One of the most popular temple festivals in India, this more than 200-year-old festival is one of the best ways to get a flavor of why India wins the gold medal for festivals. Raja Rama Varma created this festival in 1798 because he and many of his friends were not allowed into a nearby festival because they were late. He invited temples in this Kerala region to the main temple in Thrissur to pay respects to Shiva, the presiding deity. With a combination of religion and color, Thrissur Pooram starts seven days in advance with the ceremonial hoisting of the flag. Fireworks begin on the fourth night and are a consistent fixture of the festival from then on. On the sixth day, the main Pooram (festival) begins with activities happening at all kinds of temples throughout the area but concluding at Nilapaduthara near the western gorpuram of the Vadakkunnathan Temple.
Thrissur Pooram (Photo by: Courtesy of Kerala Tourism)
- Electric Elephants on Parade
Of course, the elephants are the main attraction, decorated with their nettipattam (golden headdress), decorative bells and ornaments, palm leaves and peacock feathers, and beautifully-crafted kolam (paintings). The ornate parasols which the mahouts (elephant riders) carry on extremely tall bamboo poles add to the color. Folk dancing, panchavadyam (rhythmic beating of the drum), and a stellar fireworks display that begins at three in the morning and continues on for three hours all serve to create a visual feast that makes for a completely immersive, tribal experience. The two teams of 15 elephants and their mahouts meet outside the temple and create a “pass the parasol” ritual, while the men stand on the elephants, and that adds some competition to the event. Be prepared for one of the most percussion-filled experiences of your life.