A Festival For All

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A post by our guest blogger, Vandhana K., a sixteen-year-old who talks in puns and writes in poems, enjoys tasty food and tasteful books (both at once if she can get them). 

Thrissur Pooram is one of the biggest festivals in Kerala and the story behind it is as interesting as the festival itself.

Before Thrissur Pooram started, the only major temple festival celebrated in Kerala was the Arattupuzha festival, a fete that all Thrissur temples took part in. This was held ten kilometers south of Thrissur and was a very big deal. One year when it was raining hard at the time of this festival, many people from Thrissur came late for its start and weren’t allowed into the premises of the temple. The embarrassed Thrissur temple officials complained to their king Raja Rama Varma. The raja decided to organize another festival that would be more extravagant and gratifying, and he unified ten surrounding temples for the celebrations. This was called Thrissur Pooram, as it was held in Thrissur.

Today, Thrissur Pooram is a week-long gala, and has a playful contest between two ‘teams’ that the ten participating temples are divided into. The festivities start off with flag hoisting called kodiyettam, seven days before the actual day of the Pooram. An idol of the presiding god is brought into the temple at 7 a.m., followed by those of other temples.

The main attraction of the festival is kudamattam, which is a part of the competition where 15 elephants are exhibited with colorful and artistic umbrellas atop them. People crowd to see the elephants and stay to watch the famous firework display on all evenings.

Although it started off as a Hindu festival, the best part of the celebrations is that the temple is open to all communities on these days. Other communities contribute greatly to its success – the pandals (temporary tents) for the gods are handcrafted by Muslims and materials for the umbrellas are offered by Christians. It’s a perfect example of a society whose identity goes beyond religion – the kind that India hopes to build.

Our activity book, A Puzzling Tour of India, makes a pit stop at Thrissur. Take a peek inside before you buy!

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