Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thrissur Pooram - Last Part

The most striking feature of the Thrissur Pooram is its very secular nature. It is not only the Hindus who participate in this festival. Literally Thrissur Town gets converted into an ocean of humanity of all colour, caste and creed. The Muslim and Christian Communities actively take part in it and they play a very prominent role in the very conduct of the festival. Most of the Panthals are the craftwork of the experts from the Muslim community. For the two days of the festival, the CMS High School, owned by the North Kerala Diocese of CST Church and located on the western part of the Swaraj Round, becomes virtually the Headquarters of the Thiruvambadi Devasom. The temple elephants are tied in the school compound and the 'Aana Chamaya pradarsanam' is also held here. The parasols for the 'Kudamattom' are offered by the churches and their members.

But, we need to pay heed to the reality as well. Unlike today, Thrissur Pooram used to be celebrated with the full involvement of devotees with their physical involvement and voluntary services in the ancient times. The financial obligations were very little due to the availability of large number of artists and artisans locally. Now activities connected with pooram festivals has to be maintained with the help of paid artists and artisans, resulting in large expenditure which is beyond the capacity of the conveners .The expenditure for arranging accompaniments and other accessories, hiring beautiful elephants, artists for melam and panchavadyam etc., necessitates lakhs and lakhs of rupees. As in older times, the meager donation from the Thattakams is not sufficient to meet the huge expenses. Large scale contributions were given to communities to conduct pooram with great pomp and show during the time of Maharajas. This help was also stopped and government is not helping Thrissur Pooram Celebration Committee. In this circumstance luckily some new avenues have opened up to facilitate funds for the conduct of pooram with its old pomp and show beautifully and seriously. The pooram is not only celebrated and conducted by the people from the surrounding locality but cuts cross all the manmade barriers of religion and caste.

All this, in turn has tremendously increased the responsibilities of the local administration and the organizers are trying to improve the show by adding improved themes. This will also help to minimize the monotony of locals who throng to the venue every year. However, the two main poorams of Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady has already accomplished this by improving the Kudamattom and fireworks. But the other poorams are still lagging behind in this process due to financial crunch and other problems. Due to the initiative taken by the Tourism Department of Kerala Government and the Cochin Devasom Board, these poorams are also trying to improve and catch up with innovative ideas in their processions. Since Thrissur pooram is commonly known as drum-oriented festival, the improvements should be limited to cater the taste of visiting people consisting of large number of foreigners and non-Malayalees. The present forms of Melam and panchavadyam are the live wires of the show and this should be improved with the presence of well known artists. The restrictions and the time limit in the Thekkinkadu Maidan also hamper them considerably. The thin attendance in the origin of all the small poorams should be the focal point for improvisation. Additionally, it also harps on the risk involved in conducting such a festival on a grand scale which involves the movement of the tusker through a sea of humanity. Even one elephant running amok could take a huge toll of lives. It emphasizes the measure taken by the authorities to make the festival and the scintillating fire work displays as safe for the public as possible.

A glimpse of the cultural excellence!!!

Whatever be the case, life in Kerala is punctuated by the annual festivals dedicated to the village deities. These post-harvest festivals are an occasion to break out of the monotony of daily routine. During the festival season, Thrissur, popularly known as the temple town turns into a town of colour, music and mirth. The size and importance of this festival may vary from small gathering to a mega spectacle. But the beauty of Thrissur pooram is truly one of its kinds. At a time when the secular fabric of the Indian Society is slowly disintegrating, one cannot be myopic to the relevance of Thrissur Pooram, the conduct of which should become worthy of emulation to other festivals in the country. In addition, all the kaleidoscope of colors and magnificent sounds make this a sight to behold. It is an expression of popular fascination for sound and colour, and because of the pageantry, it appeals to all people. In every respect Thrissur pooram stands better than the best, a cultural show par excellence and indeed a meeting point of all the arts.

