Thrissur Pooram Festival

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Being there for Thrissur Puram 2014 was a dream come true, had never seen something like this ever before.The festival is all about elephants,processions, music and fire crackers. It attracts lakhs and is known to be the mother all poorams, the largest temple festival in South India.On Pooram day two teams of elephants stand opposite to each other in the grounds of the Sree Vadukkunnathan Temple (u see one team) changing beautifully designed parasols (umbrellas). We present pics of Pooram as it happened.

Entrance to Sree Vadukkunnathan Temple. Took a flight from Mumbai to Kochi. From airport took a pre-paid taxi to Thrissur. U see Deepasthambham (Traditional Light Mast). 7 kms away from airport is Sankara Birth Place. Went there too. To see pictures Click here

Temple lit up at night. U see fully lit Deepasthambham. Day before Pooram there is a puja in the morning in the SV temple, after that devotees visit two halls to see Elephants Ornaments that are used during Pooram. To see pictures of Elephants OrnamentsClick here

U see lamp-post with tortoise which represents the Kurma avatar of Bhagavan Vishnu in the Dasavatara series. Temple has a wall around it followed by maidan part of which you see. It is called Thekkinkad Maidan. Temple area is huge - allows for massive congregations.

Fully lit up temple area. U see deepasthambham in front and fully lit up gopuram hid behind trees. Pooram was next day. Crowds thronged the ground and temple for darshan. I had darshan too. One needs to wear a Mundu (worn by Kerala men) or Dhoti as I did and remove shirt. Details of captions taken from Click here

There are elephants moving all over the temple grounds. ''The Thrissur Pooram, celebrated in the Malayalam month Of Medom (April-May) is a grand assembly of Gods and Goddesses in and around Thrissur. These Gods and Goddesses make their visit to the Vadakumnathan Temple premises on caparisoned elephants accompanied by grand ensembles of Chenda melam and pancha vadyam''.

There are three gopurams, you see one of them. Design is very different from what one sees elsewhere in South India. 10 temples take part in the Pooram. 'The processions and rituals of each of these deities follow a very strict itinerary, scheduled in such a way that the tempo of the Pooram celebrations – 36 hrs non-stop- is maintained without any loss of energy'. To know names of templesClick here

Same gopuram beautifully lit. In centre in blue is image of Krishna as child. The festival is 200 years. Its earlier form Arattupuzha pooram has a history of more than 1000 years. Its current form is credited to the former ruler of Cochin, His Highness Ramavarma Raja, popularly known as Sakthan Thampuran (1751-1805 AD). To know more about history of festival Click here

Evening-prior to Pooram all elephants go through extensive medical check up. It is done to ensure elephants are fit to be part of the 36 hour festival. I found all elephants to be very well behaved.Only once was there a ruckus, some got injured, when a devotee pinched a elephant - their skin is known to be very sensitive.

On the day of Pooram procession goes from Thiruvambady BagavathyTemple, amongst others, to the Sree Vadukkunnathan Temple. Thiruvambady is a dominant part of Thrissur Puram. The main deity is Shreekrishna (partha sarathy). I reached about 8.30 am when procession was about to begin. To know more about templeClick Here

Decorated elephants start the procession. Hundreds of devotees form part of the procession, there are many more on either side of the road and watching from their homes.

Procession is accompanied by percussion artists as you see. This bit of Pooram is called the Madathilekku Varavu ceremony during which the thidambu (idol) of the Thiruvambadi Bhagavathy is taken on elephant Sivasunder from the Thirduvambadi Temple to Naduvil Madom and later to Vadakkunatha Temple.

On the road where procession moved was this huge offering. It is called Aann Ottu - feeding the elephants. Normally a portion is given to the elephant and the rest is taken back. There are people who give all the displayed items to the elephant. In pic is image of Ganesha and Krishna.

Percussion artists during the procession. Instrument in centre of pic is called MADDHALAM. What two artists in front have in their hand is Ilathalam (pair of round metallic discs joined together with a thread -used for rhythmic beats).

