Pooram is a festival held after summer harvest in central parts of the Indian Kerala state. Districts of this state like for example Thrissur (Trichur, Trissur) and Palakkad (Palghat) are especially famous for their Pooram festivals.

Majority of Pooram festivals include a parade of decorated elephants. There are few exceptions like for example Pooram festivals in Aryankavu Pooram near Shoranur and Machattu Thiruvanikavu Vela near Wadakkanchery. There they have parades with decorated horses and oxen.

Pooram festivals in Valluvanad and parts of Talappilly also include Tholpavakoothu which is a traditional shadow puppetry show.

Let's now focus on the most popular of all Pooram festivals in Kerala state. It is the Thrissur Pooram organized in the Malayalam month Medam (mid-April to mid-May). The main festival location is the Vadakkunnathan Temple built on a small hill (Thekkinkadu maidan) in the centre of Thrissur. During the Thrisur Pooram ezhunnellippu ritual is performed. The ritual symbolizes the visit of the Devi from the Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi temples to the Vadakkunnathan temple.

Vadakkunnathan Temple
Vadakkunnathan Temple in Thrissur

The most impressive parades are Thriuvambadi Bhagavathy from the Thiruvambadi Sri Krishna Temple and the Paramekkavu Bhagavathi from Paramekkavu temple. Apart from these two temples there are also those, known as "constituent poorams", which also participate in the festival. The constituent poorams are Kanimangalam, Karamukku-Chiyyaram, Choorakkattukara-Amala, Laloor, Ayyanthole, Neithilakkavu-Kuttoor, Chembukkavu and Panamukkampilly-Eastfort Thrissur.

Thrissur Pooram
Thrissur Pooram festival

The celebrations last for more than 36 hours. The festival includes exhibition of parasols (many of them carried on elephants) and magnificent fireworks.

The first Thrissur Pooram was organized in the late 18th century by Maharaja Sakthan Thampuran (1751-1805). He ruled the former Cochin (Perumpadappu Swaroopam, Madarajyam, Gosree Rajyam, or Kuru Swaroopam) kingdom. The kingdom included most of Thrissur district, Chittoor Taluk of Palakkad district and Kanayannur & Fort Kochi Taluks of Ernakulam district in what is today the state of Kerala.

Thrissur Pooram has two rival groups - Thrissur Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi. Each group tries to beat the other by having more beautiful fireworks, parasols and parade of elephants. The group can have up to 15 elephants.

Apart from beautifully decorated elephants parades during the Thrissur Pooram also include groups of traditional musicians called the Panchavadyam or "orchestra of five instruments". Each group has one wind instrument called "kombu" and four percussion instruments - timila, maddalam, ilathalam and idakka.

Panchavadyam - orchestra of five instruments

Thrissur Pooram reaches its peak with the exhibition of thirty elephants and the big fireworks organized at 2.30 am. The elephants circle the Vadakumnathan temple. This is called Thrissur Swaraj Round.

Thrissur Pooram has one more beautiful feature. It unites Hindu, Christian and Islamic communities. They all participate in the festival.

Other famous pooram festivals are Arattupuzha - Peruvanam Pooram, Nenmara Vallangi Vela, Uthralikkavu Pooram and Chinakkathoor Pooram.