Thrissur: Centuries-old Thrissur Pooram festival began on Sunday with thousands witnessing the parade of 30 richly-caparisoned elephants and performance by over 500 percussionists amid tight security and Kerala High Court guidelines in the light of the Kollam temple tragedy.
The spectacle of face-to-face meeting of 30 elephants — 15 each from the Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady temples — and 'Kudamattam' (change of colourful ornamental silk parasols by people mounted on their top in quick succession) at the sprawling Thekkinkadu maidan virtually thrilled the onlookers, including foreigners.
Police made elaborate arrangements deploying a large number of police personnel in front of the Vadakkunnathan temple, the festival ground.
The festival also gave an insight into the best of temple art and culture in 'God's Own Country' with the music ensembles of 'Panchavadyam' and 'Pandimelam' in front of the elephants by the percussionists.
The festival will culminate early Monday morning with a massive display of fireworks.
Tight security was put in place for this year's festival in light of the Puttingal Devi temple firework tragedy at Paravoor in Kollam last Sunday, which claimed 108 lives.
There were apprehensions whether the festival could be held in its traditional form after the district administration put a lot of restrictions to organise fireworks and elephant processions in the wake of the temple tragedy.
People cutting across religion and politics rallied behind two private Devaswoms — Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady — demanding that the cultural festival of Kerala be allowed to be held in its traditional form.
The High Court and state government took a favourable position but with a lot of security conditions for organising Pooram festivities of which fireworks at night is one of the major attractions.
Earlier, the court had also allowed low-decibel fireworks display at night during the festival, exempting it from the ban imposed in the wake of the Kollam temple tragedy.
The Pooram had its origin in 1798 through a royal edict of the then Raja Rama Varma, popularly known as Shakthan Thampuran, a powerful ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Cochin.
The edict entrusted two local temples — Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady — as the main sponsors to conduct the 'pooram' on the grounds of the Vadakkunnathan temple in the heart of Thrissur city.