Senior citizens with offerings. It is called Para Vazhipadu (An offering when the residing deity comes visiting you). The 10 temples who take part in Pooram are split into two parts namely “Paramekkavu side” and “Thiruvambady side”. The Paramekkavu side consists of besides “Paramekkavu Bagavathy.

Musicians playing the KOMBU or the horn which is a wind like instrument. Procession is to the accompaniment of Panchavadyam, led by percussion maestro Annamanada Parameswara Marar.

Procession of elephant and musicians walks for about a km before it has to cross the Gopuram ie minutes away from the Sree Vadukkunnathan Temple. I had darshan at this Shiva mandir. The idol is not visible, as it is covered under 3-5 meter high and 5-7meter wide mount of ghee, formed by daily abisheka (ablution) with ghee over centuries'. To know all about temple traditionClick here

3 elephants came from the Thirumvady temple. More elephants came from other temples who are part of that group and stood at the western entrance of the Sree Vadukkunnathan Temple as you see. Percussion is played for a while.

A rear view at the same time as the preceding picture. Every elephant has a parasol (umbrella), umbrella of elephant with deity has a different color.

Side view at the same time. One storeyed building behind the deepastambh is where I spent a lot of time - gave me a good overview although navigating through the crowds was a challenge.

By the time earlier group had finished the second group was on its way to the main entrance of the Sree Vadukkunnathan Temple. Elephants with umbrellas and percussion artists.

A close up of the same group. Note men wear only a Mundu with no shirts. Close up artists playing the KOMBU. This and earlier group of elephants represent the arrival of ''cheru poorams'' from participitating temples across the district in the morning and mark the commencement of the festival.

You see me with a percussion maestro, he is actually the leader of one of the two groups of musicians. He is Padma Shri Peruvanam Kuttan Marar. Music had me spellbound. Years ago I had heard him at a function in Mumbai. Had loved the music so much that decided to visit Thrissurpooram someday. Am not a student of music - any errors are on account ignorance only.

Before we move on to the next event this is another fully lit Gopuram.

The next big event is at the Paramekkavu Bagavathy Temple. It is a dominant partner of Thrissurpooram. End of pic is entrance to exhibition where various products are sold. Did walk through hoping to buy some local handicraft but it has other items including good juice stalls. To know the sequence of each event at Pooram Click here

This is a Devi Mandir. On right is Krishna and Arjuna on chariot. On left of entrance which you cannot see so clearly is Bhagavan Narayana reclining on the bed formed by the mighty serpent of thousand hoods on which the universe is supported. The serpent is also called Ananta, Ananatanaga, Sesa and Sesanaga. It is also shown that the Creator, Brahma, is emerging out of the naval of Narayana. Lakshmana and Balarama, brothers of Rama & Krishna are said to be incarnations of Adisesha. The allegorical significance of this picture is the unity of creation in the infinite time and space and is sustained by them. Caption courtesy T N Sethumadhavan whose commentaries on the Holy Gita and Upanishads are on esamskriti.

After last event at Sree Vadukkunathan Temple a group of elephants move to the Paramekkavu Bagavathy Temple which is one of the dominant partners of Thrissurpooram. They remove their ornaments and stand outside the temple. I must add that did not attend all the events in individual temples as stated on Thrissurpooram site but focussed on the main events around the Sree Vadukkunathan Temple - pic no 25 has link which gives sequence.

Elephants with ornaments waiting for the elephant with Deity to return from the Paramekkavu Bagavathy temple after darshan of Devi.

Elephant with deity making its way through the temple door. There is a roar amongst the crowd when they see the elephant. It also implies that the function of changing of parasols (umbrellas) and percussion is about to begin.

U see decorated elephants with percussion artists in front. Behind them were huge crowds. I stood on the top of entrance porch of a building that adjoins temple. It was the best way to get a good view from a height.

Overview of the crowds. Simply put persons sitting on the elephant are sometimes sitting-standing and keep on changing the umbrellas which is held by the person who sits in the centre of the elephant. Timing of standing on the elephant is related to percussion rhythms. White thing held in hand of those standing is called Venchamaram.

