. Procession of Bhagwan is carried out with offerings of Rice and paddy, with an aim of seeking blessings for the well-being of devotees.
Gramabali: This ritual is performed at night, on the day of Kodikuthu. It is said that holy spirits are installed on trees and ponds. Priest and tantrics present offerings. However, with time, this ritual has lost its place in the festival.
Kodikutthu: This is the last event of Pooram festival. Devi travels back to the temple, after a holy dip in the pond of Vadakkunnathan temple. After the Pooram, the elephant is honoured to pull down the flag and carry Thidambu.
Vadakkunnathan temple is the centre for Pooram, with all the temples paying their tribute to Shiva in this temple. The main events of the mother festival are as:
- Kodiyettam: Flag hosting
- Light fireworks
- Poora Vilambharam: It is a custom where elephants carry the murti of Neithilakkavilamma and push the south entrance gate of hosting temple, Vadakkunnathan
- Fireworks Display (1 round): First round of fireworks starts after 4 days of flag hoisting. It is a one-hour show, presented by both sides at Swaraj ground, the venue for the event.
- Display of Caprisons: Elephants decorated with embellished outfit, ornamental fan of peacock feathers, royal fan, lighted umbrellas are arrayed by the two groups, and Peramakkavu exhibits them at Agrasala while Thriuvambady displays at church mission high school, on fourth and fifth day before Pooram.
- Main Pooram: Pooram starts early morning and is followed by processions of six other temples. One of the major events of Pooram is Madathil Varavu, in which more than 200 artists participate with instruments like thimila, madhalam, trumpet, cymbal and edakka and enter inside Vedakkumanathan temple. At the end of Pooram, both the groups enter the temple through western gate, come out from the southern gate, and stand confronting each other. Then, they exchange vibrant umbrellas from the top of elephants, which is an eye-catching event.
CELEBRATIONS ACROSS THE COUNTRY:
The Thrissur Pooram festival of Kerala is a spectacular celebration that has amazed and delighted people from all over the country for many years. Lakhs of devotees participate in the event and it involves many foreign enthusiastic admirers too. Crackers, well embellished elephants in their jewellery and uniform, illuminated streets and pleasure of mouth-watering delicacies are all worth watching. This festival has been an inspiration for several festivals within the state and outside, and are called mini ‘Thrissur Poorams’.
BENEFITS OF CELEBRATING THE FESTIVAL:
Thrissur is known as the cultural capital of Kerala and sacred land of Poorams. Thrissur Pooram is the most vibrant and colourful festival of India. This annual festival is dedicated to the worship of Devi-Devtas and Sastha (Combination of Vishnu and Shiva).
- It is considered as the mother of festivals in Kerala, with amazing night fireworks, bright coloured lighted Kudamattam (umbrellas), magnificent appearance and participation of discrete tribes, on a large scale. It is a breath-taking moment to experience the beauty of the festival.
- It invokes devotees and pilgrims with liveliness.
- Festival is celebrated post the harvest, as a means to break the daily routine and boredom.
- People from various castes and creeds celebrate the festival together, making it a path breaking celebration.