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Thrissur Pooram 2019 Highlights: It’s a fitting end to this year’s festivities

Thrissur Pooram 2019 Kerala Highlights: The central attraction of Thrissur Pooram 2019 is the Elanjithara Melam, considered the world's largest live orchestra of percussionists known for its technical brilliance.

By: Express Web Desk | Thrissur |
Updated: May 13, 2019 8:02:40 pm
Thrissur Pooram 2019 Live updates: The procession of the Paramekkavu Temple, one of the two main participants in the festival

Thrissur Pooram 2019 Highlights: The 2019 edition of the Thrissur Pooram, an extravagant temple festival in Kerala involving scores of elephants, traditional percussionists and high-voltage fireworks, will conclude tonight. Earlier today, the entire town of Thrissur in central Kerala came to a standstill as lakhs of people assembled around the Thekkinkadu Maidanam braving the hot sun and humid weather to participate in the festivities. The central attraction of the festival was the Elanjithara Melam, considered the world’s largest live orchestra of percussionists known for its technical brilliance. In the evening, 30 caparisoned elephants, with 15 on either side, stood facing each other in a wonderful ceremony called the ‘Kudamattam’.

Like every year, this edition of the festival has not been without controversies. Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, Kerala’s tallest tusker and a permanent fixture of the Pooram, was banned in February by the Chief Wildlife Warden after it trampled two people in Guruvayur town. But a massive public outcry, with equal pressure applied by the chief political parties, resulted in the district administration relaxing the ban for an hour so that the tusker could participate in the festivities. On Sunday morning, Ramachandran came as usual, ferried in a truck, followed by bursting through the southern door of the Vadakumnathan Temple to indicate the start to the festivities.

Live Blog

Thrissur Pooram 2019, Kerala's largest temple festival began today. Follow LIVE updates on the celebration in Malayalam 

19:29 (IST)13 May 2019
Kudamattam concludes.

And with that, it's a beautiful end to this year's Kudamattam ceremony. Both the Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady temple administrations brought all that they had in their arsenal - illuminated umbrellas, printed umbrellas, double-decked and triple-decked umbrellas. It was widely seen as a highly competitive round of exchange of parasols. With this, the main round of festivities of Pooram have winded up. Later tonight, we will see the night processions of various temples along with the massive firework display. That's all from our side. Thank you for staying with us.

19:02 (IST)13 May 2019
Illuminated umbrellas!

As the skies darken and the lights from thousands of mobile phones fill the grounds, the two temple administrations bring out illuminated umbrellas. Fitted with LED lights, these umbrellas are sparkling in the night sky. This is genius.

18:37 (IST)13 May 2019
More visuals from the Kudamattam ceremony

18:19 (IST)13 May 2019
Printed parasols define the trend this year

The fierce and competitive exchange of beautiful, sequined silk parasols has begun between the Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady temples. The colours, designs, patterns, embroidery of the umbrellas are all changing. However, what's been a defining feature of the umbrellas this time is the print. Some of them have a Kathakali print and others with prints of the God/goddess.

It needs to be underlined here that year after year, designers come out with such fantastic patterns for the umbrellas. A lot of thought goes into firming up the designs especially months before the Pooram. As always, there's an urge to innovate and experiment with new patterns. Both temple administrations also hold the designing brainstorming meetings in deep secret so that the other team doesn't get a hold of it.

17:50 (IST)13 May 2019
Lakhs gather to witness 'kudamattam'

The searing afternoon heat is giving way to a soothing evening breeze through the streets of Thrissur. Lakhs of people are now assembling on the grounds of the Thekkinkadu Maidanam, right in front of the southern door of the Vadakkumnathan Temple, to witness the historic 'kudamattam' ceremony. The Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady goddesses will line up on either end of the grounds, with 15 elephants each, to engage in a competitive exchange of beautiful silk parasols. Each of these parasols are made at least three months in advance, and cost anywhere between Rs 5,000 and Rs 50,000. This time, 51 sets of umbrellas are believed to be ready for exchange. 