Earlier pic was crowds in front. This pic shows crowds behind them - in between it started raining. Behind is exhibition. In background crackers were being burst. Atmosphere was electrifying to say the least.

The next many pictures we showcase the different designs of umbrellas. It is very creative work. This one is yellow with polka dots.

Elephant with deity has a different colored umbrella. Round green thing which those standing on the elephant are holding is called Aalavattam.

Changing of umbrellas going on. Behind the scenes there are numerous people carrying umbrellas for each of the 15 elephants. Golden color on elephant face is called Nettipatam. The men responsible for giving umbrellas have to move at very fast pace, take back old and give new - get from and return to hall where umbrellas are kept.

Here u can see the green round thing clearly it called Aalavattam. Note the umbrella design - looks like it has brass stitched on cloth.

Purple, blue and white umbrella.

Bright umbrella.

People you see waving hands - when the numerical progression of chenda and elathalam beats reached a crescendo, percussion-lovers wave their hands in the air in a kind of ecstasy.

This pic scanned from a Malayali newspaper is what the finale of Thrissurpooram looks like. It is known as Kudamattom (display of decorative parasols). One team of elephants is in front and the other at the end of pic. In between are huge crowds. A wooden stand was made for photographers that was on left of pic. We stood there all through. Crowds very disciplined. For someone like me who has not seen an event like this, it reminded me of a rock show. Credit and copyright of pic lies with the newspaper.

The elephant which carried the image of the deity is elephant Sree Padmanabhan. Name of elephant that carried image of Thiruvambadi Bahagavathy was elephant Thiruvambady Sivasunder. This is as per newspaper report-I could have got names wrong. Intent is to share names of elephants.

Bright dark pink parasols.

Sree Krishna image. Some photo caption details taken from The New Indian Express paper Kochi edition of May 10, 2014.

Overview of percussion artists with elephant face covered in golden color by what is locally called as Nettipattam.

Design of this parasol reminded me of Maharaja styled dress that we saw in Hindi movies of the 1960''s.

Another lovely parasol.

After the event of changing parasols at temple was completed, the elephants and percussion artists left in a procession to enter the Sree Vadukkunnathan Temple from the Southern entrance. That is what you see.

Elephant enters the temple. Somehow these huge elephants managed to make their way through temple entrance.

Procession of 15 elephants moves towards the western entrance as you will see later. Red thatched roof structure is the Sree Vadukkunathan Temple. Temple designs in Kerala are very different from Tamil Nadu and other parts of India. There were huge crowds, I just about managed to make my way.

15 elephants led by elephant Sree Padmanabhan now stand opposite the Illangi tree, where the ''Ilanjithara Melam'' by about 300 percussion artists led by Peruvanam Kuttan Marar had commenced, leaving percussion lovers spellbound. Right of pic is the tree below which is a covered area where artists were. U can see people standing on right of pic. I was there a few minutes before clicking this pic. It started raining whilst the program was on - did not deter the artists or crowds.

Percussion artists under the Ilanji tree performing Ilanjithara Melam. Right of pic person with blue cloth round his neck is Padmashri Peruvanam Kuttan Marar - pic no 23 you saw me clicked with him. I am honored.

Crowds surrounded from Illanji tree from three sides. I felt was attending a rock concert. In between it started raining adding to the fun. Whilst enjoying this heard some more percussion rhythms so decided to move out of the temple. Police refused to let me out of temple - my media card proved helpful.

Evening before main Pooram event area around the temple was bustling with activity. Right of pic is a illuminated Gopuram whose reflection you see in the glass façade of Hotel Pooram. Hotel rates during Thrissur Pooram skyrocket - one hotel from where you get a great view of the main ceremony Kudamattom quoted Rs 10,000/ odd for 3 nights. Even then hotel was full. When this year''s Pooram gets over people book rooms for the next year.