All images and video - courtesy - google search

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thrissur Pooram - Part 9

The next day morning, both these competitors start with their respective “Pandimelam” and end up at the Sreemoolasthanam around 12 noon. This is rightly categorized as “PakalPooram”, locally known as “Pooram for Thrissur residents”. Both the goddesses say “Good bye” to each other, promising to meet again next year with more vigor, but ensuring congeniality. They, then return to their respective temples. The same day evening after “Arattu” (holy dip of the deity in the temple pond) and “Kodikuthu” (kodikal pooram), the elephant which was honored to carry the “Thidambu” pulls down the flag with the post, put up during “Kodiyettam”. After “Sree BoothaBali”, the goddesses enter their sanctum and take rest with “Uthram Pattu”, after a long tiring and tough competition.

Hence ends the great Thrissur Pooram - The grant show of temples in the vicinity of the vast Vadakkunnathan temple, the celebration with the processions from various temples consisting of decorated caparisoned elephants with the center one holding the deities embedded in golden Kolams, the trained men sitting on the elephants holding the colorful specially prepared large umbrellas, “Alavattam” made out of peacock feathers and “Venchamarams” heaving to the Vadhyamelams, the number of devotees and visitors contented to the very depth of their hearts, all constitute this wonderful attraction of the earth. Through the electronic media, its fame has reached all over India and beyond its boundaries, attracting people to flock to Thrissur town to have a glimpse of the pageantry.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thrissur Pooram - Part 8

Once again, the participant poorams will start to perform in the same hierarchy, but will end up at “Nilapaduthara” .Two of the major ones namely, “Paramekkavu” and “Thiruvambady” will temporarily suspend their ensemble at their respective “Panthals” at 3.00 am, and the breathtaking final firework display depicting the rivalry between the 2 groups, starts.

Indeed, these fireworks are a secret pride of Thrissur Pooram because they are really distinct in character, performance, excellence and magnitude. Both Thiruvambady and Paramekkavu temples vying to show each other’s cultural and artistic brilliance in turn result in providing the crowd with the best and the most unexpected. It ends up as a hale and hearty show of the two sections’ might. People come from faraway places to watch this amazing display of Pyrotechnics.

The fireworks enthrall people in four different occasions during Pooram season namely, the ‘sample fireworks’ couple of days before the Pooram, the colorful sparklers (“Amittu”) lighting up the sky in a true competitive spirit on the Pooram evening after the Southward Descent, the most impressive event marking the peak of Pooram celebrations in the early morning hours, and the final fireworks the following noon after the Goddesses bid farewell to each other that mark the end of Pooram.

Behind this colourful show, is the concerted and dedicated effort of thousands of artisans over a couple of months and their satisfaction after all the show has ended. The technique involves a simple mixture of sound, light and strength, the proportion varying according to the type, say Amittu produces less sound and more color whereas Dynamite produces high pitch sound only. Each chemical helps produce a particular color to the fireworks, with the addition of Aluminum powder and magnesium, that helps bring some gimmicks. However, potassium chlorate, which was used to increase the loudness has now been replaced by potassium nitrate considering safety as the top priority.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thrissur Pooram - Part 7

During this time period (around 12 noon), Paramekkavu Bhagavathi starts with “PandiMelam”, popularly known as “Purapaadu”; it ends up entering the Vadakunnathan through the “Manikandanaal” side (southern side). This leads to the famous “Elinjithara Melam” which concludes by 4.30 p.m.

Afterwards, Paramekkavu bhagavathi leaves through the southern gopuram marking the start of “Thekkottirakam” (meaning descending southwards). Devi travels towards south for performing a “Pradhakshinam” (going roundabout in clockwise direction) of Sakthan Thampuran’s statue, in front of the Muncipal Office. By then, the Thiruvambady melam concludes at Sreemoolasthanam (western gate of Vadakunnathan) and the Devi enters the Vadakunnathan temple and leaves through the southern gopuram, only to find Parmekkavu waiting her entry into the battlefield for the ever-famous cynosure, “Kudamattom”, the spectacular show of exchanging parasols of myriad numbers, designs and colors. Both Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady field face to face arrays of richly caparisoned elephants and the stage is all set for a wonderful competition of the swift and rhythmic exchange of brightly colored and sequined parasols. Both the groups explore and exploit every source at their command, providing a mind-blowing visual treat to all the spectators assembled at the “ThekkegopuraNada” of the Vadakunnathan, culminating with an ever-memorable dazzling display of fireworks, leaving an everlasting stamp on each person’s minds making spectators going into raptures.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Thrissur Pooram - Part 6

And with the all the preparations, there comes “The Day”.