In the photo below, one can see the 'sea' of people between the two sets of elephants representing the two temples.

16:45 (IST)13 May 2019
Ilanjithara Melam concludes. Next up, kudamattam

With a flourish, the magnificent Ilanjithara Melam comes to an end. Time now for 'kudamattam', the competitive exchange of colourful silk parasols between the Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady temples. Both teams with 15 elephants each will stand face-to-face, in front of the southern door of the Vadakkumnathan Temple, lakhs of people sandwiched in the middle. It seems the sultry weather has had absolutely no impact on the crowds. Every year, it seems the crowds just keep getting bigger and bigger. 

16:15 (IST)13 May 2019
Age is just a number!

That's exactly what one would say about Peruvanam Kuttan Marar. The Padma Shri-recipient at 65, fainted possibly due to exhaustion earlier in the day, but came back from the hospital to lead the Ilanjithara Melam. 

15:57 (IST)13 May 2019
If you're just tuning in...

There couldn't be a better time for you to tune into the Thrissur Pooram.  The world-famous Ilanjithara Melam is progressing gradually towards it's feverish crescendo. Peruvanam Kuttan Marar, who fainted earlier in the day possibly due to exhaustion, has joined nearly 300 artists under the shade of the Bulletwood tree in the courtyard of the Vadakumnathan Temple to lead the Melam. This is the 21st consecutive year that Marar has been leading the ensemble.  

15:45 (IST)13 May 2019
VIDEO: A glimpse of the Parmekkavu Temple procession (that ended sometime ago)

Our reporter on the ground captured this wonderful view of the 'Madathil Varavu' procession of the Thrissur Pooram. Fifteen magnificent, golden caparisoned elephants, stand in front of the Parmekkavu temple, with the tusker in the centre carrying the 'thidambu' (replica) of the deity on it's back. Note the buzz and the frenzy among the crowds.

15:36 (IST)13 May 2019
Ilanjithara Melam can go on for over 4 hours!

The Ilanjithara Melam, an important percussion ensemble of the Thrissur Pooram, can go on for over four hours. Defying the searing May summer heat, the percussionists, standing in rows facing each other, play out one of the most brilliant performances, cheered on by lakhs of people who sway to the rhythms of the instruments (drums). As of now, the Ilanjithara Melam is progressing well, with the beats gaining speed and inching towards the crescendo. Bottles of water are being distributed to the artists who can find the heat quite challenging.  

14:29 (IST)13 May 2019
Pooram's highlight - Ilanjithara Melam - begins

The Ilanjithara Melam, the highlight of the Thrissur Pooram attended by over 300 artists, has begun. In 'Pandi Melam' style, the percussion is noted for it's technical brilliance and discipline of the instruments involved. Lakhs of people tend to converge around the bulletwood tree in the courtyard of the Vadakkumnathan Temple hours in advance so as to get the best views and sounds of the percussion.

14:24 (IST)13 May 2019
Did you know?

Did you know that the Thekkinkadu Maidanam, a 65-acre property that encircles the centuries-old Vadakumnathan Temple and is the centre-piece of the Thrissur Pooram, used to be a dense forest home to tigers, elephants and wild boars at one point of time. During the time of the Maharaja of Cochin, the place was even used to execute the most feared criminals. But over time, the king, against the advice of his Brahmin advisors, took the decision to clear the forests. Post independence, the Maidanam has stood witness to political speeches by the likes of Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi when they visited Thrissur. These days, you can always see little huddles of people playing chess and cards under the shade of teak trees.  

14:03 (IST)13 May 2019
A glimpse from the Paramekkavu temple procession (Courtesy: Nelvin Wilson)

13:41 (IST)13 May 2019
Peruvanam Kuttan Marar faints, admitted to hospital

Asianet News is now reporting that Peruvanam Kuttan Marar, a world-famous percussionist, fainted during the procession of the Paramekkavu Temple. He was immediately taken to a private hospital where he was administered first aid. But he is said to be fine. In fact, the channel reports that he will return immediately for the Ilanjithara Melam, that he has continued to lead for over two decades. The 'Melam' will begin shortly after 2 pm.