When I walked out of the western entrance of temple saw another group of elephants with umbrellas and percussion artists. I made way through crowds to reach the temporary stage made for photographers-just about managed to reach there. Corner from where would have got a straight view was packed. It had just stopped raining and the colors looked different n super.

Left of pic u see flag - wanted to stand there. Overview of crowds in centre are percussion artists. Crowd was ballistic. I enjoyed this for a while - something told me that action was starting elsewhere so I naturally walked towards the southern entrance of temple. This group was the Thiruvambady contingent.

Crowds had begun to gather, the VIP stand was full, the photographers stand where I stood required some effort to climb onto it. Having got there I thanked my stars for coming early. U see elephants coming thru temple entrance. First elephant that came was the one with deity.

Gradually all the 15 elephants came thru the gate and moving in a procession to the opposite side of the ground to take part in the renowned ''Kudamattom'' (display of decorative parasols). U will see more on this later. Crowds roared every time elephant came out of temple gate.

Close up of percussion artists moving along with procession of elephants. Their instruments are Timila, Maddalam, Idakka (percussions), Ilathalam (pair of round metallic discs and kombu.

Percussion artists play in front of elephants - this group is called the Paramekkavu contingent.

The Paramekkavu contingent with their umbrellas move towards one end of the Thekkinkad Maidan. Everyone looked happy and excited, about to witness the world famous Kundamattom.

This is the backside view of the elephants. U can see the police trying to control the crowds.

The part of the maidan through which the Paramekkavu contingent walked through was declared open to the crowds. The resultant crowds is what you see. Right of pic is VIP stand. All eyes at the southern entrance waiting for the arrival of the Thiruvambady contingent. There were lakhs of people that evening.

A break before the finale. Pooram is a big festival. We had fortune tellers and some who put this design on devotee''s hands. Pre-made wood designs are used to imprint design on hand.After I clicked her pic the young girl came running to ask me ''which media Sir''. Told her from

The first elephant to come out from the southern entrance of the Thiruvambady contingent is the one with the deity. Not sure but elephant name is Thiruvambady Sivasunder. Crowds roar on seeing Sivasunder.

At the other end elephants of the Paramekkavu contingent getting ready for the main event of display of parasols.

At the temple entrance end the Thiruvambady contingent is now ready with bright orange umbrellas. Crowds on a high and waving their hands. Actually when numerical progression of beats reach a crescendo, percussion lovers wave their hands in the air in a kind of ecstasy.

Purple umbrellas - look at the crowds.

White and reddish pink umbrellas. Crowd turn both sides depending on which contingent was changing umbrellas. Making so many designs and colors of umbrellas requires lots of creativity and hard work.

Umbrella changing happening - note the deity''s umbrella is always special and has a different look.

Umbrellas are not light - changing quickly must have required some effort.

Green umbrellas - our stand was 10-15 feet above ground so managed to get a good view.

Two types of umbrellas, behind the elephants could see men running with umbrellas taking the old ones and bringing the new.

Lovely ballons - so creative. We are not showing all umbrella design pics because the collection would be too big then.

From one end of the stand took this pic to give you a sense of the crowds and mood. Elephants at end belonged to Paramekkavu Mandir contingent.

Baby Krishna playing flute. During festival time drink lots of liquids, the humidity makes you sweat profusely.

Four levels of umbrellas - it was beginning to get dark. Did not see too many women at this part of Thrissur Pooram. Given the quantum of crowds it is difficult for them to stand in between. If the Govt wants more women to attend they should have a separate enclosure for ladies. The next morning function saw a large number of girls and women. Locals told me that the morning function is when families attend Pooram.

Loved the pink color of Thiruvambadi contingent.

Face of a Kathakali dancer.

Such was the mood during the finale that you see this man standing on the shoulders of two others. For me a non Keralite it was nothing short of a rock concert - the most spectacular that I had ever seen.

Goddess Saraswati.

OM - the illuminated Om looks so good in the dark. Loved it.

Shivji is what you see.

A very different type of parasol (umbrella). By now the Paramekkavu contingent had run out of umbrellas. There is a very nice restaurant that services North Indian food minutes away from the western temple entrance. Forget the name.

