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Monday, May 4, 2020

"poorangalude pooram" ~ Thrissur Pooram 2020 sans a single elephant

Today is a different day after Corona Virus threat struck and India announced lockdown – it is version 3 – the previous lockdown ended on 3.5.2020 and there is some relaxation though the no. of people affected is racing higher daily.  Sadly, one finds so many people out there on roads – does everyone have some serious work ? – people on road, driving walking, no social distancing, long queues, chaos at liquor shops  .. .. amidst chaos, there are some who are exceptionally good !

As you travel from Coimbatore, Palghat towards – Cochin (Ernakulam) by train, one cannot miss this Railway station called ‘Cultural capital’ – daily trains are available from here to Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkatta, Bangalore, Mangalore, Hyderabad and of course Chennai.  It has 3 satellite stations too – Punkunnuam, Ollur and Mulankunnathukavu ..  .. easily identifiable. 

Last year there were heated debates and arguments and High Court had to decide on allowing the most famous and the  tallest elephant to head the parade.  In a show of Unity, the  Federation of Elephant Owners also threatened to stop renting out jumbos to festivals across the state if his ban to attend Pooram was not revoked.  This year the authorities sought permission to parade just a solitary elephant and 5 people – even that was not allowed for a festival which attracts lakhs of people. People are not restive, they have not fought the ban, but have observed patience and have held the festival in the simplest manner – that is utmost discipline  -  “Thrissur Pooram Festival” 2020.

Recently I have posted on ‘Adi Shankara  jayanthi’ about his birthplace @ Kalady and the famous song in which Shankaracharya visits temples.  One of the earliests would be ‘Natha, Vadakkunatha’.  More than 1232 years ago  Shivaguru and Aryamba of Kalady devotedly prayed here for 41 days and with the boon of Lord Vadakkumnathan, Sankarar was born.  When offered a choice of a mediocre son with long life or an extraordinary son who would die early, the parents chose the latter.  Vadakkunathan,  is the name of  Lord Shiva in the city of Thrissur, Kerala.   The temple that is the  heart of the city of Thrissur is enclosed by colossal walls of stone under an area of around eight acres. The four directions, East, West, North and South in the temple have been indicated by four Gopurams inside the temple premises. In the centre of the temple there is multi shrined complex, besides the four Gopurams. The three key shrines of the temple have been dedicated to the Vadakkunatham or Lord Shiva, Lord Rama and Shankaranarayana.  Mural paintings depicting various scenes from the Mahabharata can be seen inside the temple.

The temple was built at the time of Perumthachan from Parayi petta panthirukulam. It is said that Perumthachan lived during the second century; so the Koothambalam is  more than 1,600 years old.  The Pooram festival held here in May everywhere is very grand, scores of  elephants and lakhs of people attend this festival. Thrissur Pooram is called the mother of all Poorams in kerala. In Malayalam it's called "poorangalude pooram". This is conducted in the Malayalam month of Medam. The deities from Parmekavu and Thiruvambady temple along with other small poorams come engage in festivities in front of Vadakkumanathan. It's a 36 long hour festival which attracts thousands of enthusiasts from all over the state as well as vistors from other regions and abroad. The main attractions of Pooram are Madathilavaravu panchavadhyam, Elanjithara melam, Kudamattam and Vedikettu. The festival is a visual feast for all those who enjoy it.

The Thrissur Pooram is being held since 1798 at Thekkinkkadu ground in front of the famous Vadakkunnathan Siva temple. Two groups, consisting of five temples each, take part in the Pooram in a competitive mode. One group is led by Thriuvambadi Srikrishna Temple and the second one is led by Paramekkavu Bhagavati Temple. The 10 temples send their pooram (complete procession) accompanied by elephants carrying deities. Exchange of ornamental umbrellas atop the elephants standing face to face is one of the spectacular events of the festival. The temples parade about 100 captive elephants owned by individuals and religious institutions.

This year the District Collector rejected the request from Paramekkavu devaswom seeking permission to parade one elephant for Thrissur Pooram amid the coronavirus outbreak. In the request, the devaswom has sought permission to carry out the popular temple festival with a single elephant and five people. Earlier, the district authority and devaswom committees have decided to conduct only the necessary rituals on the Pooram day   on May 3 and avoid all extravagances including elephants' parade. At the same time, a decision to call off the Thrissur Pooram completely was taken in a meeting of ministers and devaswom committee members. Meanwhile, the government has granted permission to Thiruvambady and Paramekakvu temples to carry out ‘Kodiyettam’ ahead of the Pooram. Only five people including the priests were allowed to attend the ‘Kodiyettam’ ceremony.

The Thekkinkadu ground usually turns into a sea of humans dancing to the frenzying rhythm of   the traditional 'ilanjithara melam' (percussion orchestra) on the day of the largest temple festival in Kerala.  Elephant lovers in tens of thousands come  to admire the majestic jumbos, all adorned in grand caparisons and other golden finery. The traditional 'vedikettu' is a one-hour fireworks spectacle conducted by the Thiruvambady and the Paramekavu devaswoms. This splendid pageantry is what makes Thrissur Pooram a unique experience where tradition and culture meet with spiritual elation. However, this year, things were different. The Thekkinkadu ground wore a deserted look.
The famous 'upacharam cholli piriyal' is the ritual where the goddesses of Thiruvambady and Paramekavu say farewell to each other promising to meet next year. However, this centuries-old tradition, too, was missed this year due to the lockdown restrictions.  

Last year, the authorities delayed and almost denied permission to the tallest pachyderm Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, the most majestic tusker elephant in heading the procession.  Devotees fought and elephant owners announced that none of their elephants would participate, if Ramachandran were to be denied the traditional honour.   Eventually faith won over everything else and the grand majestic tusker  Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, owned by Thrissur Thechikkottukavu Peramangalthu Devaswom was born in 1964 and was bought young from Assam and brought to Kerala where he is always enjoying a celebrity status.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
PS: all the photos taken from the web – have kept the credits as they are on the pictures.

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