Holding and not holding Thrissur Pooram: 200-year-old festival and health hazard in Kerala

Thrissur Pooram known as the festival of festival is being conducted omits the surge in COVID-19. Last year the pooram was conducted as a mere temple ritual due to that dreadful pandemic situation. But this year it was decided to be conducted in the usual grand manner with the display of caparisoned elephants, dazzling parasols, the percussion music etc, and the preparation had started long back.

Currently, Kerala is reporting the highest spike with 19,577 Covid cases and the positivity rate rate is hiking to 17.45pc. Though the positivity rate and the situation stands out “Pooram and cannot be cancelled”.

The health minister of Kerala said that “Thrissur Pooram festival cannot be cancelled as it will cause many problems.” Adding to her statement, she also mentioned the fact that preparation and arrangements had been carried out long ago.

In the past few years, The festival has been used to polarise vote banks in the district. Prior to the Assembly elections on April 6 in Kerala, Thrissur’s Congress candidate Padmaja Venugopal, sat on an appetite strike, demanding that the state government give it recorded as a hard copy that the Pooram will be held in an undeniable way in 2021. This was before the COVID-19 second wave, when conversations were in progress on how best to direct the Pooram.

On April 18, former Thrissur UDF MLA Therambil Ramakrishnan also stirred the pot by asking “why the pooram was being held without people?”.

While the Pooram has not pulled in as much attention as Sabarimala, a consistent collective talk in the setting of purposeful publicity, for example, ‘Save Hindu Festivals’ by the BJP, has been heard in Thrissur lately.

After days of uncertainties finally Kerala government have decided to conduct the festival with tight restrictions on April 23. District collector S. Shahnawaz have told reporters that no public will be there to witness the annual festival. The festival is a celebration of the masses and it draws people from the district state and the nation.

The customary ceremonies as a feature of the celebration, as well, have been canceled for this year as well. Events prior to the Pooram, including the well known Chamaya Pradarshanam, where the designs or caparisons used on the elephants will be displayed to people in general for a day, has been dropped. The Chamaya Pradarshanam, which is generally held at government schools or different structures near Thrissur’s Swaraj Round, pulls in many individuals consistently. The Pooram or Pakal Pooram, which is typically held once every day after the primary celebration, as well, has been dropped.

The duration of some of the conventional practices, which are trademark to Thrissur Pooram, has been stopped for this present year — sample fireworks and the Kudamattam, a custom where groups addressing diverse Devaswoms (government regulatory bodies) sit on caparisoned elephants and trade sequinned parasols or umbrellas. The occasion is such an opposition between two sanctuaries — Thiruvambadi and Parmekkavu — to grandstand the best and most inventive umbrellas.

Like each year, the Pooram will be hung anywhere nearby the Vadakkunathan sanctuary in Thrissur this year as well. The District Collector, the District Police Commissioner and the District Medical Officer will guarantee that the celebration is directed in the midst of all COVID-19 security conventions.

Many activists and actors have said no to Puram.Parvathi Thiruvoth on her Instagram story wrote that “find some humanity within yourself”. She also shared an open letter to Dr Vishwas Mehta,the principal secretary of Kerala to stop Thrissur Pooram representing concerns of humans of Kerala.

Dr Biju also wrote on his Facebook page has protest on the decision to conduct Pooram.

Retired state DGP Chandrashekhar told India today though he had been part of 20 Puram, the situation is not ideal to celebrate the pooram.

Uncertainties are still left unanswered while the festival of festival is going to be held within days with restrictions and protocol. How can a festival with masses can be controlled and also the Devasom still haven’t given a complete assurance to the limitation set out by the government can be carried out completely.

Recently 18 people have been tested positive who have been part of the Pooram stall exhibition. They are quarantined and the exhibition have been stopped due to risk elements.