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Come Sunday, the 17th of April and Kerala will be celebrating one of its biggest annual festivals – Thrissur Pooram. Pooram is actually the name of the annual festival held in Kerala on the day when the moon rises with the star called Pooram. It falls in the Medam month of the Malayalam calendar. The festival is considered the biggest of all the poorams in Kerala and is held at the famous Vadakkunathan temple in Thrissur.
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There is an interesting story behind how the festival started. Till the year 1798, the Arattapuzha pooram was the most prominent festival in Kerala. Several temples from all across Kerala participated in the festival procession that took place in Arattapuzha, around 10 km from Thrissur. But one rainy day, some of the temples could not make it for the procession on time as their officials got held up by the incessant rains. As they were late for the procession, they were not allowed to enter the temple. Embarrassed by this denial, the temple officials went to the Maharaja of Mysore, Raja Rama Varma, with their grievance. The Maharaja, also known as Sankthan Thampuran, then unified 10 villages and started a brand new pooram at the Vadakkunnathan temple which slowly rose into prominence becoming the most important pooram in Kerala.
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Since then, the Thrissur Pooram is celebrated with great pomp and is attended by thousands of devotees and tourists. The celebrations are characterized by processions, music and dance performances, elephant decorations, fireworks display and several religious rituals. The primary participants of the festival are two temples namely – Paramekkavu Bagavathi Temple and Thiruvambadi Sri Krishna Temple. The celebrations go on for seven days beginning with flag-hoisting on the first day, firework display or Sample Vedikettu on the fourth day and elephant decoration displays on the fourth and fifth days. On the seventh day, which is the day of the pooram, the participating temple officials dress up in traditional attire and carry out processions flanked by drum players and dancers. At the Vadakkunathan temple, artists perform in large numbers and more than 50 elephants decorated with ornaments, caparisons, holy bells and colorful umbrellas are cheered on by devotees. Finally, the umbrellas are exchanged on top of elephants and a final round of fireworks brings a close to the celebrations.
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The best aspect of the Thrissur pooram is its secular nature. Different religious communities participate in this festival in their own capacity. The Muslim community take charge of the craft work of the pandals while the members of the Churches provide cloth of the umbrellas. Several parts of Kerala have their own version of the pooram but the Thrissur pooram remains one of the largest religious gatherings in Asia.
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