Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thrissur Pooram - Part 2

The Thrissur Pooram is considered to be the Mother of all Poorams, a culture highlight that towers above all other festivals .Thrissur pooram is a festival unique in its pageantry, magnitude and participation. It is not a mere temple festival in its strict sense but at the same time it is the festival of festivals of Kerala. It is a grand assembly of Gods and Goddesses in and around Thrissur. The Ten participants of the Pooram are the Thiruvambady Bhagavathi and Paramekkavu Bhagavathi, Nethilakkavu Bhagavathi, Karamukku Bhagavathi, Ayyanthole Bhagavathi, Laloor Bhagavathi, Choorakkattukavu Bhagavathi, Chembukkavu Bhagavathi, Panamukkumpally Sastha, Kanimangalam Sastha. 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 is maintained without any loss of energy.

The legends and myths behind each festival of Kerala are many, varied and equally interesting. Since the word pooram literally means a group or a meeting, it was believed that every year the dynastic gods and goddesses of neighbouring province met together for a day of celebration. This usually happened on the pooram asterism of one of the spring months. The gods and their entourage arrived for the meeting on colourfully decorated tuskers. Even today, the converging of these divine processions at the festival venue is an awe inspiring sight.

Very many stories are told and retold about the origin of Thrissur pooram. It is 200 plus years young and before that the “Arattupuzha pooram” conducted at Arattupuzha, some 14 km away from Vadakunnathan was the biggest temple festival of Kerala. All the temples participating in Thrissur pooram and Kuttanellur pooram were the regular participants of “Arattupuzha pooram”. Once these temples were delayed to attend the festival due to heavy rain or so and then chief of Peruvanam Gramam, known for its Namboodiri supremacy, denied the entry. As an act of reprisal Thrissur Naduvazhi (the chief poojari of Vadakunnathan) and Kuttanellur Naduvazhi started the pooram in Thrissur. Later due to some reasons, the Kuttanellur Naduvazhi disassociated the celebration at Thrissur. Since their withdrawal, the glamour of the pooram was lost and the two Naduvazhies’ began to treat each other as enemies. It was in this juncture the former ruler of Cochin and the very architect of Thrissur, His Highness Ramavarma Raja, popularly known as Sakthan Thampuran (1751-1805 AD) became the Maharaja of Kochi.

As an act of reprisal and also in a bid to assuage their wounded feelings, Sakthan Thampuran unified the 10 temples situated around Vadakunnathan temple who would assemble on the eve to pay obeisance to the presiding deity of Thrissur and took steps to celebrate Thrissur Pooram as a mass festival. He took up the renovation of the Vadakkunnathan temple which was enclosed by high walls. The four massive gopurams of the temple have been ascribed to him. At a time when nobody would have dared to look straight at the almighty Namboodiris, Sakthan Thampuran stripped of their powers and took over the administration of the temple that claimed an antiquity of more than three centuries. It was he who reorganized the annual festival in its present form and made the sprawling Thekkinkadu Maidan the major venue of Thrissur Pooram. Adhering to the medieval Peruvanam tradition, he confined the festival to the temples of Devi (goddess) and Sastha (divine combination of Shiva and Vishnu). Again, he entrusted the onus of holding the festival to the two public temples- Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu temples that had never been under the control of the Namboodiris. He also directed them to extent all support and help to other poorams which are coming from 2 to 10 kms away from Vadakumnathan temple. He ordained two groups – West and East. He named Western group as Thiruvambady, consisting of Kanimangalam, Laloor, Ayyanthole, Nethilakkavu and Thiruvambady temples and the Eastern group Paramekkavu, consisting of Karamukku, Chembukavu. Choorakottukavu, Panamukkamppilly and Paramekkavu. It is attributed that the event management of the whole pooram was chalked out by His Highness Sakthan Thampuran. It is this historical background that determines the course of the Pooram program and it is specifically the ruler's antipathy to the brahmin aristocracy to open Thrissur pooram for the common man.

1 comment:

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