This umbrella of diyas looks so nice in the dark. So the winner was the Thiruvambadi contingent. Was on the road from 8 am to nearly 8 pm. Two camera batteries drained out, the second one just after event ended. Fire crackers followed around 2 am - was exhausted and decided to skip fireworks. To see pics of fireworks from another site Click here

At entrance of the Sree Vadukkunathan Temple was a Sewabharati counter which served water with Panamrutham (a herbal mix for preparing drinking water). Members of Sewa Bharati served this water non-stop for nearly two days. Water is served warm. Opposite side another group of devotees served butter-milk. Drank atleast 30 glasses of these two during Pooram. Kept me going. It was raining, humid and hot during Pooram. Would not have survived but for their service.

Next morning reached Thekkinkad Maidan. You see elephants belonging to Paramekkavu contingent and percussion artists led by the respected Peruvanam Kuttan Marar. Left of pic is one of the gopurams. In case of an errors in captions please mail back.

Pancha Vadyam is an orchestra of five musical instruments namely Timila, Maddalam, Idakka (percussions), Ilathalam (pair of round metallic discs joined together with a thread used for rhythmic beats) and finally the Kombu or the horn which is a wind instrument. In the pic we see kombu the semi circular horn, then the kurumkuzhal, chenda and the ilathalam.

Close up of artist playing the kuzhal (like shehnai).

At one end of temple was the Paramekkavu contingent whom you saw in earlier pics. At another end was the Thiruvambadi contingent procession that you see. Both of them move towards the western entrance of the Sree Vadukkunnathan Temple where the closing ceremony of Thrissurpooram festival is held.

From one end of the temple took this pic that shows crowds at western entrance of temple with Thiruvambadi contingent in the background.

Close up of the Paramekkavu contingent inching closer to the western entrance of the temple. Percussion artists in full swing - great mood.

Sensing the mood I navigated through the crowd to click this pic of the Thirvambadi contingent - had not seen this umbrella design before.

Elephant with deities of both the contingents now move so as to stand at the door of western entrance to temple. Left of pic is Paramekkavu and right is Thiruvambadi contingent.

Both elephants stand on either side of the Deepasthamb. To read a good travelogue and pictures of Thrissurpooram Click here

While all this was happening in the maidan grounds fire crackers were being burst. The atmosphere was electrifying. The next day after Pooram visited the Sree Krishna Temple of Guruvayur. Takes 40 minutes by bus. U can stay in hotel or leave your bag at temple counter, do darshan and return. Remember to carry mundu or dhoti since no one can enter temple wearing pants.To know more about Guruvayur temple Click here

Elephants of both the contingents stand opposite each other at the western entrance of the Sree Vadukkunnathan Temple. To read Chapter wise commentary on the Holy Gita in PDF format Click here

Elephant with deity of the contingent that won at yesterdays display of parasols stays at temple entrance and is the cynosure of all attention. It was the Thiruvambadi contingent that won and the deity image is that of Lord Krishna. To see Janmasthami celebrations at Vrindavan Click here

Was told that families come to see Thrissurpooram the day after Kudamattom (ie evening function). Man wearing shirt with mundu, wife saree, daughter is salwar kameez and daughter on right in local dress called Paavaada and blouse. To read Worship of God as Mother in Indian Tradition Click here

U see temple wall and ladies in front. They practice what is called Parrot Astrology - the parrot is trained to pick up a card from a set - and a printed material is kept inside the card''s cover. Lady reads its aloud to the fortune seeker. If I understood Malayalam would have loved to try it. To read How Science discovered the historical Krishna Click here

Note ghungroos tied around elephant feet. This last pic is a tribute to all those who make Thrissu Pooram such a wonderful and once in a life time experience. The elephants, manhouts, percussion artists, organizers and all those behind the scenes a big big thank you or Nandi (Malayalam word). All Indians must see this festival atleast once in their lifetime. To see pics of Sri Bharatha Temple (2 hrs away) Click here

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