The pooram day starts with the ceremonial entrance of “Kanimangalam Shastha” into the Vadakunnathan through the southern gopuram at 7 a.m. “Shastha” is normally characterized as the guardian of pooram and incarnated as “Bhrahaspathi” (Devaguru). It is marked by the presence of 7 caparisoned elephants and Nadapady. This is the only pooram other than “Paramekkavu” that is allowed to perform Melam inside the Vadakunnathan.

The Pandimelam starts in front of Elinjithara and Shastha exits, finishing the Melam, through the western gopuram. This is followed by the arrival of Panamukkampilly Shastha and Chembookavu Karthiayani Devi, entering through the eastern gopuram, finally leaving through the southern gopuram. Meanwhile, the poorams of Laloor, Ayyanthole, Neithalkavu and Choorakottukavu moves to the Thekkinkadu Maidanam from Naduvilal (western side of Swaraj Round) and enter vadakumnathan through the western gopuram leaving through the southern gopuram.

In the meantime, the Thiruvambady Baghavathy will start from the Thiruvambady temple. The procession reaches Thekkemadam by around 10.30 am. After “Irakkypooja”, the famous “Madathilvaravu” starts with “Panchavadhyam”. The panchavadyam continues till the procession reaches “Thiruvambady” panthal at “Naickanal” (Northern side of Swaraj Round), and then, the “Pandimelam” starts with 15 elephants.

The Karamukku Bagavathy moves through the Manikandanaal (southern side of Swaraj Round) and enters through the western gopuram and leaves through the southern gopuram. However, all the poorams conclude at “Nilapaduthara” near the western gopuram.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Thrissur Pooram - Part 5

The long schedule of the Thrissur Pooram starts with the smaller Poorams in the individual temples in both the groups; then they arrive at Vadakunnathan to pay their due respects to Lord Shiva, the silent spectator of their long festive journey. Each pooram is however, accompanied by the percussion ensembles, which is one of the greatest source of enjoyment and enthusiasm for all the spectators.

The no: of artists in the “Panchavadhyam” troupe varies depending on factors like duration, place, type etc. But the proportion remains the same always, to every Madhalam, there would be double + one "Thimila" and for every Thimila, there would be equal number of "Kombu" and "Elathalam". One "Edakka" is essential in all types of “Panchavadyam”. For larger groups, the no: of "Edakka" may be more. The grouping of the artists and hierarchy is strictly followed. The chief of each instrument will stand in the center, the next less superior one in the right side and the third one in the left. "Edakka" will be stationed at right-hand side of the "Madhalam". If there is second "Edakka", it will be positioned at the left hand side. "Sanghu" will be at right hand side of the right Edakka. The “Panchavadhyam” follows the Pyramidal rhythmic structure. It starts with the “Shangu”, followed by the “Thimila” and other instruments except the “Kombu”. It is divided into 10 “Kaalams” each lasting 14-15 minutes and consisting of slow “PathiKaalam”, intermittent “MadhyaKaalam”, “DruthiKaalam” and speedy Kaalam, but however, the chief decides from which Kaalam the vadhyam starts. This differs from “PanchariMelam” in that the latter is performing on Chenda with one stick and hand and is divided into 3 steps in 5 "Kaalams".

The “Pandimelam” performed as “Elanjitharamelam” during the pooram differs by the use of stick in both hands. It is like climbing a staircase; with a no.of steps + landing, again a no. of steps + landing and finally it reaches the top of the tower, literally, a tower of explosion of sound. Its "takeoff" is in an entirely different format called "Koottiperukkal" which is an enchanting experience. It is difficult to confine this melam to any type of "Kaalam" since it is designed in such a way that it accelerates step by step very systematically. During the course of time it will cover up the Kaalams, but not strictly time- bound. But, its beauty lies in its "Kalaasams". Here, the speed and no of beats are directly proportional; the grand finale being a thrilling experience.