Category Archives: Thrissur Pooram



The Thrissur Pooram Festival has been celebrated for more than 200 years and it is regarded as the biggest and best temple festival in the whole of India. Legend has it that the city of Kerala was created shortly after the Vadakkumanathan Temple, which is the largest Hindu Temple the area, built in 1795 by Lord Parasurama. The temple holds 2 major and 8 minor temples within its control.

The festival brings together traditional Indian spirituality to the people and there is lots to eat, drink and of course see and hear at this magical and highly colourful peek into Indian life.

Whilst this is today the biggest event of its kind in India, it is not the oldest as the Arattupuzha Pooram has held religious celebrations for almost 1500 years.

The event lasts around 36 hours in total (these people really know how to party) and starts from 6am on the morning of the 26th and runs through until mid-day the following day. The fireworks, in our opinion the highlight of the event, are usually held in the early hours of the morning and the East and West Temples each try to outdo the other on the amount of the pyro used. Bearing in mind that the fireworks last from around 3am to 6am there is 3 hours of mayhem.

Whilst it is a predominantly Hindu festival, participants from all religious backgrounds, economic and social status come together to celebrate the harvest of their autumnal goodies. Visitors (foreigners) have a special seating area which gives them a better view as the crowds are literally shoulder to shoulder which can be quite disturbing and of course, it is 32 – 36 degrees centigrade which is a skin melting 89.6 – 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit means it is hot as hell too.

The event starts at 4am with prayers before the flag hoisting at each of the temples within the Pooram and then, visitors can check out the pyro which is going to be used in the early hours of the morning.

thrissur pooram vadikkettu.............

Of course, as well as the fabulous fireworks, people gather from across India to see the beautifully caparisoned elephants in their splendid golden head-dresses, the people on the backs of the elephants with decorative parasols and all accompanied by up to 200 musicians. One of the oldest elephants at the temple is 82 years old and the vast majority of temple elephants all come from the biggest elephant house in India which is in the Thrissur District of Kerala. The parades – one from the East and the other from the West of the City merge together in the centre, much to the delight of the gathered tens of thousands of locals and international visitors.

When is comes to fireworks, Indians have their own set of health and safety standards which are steadily improving, but still have a long way to go. In preparation, they do not have mortar tubes but dig 4-inch holes in the ground and then drop the salutes into these. The fields were once full of rice which has recently been harvested so it is a good time to get some fun into proceedings before the next planting stage.

Pooram Fireworks

The salutes are row upon row and are linked by quick match and lines of black powder. Although not as precise as an electronically fired display, they can certainly match the cadence of the drums and musical accompaniment. Beautiful.

If you should get the opportunity to go along to the event, I am sure that it will be something that you remember forever.


Thrissur Pooram Festival 2015

WHAT: Thrissur Pooram Festival 2015
WHERE: Thrissur – Kerala – India
WHEN: 29th April 2015

The Thrissur Pooram festival started in 1798 by Raja Rama Varma after his temple went along to take part in the Arattupuzha Pooram but due to extreme flooding en-route, the procession was late arriving and admittance was refused. So incensed by their treatment, he set about creating a new mass festival in Thrissur and the rest they say is history.

With visitors numbering at around 100,000 from across India and indeed around the World, make no mistake, it is a full on festival and is generally considered to be one of the greatest Asian gatherings in the whole of the Country.

The ‘Pooram’ or gathering begins 7-days before the main event with a ceremonial flag unfurling at each of the temples taking part. Four days later, the first of the firework shows takes place at 7:15pm.

The following day, visitors can see the ‘Display of Caparisons’ – the ornamental head gear for the elephants, the fans made from huge peacock feathers, sacred bells and highly decorated umbrellas for each of the ten participating temples – the 2015 display will be held at the Church Mission Society High School in Thrissur on the 4th and 5th day.

Fifteen of the biggest and best of the elephants in the area are selected to carry the goddesses into the town. They only select the elephants with the best temperament: they are all male with long trunks and short tails and they are generally between 25 and 55 years old and stand 10-12 feet tall. The elephants have to stand in heat and around noise for long periods of time and there have sadly been occasions where it has all proved a little too much and the elephant went on the rampage but this is rare. Some of the older elephants have been taking part in the event for over 40 years showing strong resolve and never a hint of distress.