13:32 (IST)13 May 2019
A snapshot from the 'Madathil varavu' procession (Courtesy: Nelvin Wilson)

13:13 (IST)13 May 2019
Slowly and gradually, the beats are inching up to a crescendo

For any fan of Kerala's traditional percussion, the Thrissur Pooram is a hallowed event. In the Pancharimelam style, the chenda (drums) combines with the ilathalam (cymbal), kombu (wind instrument) and the kuzhal (double reed wind instrument) to produce the state's most popular temple percussion ensemble. As one travels from the north to the south, the percussion however can change forms and styles. The ensemble has five stages, the beats in each of them totalling up to 96, 48, 24, 12 and 6. With each phase, the crescendo rises, taking the listeners along with it.

There's also the 'Pandi Melam', which uses the same instruments but has a different rhythmic pattern.  The famous 'Ilanjithara Melam', performed under the Bulletwood tree of the Thekkinkadu Maidanam, is of the Pandi Melam variety. It's one of the rare occasions when the 'Pandi Melam' is performed as part of a temple procession. For the 21st consecutive year, Peruvanam Kuttan Marar will lead the procession, accompanied by over 300 artists, making it the largest temple orchestra in the world. It begins shortly after 2 pm today.

The procession of the Paramekkavu Bhagavathi temple, also known as the 'madathil varavu' has begun. Fifteen caparisoned elephants, with people atop holding the 'aalavattom' (decorative circular fan made with peacock feathers), 'venchamaram' (fan made of yak hair) and the 'muthukuda' (sequined silk parasols), are part of the procession with the accompaniment of the 'panchavadyam'.

12:50 (IST)13 May 2019
A photograph that celebrates the Pooram's affirmative secular credentials. Isn't that something?
12:42 (IST)13 May 2019
How do you beat the heat during Pooram?

By taking a bath of course. Special arrangements have been made for the elephants to take bath, within the confines of the Thekkinkadu Maidanam.

The video below shows an elephant taking a nice, cool shower before the processions begin.

12:36 (IST)13 May 2019
Some visuals sent by our reporter from the ground (Image courtesy: Nelvin Wilson)

12:14 (IST)13 May 2019
How can you watch the Pooram?

Well,  the best place to watch and enjoy the Pooram in our opinion is at Thrissur itself. It's a different feeling altogether when you join the crowds, despite the sweltering heat, to partake in the 'Melam' (percussion orchestra). But if you couldn't book last-minute train or flight tickets to Thrissur, the second-best way to enjoy the Pooram is via the TV news channels. The interest around the Pooram has been so hysterical over the last few years that every local Malayalam news channel in Kerala has made a bid to get their viewers to Thrissur. Most prime-time news channels like Asianet, Manorama, Mathrubhumi, News18 and MediaOne have dedicated at least two reporters each at different points of the town to capture the mood and intensity. There is non-stop 24x7 coverage around the Pooram, right down to the fireworks in the night. Most of these channels have live-streams on YouTube so you can't miss it.

Explained: Thrissur Pooram, understanding Kerala's largest temple festival Thrissur Pooram celebrations at swaraj round at Thrissur, Kerala. (Express Photo by Vignesh Krishnamoorthy)

Over the centuries, the Thrissur Pooram event has grown larger in size, with extensive funds being spent by the participating temple administrations and attracting scores of domestic and foreign tourists in the process. While the Pooram itself is just one day, preparations begin months in advance. The Pooram consists ten temples in and around Thrissur and is considered to be a ceremony where these deities come together to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva at the Vadakumnathan Temple, located in the centre of the town.

Read | Thechikottukavu Ramachandran is still in business: The story behind Kerala’s most loved (and feared) elephant

It has to be underlined that the Pooram, though a Hindu ritual, has grown to encompass all religious and cultural strains of Kerala. Both the Muslim and Christian communities participate in the festival in a variety of ways. In essence, the Pooram is not just restricted to reflecting a Hindu ritual, rather, it has ended up becoming a banner highlighting secular credentials of the state.

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