Each of the four main doors at the historical Vadakkunnathan Temple play important roles during the Pooram fete. There is a significance beyond what meets the common sight. Gods and Goddesses mark their presence at the four towers of Vadakkunnathan temple for Pooram. They arrive, and set out for Arat (holy bath of the deity) through these doors.
Pooram begins with the arrival of Paramekkav Bhagavathy at the North tower and ends at the ceremonial parting at the West tower. The North and South entrances are opened at various stages during Pooram. This is the tale of those four doors, and their significance during Thrissur Pooram.
Entry is strictly restricted at the North tower. It is the oldest among the four towers at the Vadakkunnathan temple. But it was razed in the 1971 fire. The present North tower is a renovated one. The South, West and East towers are familiar to the public, but few have passed through the North tower.
Not many are aware that North entrance is the one that opens first for Pooram. When the flag is hoisted for Pooram, Paramekkav Bhagavathy sets out through the North tower. Solemnized by the head priest, Paramekkav Bhagavathy will enter the Chandrapushkarni and have Arat. She returns through the North tower. The ceremony takes place between 11 and 12 on the morning of the Pooram flag hoisting.
Even though elephants enter and exit through the other three towers, North tower has the distinction of being the one through which no elephant ever passes. The sacred ponds adjacent to the North tower are Chandrapushkarni and Suryapushkarni.
The priests bathe in Chandrapushkarni. Water for use in temple used to be collected from Suryapushkarni. The north tower opens on normal days only when priests go out for this purpose. Earlier the flowers for puja used to be brought in through the North tower. Entry with flowers inside was granted only after undertaking a purifying bath in the northern pond. Conches used to be blown at the north tower when flowers were being brought inside.
The south tower opens twice a year, for Pooram and Sivarathri. It has the distinction of being the site for Kudamatam (Change of umbrellas), and opens for Pooram when the Neythalakkav Bhagavathy enters and exits on the eve of the festival. The entrance will be closed once the Bhagavathy exits.
The entrance opens again the next day for Kanimangalam Sasthav to enter at 5.30 a.m., the first to do so. Thirty elephants of Paramekkav and Thiruvambadi will exit through the South tower for the evening Kudamatam. It will be closed thereafter.
South tower has the largest interior area among the towers. The granite door frame is visible immediately at the entrance. Mahouts have to make the elephants lift their legs a little to pass through.
Sculptures of gods look down inside the tower. When the elephant enters the tower, the person holding the icon of the deity (kolam) on the elephant should lie back with it flat on his face. This is to enable the deity and the sculptured gods atop the tower to see each other.
On Pooram day, Chembukkav Bhagavathy at 8.30 a.m., , Panamukkupalli Sasthav by 12.30 noon and Paramekkav Bhagavathy by 1.30 p.m., arrive and enter through the East tower.
This opens early morning 4.30 on normal days and closes by 10.30 p.m.. It opens again at evening 4 and closes by 8.30.
Paramekkav and Thiruvambadi goddesses ceremonially part at the West tower, marking the conclusion of Pooram.
A board warns devotees to shake off the grains of sand inside the temple walls from their feet before leaving. This is the message that Siva’s property should never be removed.
On the morning of Pooram, Karamukk Bhagavathy by 8.30 followed by Ayyanthol, Choorattukara, Laloor and Neythalakkav Bhagavathys enter through the West tower. Finally in the afternoon Thiruvambadi also enters through the tower.
The entrance which opens at 4 a.m., on normal days closes by 10.30. It opens again by 4 p.m., and closes by 8.30. In the olden days Trissur folks used to set their time by the tolling of the bell in the West tower. The closing of the entrance is usually accompanied by fireworks. This is a message for the devotees inside the temple to get out.
Nine acres of temple, four gates
The four towers are the gates to the temple in nearly nine acres enclosed by massive wall. All four towers are open only for Pooram.
Each entrance of the Vadakkunnathan temple is said to have been built by a separate king. The four doors have four panes each. Only the bottom two panes are opened on normal days. All the four panes are opened only for Pooram.
The west and south towers are the guarded ones. Lamps are not lit as to be visible from outside in the south and north towers. It is towards these four tower entrances that Pooram lovers and devotees eagerly look for Pooram sights without batting an eyelid and strain their ears for the sounds of festival revelry.