The main ‘Pooram’ starts early on day 6 when all the temples parade into Thrissur town centre and enter and leave via opposing exits playing the traditional ‘Panchavadyam’ which literally translates as 5 instruments. They consist of 4 percussion and 1 wind instruments including the Timilia, Maddalam, Ilathalam, Idakka (drums) and the Kombu (horn). It is hot, loud and colourful with the constant beat of drums and the sound of the horns in an all out battle to show how good their temple is.

In the midst of all the noise of the Panchavadyam, those atop the elephants are changing the parasols and displays in unison with the others, showing all the crowds the amount of work which went into the event and of course, alerting the gods to their praise.

Very late evening they have fireworks which are used regularly across India and these go on into the early hours of the morning with no let up in the beating of the drum added to the cadence of the fireworks lighting up the night skies over Kerala.

A magnificent sight for this grand assembly of gods and goddesses and representatives of visiting temples can travel from up to 10 kilometres away bringing families together from across the region.


Thrissur Pooram 2014

Life in India, particularly in the Kerala District, is punctuated by a series of festivals dedicated to the village deities which were originally started to break up the monotony of the daily routine of the local farmers outside of harvest time. One such event is the magnificent Thrissur Pooram festival in Kerala’s city centre, outside of the Vadakkunnathan temple.

The Pooram starts in the early hours of the morning and concludes in the early hours of the following day. This year, the date will be 9th May 2014 and will include representation from 10 rival temples who will take part in a wide number of events including parades, music and dance.

The events start off with the unfurling of their own flag in a religious ceremony and then they all make their way to the central temple with parades of highly coloured, richly decorated elephants and dancers before ‘battling it out’ to see who can play their music the loudest and best on some strange curved horns and of course, drums.

The mahawat (the men who look after the elephant) are bedecked in themed costumes and carry their temple’s parasols, again highly decorated and all very different some made to look like their temples, others like bejewelled beach brollies and last year, they even had some created to look like peacocks.

The Pooram takes place at the conclusion of an 8-day Utsavam (festival) at any of the nine temples. Historically, Thrissur Pooram is said to be 200 plus years old. Originally, the ‘Pooram’ was some 17 kilometres away from Vadakumnathan and whilst attempting to get their parades to the venue. There were heavy rains delaying their arrival and because they were late, the chief of he Peruvanam denied them entry as a punishment. So incensed by this decision to stop them joining in the celebrations, they created their own ‘Pooram’ but thanks to the usual ‘in fighting’ this event fell by the wayside too.

Eventually, in the late 18th century, it fell to the ruler, his Highness Rama Varma Raja to unify the 10 temples and create the first-ever Thrissur Pooram as a mass festival split into the ‘East’ and ‘West’ factions according to where their place of worship is in relation to the centre of Kerala. This festival continues to this day using the same format as the original one all those years ago.

Today’s festival sees east meet west groups battle it out for supremacy as they show off their decorating, dance and performance skills to the best of their abilities.

Dancing and musical performances are at the heart of the celebrations in Kerala but each different dance style has its own very specific significance. Pang-cholam or Manipuri drum dance is where the drummers and other musicians dance and play in formation resulting in a very enjoyable enthusiastic demonstration of traditional drumming, choreography, rhythm and acrobatics and the bowl singers of Bengal which is a group using stringed instruments and a pair of drums called ‘Thabala’ creating a melodic sound, widely used for traditional and religious events.

One of the dances to watch out for is the Chhau Dance which is an amalgamation of dance and martial arts performed alongside a variety of drum types adding another dimension to the performance and feel of the music. The drums types include ‘Dhol’ (a cylindrical drum) ‘Dhumsa’ (a large kettle drum) and reed pipes called ‘Mohuri. All of the dance performances will include themes taken from folklore, religious study or historical writings.

All of the temples, with their elephants, dancers and musicians put on a fantastic show and at the conclusion of the event, in the early hours of the morning of the 10th May (3:00am till 6:00am) they hold a MASSIVE fireworks show. Now, as with anything you do over in Asia, they are not particularly Health and Safety conscious so safety distances are invariably given nothing more than a second thought so be prepared.

In conclusion, I have to say, having researched this event in detail over the last couple of years, whilst mainly for the fireworks, this is definitely on my bucket list if only to see caparisoned elephants first hand and so much colour, music and laughter in one place must be amazing.