India is known for its vibrant and lively celebrations. Each state of our nation has its own set of traditions, customs and festivals. The unity in diversity that India portrays is popular worldwide and there’s no doubt in the fact that it is one of the key reasons behind the big chunk of tourists that come around throughout the year. Kerala is particularly known for its numerous temple festivals, Thrissur Pooram being the grandest of them all. Considered as the most important event from the religious point of view, this pooram festival witnesses a great amount of enthusiasm among the locals.
One of the most popular temple festivals in India, this more than 200-year-old festival is one of the best ways to get a flavor of why India wins the gold medal for festivals. Raja Rama Varma created this festival in 1798 because he and many of his friends were not allowed into a nearby festival because they were late. He invited temples in this Kerala region to the main temple in Thrissur to pay respects to Shiva, the presiding deity. With a combination of religion and color, Thrissur Pooram starts seven days in advance with the ceremonial hoisting of the flag. Fireworks begin on the fourth night and are a consistent fixture of the festival from then on. On the sixth day, the main Pooram (festival) begins with activities happening at all kinds of temples throughout the area but concluding at Nilapaduthara near the western gorpuram of the Vadakkunnathan Temple.
The pooram festival in Kerala dates back to the times of the 18th century when Raja Rama Varma (also known as Sakthan Thampuran) united ten temples located around the Vadakumnathan Temple to pay respect to the presiding deity – Lord Vadakumnathan. It is said that a certain sect of people were denied to be a part of the procession of Arattupuzha Pooram (a popular festival during those times) because they couldn’t reach on time. They went with their plea to Sakthan who came up with the concept of Thrissur Pooram Festival which is now celebrated with great fervour till date. The Thrissur Pooram fest takes place on the Pooram day of the Malayalam month of Medom that lies between April and May.
Electric Elephants on Parade
Of course, the elephants are the main attraction, decorated with their nettipattam (golden headdress), decorative bells and ornaments, palm leaves and peacock feathers, and beautifully-crafted kolam (paintings). The ornate parasols which the mahouts (elephant riders) carry on extremely tall bamboo poles add to the color. Folk dancing, panchavadyam (rhythmic beating of the drum), and a stellar fireworks display that begins at three in the morning and continues on for three hours all serve to create a visual feast that makes for a completely immersive, tribal experience. The two teams of 15 elephants and their mahouts meet outside the temple and create a “pass the parasol” ritual, while the men stand on the elephants, that adds some competition to the event. Be prepared for one of the most percussion-filled experiences of your life.
Thrissur is festival-central for Kerala
Kerala is one of the more festival-oriented parts of India and this cultural capital is the epicenter. Other festivals you might want to consider include Puli Kali, also known as Kavakali. The harvest festival of Onam allows you to see trained artists entertaining the large crowds. This multi-religious city also has big celebrations around Christmas, Easter, Eid, and Vishu. If you want to see elephants during non-Pooram season, check out Aanayoottu (feeding of elephants) which is the largest elephant feeding ceremony in the world held at the Vadakkunathan Temple.
The participants of the fest are: