Thrissur: The Thekkinkadu ground usually turns into a sea of humans dancing to the frenzying rhythm of the traditional 'ilanjithara melam' (percussion orchestra) on the day of the largest temple festival in Kerala.
Elephant lovers are in attendance to admire the majestic jumbos, all adorned in grand caparisons and other golden finery. The traditional 'vedikettu' is a one-hour fireworks spectacle conducted by the Thiruvambady and the Paramekavu devaswoms. This splendid pageantry is what makes Thrissur Pooram a unique experience where tradition and culture meet with spiritual elation.
However, this year, things were different. The Thekkinkadu ground wore a deserted look. The authorities decided to avoid the usual festivities as the lockdown was in effect. Without the fanfare and extravaganzas, the pooram was limited to the most basic ceremonies attended by not more than five people. It is only the fourth time that the pooram festivities, that has a history of more than 200 years, have been cancelled.
This year, the front yard of the Brahmaswam maidan did not witness the grand percussion display when the stalwarts from Pallavur and the supremely talented maras create magic on five musical instruments.
The madathil varavu ritual is one of the major events of the pooram that never fails to excite the pooram lovers. This procession of elephants and the deity is accompanied with melam and the customary fireworks as well. Although Thrissur did not listen to the celebrated Pallavur school of percussion music, the scintillating beats of the idakka, maddalam, kombu, and shankhu would surely have reverberated in the hearts of the true pooram lovers.
The Ilanjithara and the maestros
The iconic ilanji tree (bullet wood) did not sway to the mesmerizing symphony of the 'pandimelam' or enjoy the company of more than one hundred noted percussion masters. Legend says that the Thirumandankunnu Bhagavathy (goddess) who accompanied the Kuruppal Karanavar under his umbrella decided to stay here when the Karanavar stopped to under the ilanji tree in front of the Vadakkunatha temple. Musical maestro Peruvanam Kuttan Marar has been leading this majestic orchestra for the last few years.
Though the pooram festivities have been cancelled earlier, this is a first time for the ilanji tree that stands here now. This tree was planted in 2001 September when the old ilanji tree uprooted itself and fell over.
The grand finale
The famous 'upacharam cholli piriyal' is the ritual where the goddesses of Thiruvambady and Paramekavu say farewell to each other promising to meet next year. However, this centuries-old tradition, too, was missed this year due to the lockdown restrictions.
It is with the upacharam cholli piriyal that the annual Thrissur pooram festivities that lasts for 36 hours ends. It is then followed by the pakal pooram and the fireworks display. The crowds would enjoy the delicious poorakanji before bidding adieu to the Thekkinkadu ground. This time, however, it is vital that we as a community 'part ways' with the COVID-19 pandemic.