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Tradition clashes with rules at Thrissur Pooram

K. Santhosh
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Devaswoms want to stick to custom, activists seek adherence to jumbo rules

The Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu Devaswoms, major participants in Thrissur Pooram, are confident that the Elephant Procession Guidelines issued by the Forest Department on March 20, 2013 will not affect festival ceremonies.

The Forest Department has imposed a ban on parading elephants between 11 a.m. and 3.30 p.m. Some of the major ceremonies of Pooram featuring elephants are conducted during these hours. To discuss the issue, the Devaswoms plan to meet Chief Minister Oommen Chandy when he visits Thrissur on Friday.

“We are confident that the government will allow Pooram to be conducted in its traditional grandeur,” Thiruvambadi Devaswom president M. Madhavankutty was quoted as saying. The Madathilekku Varavu ceremony, in which the idol (thidambu) of the Thiruvambadi Bhagavathy is taken from the Thiruvambadi temple to Naduvil Madom at Pazhayanadakkavu, usually begins at 7.30 a.m. In the past few years, the timings for the other ceremonies have been as follows: Panchavadyam, 10 a.m.; procession of the Paramekkavu temple, 12.30 p.m.; Ilanjithara Melam, 2 p.m.; and display of ornamental umbrellas(Kudamattom), 5.30 p.m.

The Thrissur-based Heritage Animal Task Force demands certain minor changes in Pooram timings. “A minor rescheduling will help the organisers conform to the rules and bring great comfort to elephants. If Madathilekku Varavu begins at 6 a.m., the entire ceremony of the Thiruvambadi side in the morning can be finished before 11 a.m. The thidambu may be kept in the Matom till 3 p.m. The ‘ezhunellippu’ may begin then. Paramekkavu may follow a similar pattern. There is no need to change the timing of ensembles such as Ilanjithara Melam,” said V.K. Venkitachalam, secretary of the task force. Changing the timing of ceremonies was not unusual. “Many major temples in the State have rescheduled their festivals. Welfare of animals is important,” he said.

He urged Pooram organisers to respect the guidelines which stipulate that a 3-metre gap be maintained between elephants and spectators, and barricades erected. “Elephants should not be paraded for more than six hours at a stretch,” he said.

He said violations of the Kerala Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules had led to pachyderms killing many. The task force says captive elephants have killed 220 people in the State since 2007. Captive elephants killed 26 persons in 2007-2008; 29 in 2008-09; 33 in 2009-2010; 75 people in 2010-11; and 49 in 2011-12. Since this January, eight persons, including a college student, lost their lives following elephant fury.

On May 2, 2012, an elephant had run amok during the farewell ceremony of Thrissur Pooram, injuring many.

Eleven days later, three elephants turned violent at the Koodalmanikya Temple in Irinjalakuda.

Animal rights activists allege that elephants showing signs of musth or weakness were often featured in festivals. Musth lasts up to 60 days. The elephant shows aggressive behaviour during this period.


  • Devaswom activists to meet Chandy today

  • Animal activists call for reschedule of rituals


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