Celebrated every year in the month of ‘Medam’ (mid-April to mid-May) as per the Malayalam calendar, the festival was introduced by King Sakthan Thampuran of the erstwhile Kochi state in the late 18th century.
More than hundred elephants roamed all over the place. The sky exploded into colours. Bands of native drummers and pipers pounded out hypnotic rhythms.
Thrissur Pooram, a major festival of the State that was celebrated on Sunday, kept its promise to be picture perfect. A sea of humanity converged at the Thekkinkad Maidan in the heart of the city to savour the festival’s glory and thrills.
It was religiously conservative. Yet, it was headily carnivalesque, testing the Malayali’s capacity for whimsy and revelry. It was fun, with roaring crowds, loud music and plenty of eating and drinking.
Thrissur Pooram is larger in scale than all its cousins in the neighbourhood — the shows at Uthralikkavu, Arattupuzha, and Nenmara.
What is Pooram all about? It marks the procession of deities of the Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu temples to the premises of the Sree Vadakkunnathan temple. It offers the best traditional music (Chembada Melam, Pandi Melam, and Panchavadyam).
Experts Annamanada Parameswara Marar, Peruvanam Kuttan Marar, and Kizhakoottu Marar, who helm the ensembles, are cult heroes in Thrissur.
The only others who enjoy a similar following at Pooram are elephants, 30 of which add a touch of grandeur to the main parade in the evening and to the ‘Kudamattom’ (display of colourful umbrellas). The city blushed as the rays of the sun knifed through huge crowds flowing into the venues for ‘Madathil Varavu,’ a procession, and ‘Ilanjithara Melam,’ an ensemble staged under an Ilanji tree. Those who come in late need not be pampered with a recap. All that rolls from dawn to dusk goes for a repeat at night. The drummers would re-enter, their hair tousled by the grind under the sun now slicked back and their sweat wiped off. The elephants trundle back, accoutrements in place, after chewing up mountains of watermelon, foliage, and sugarcane. Holding cages with parakeets that turn cards, fortune-tellers buttonhole visitors. The answers are predictable (“Goddess Mahalakshmi will call on you!” or “You will meet your true love soon”).
Wayside hawkers sweat it out to cater to revellers making a beeline for peanuts, chilli baji, scoops of ice-cream, plateful of fruits and cucumber, and for a new arrival on carnival grounds, Kulukki Sarbath, the good old lemonade in a bubbly new avatar.
The wait for the early morning fireworks, fighting sleep and mosquitoes, would test your patience. Yawn. Blink. Stare. And there would be a loud boom in the horizon. A staccato crackle of small explosion rocks the sky. The festival is now complete.