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April 2015

Thrissur Pooram – The Elephant Pageantry Festival

The City Thrissur

Thrissur is a city situated in the centre of Kerala state, India with a population of around 5.2 lakhs. The city is home to a large number of ancient temples and the mother of many art forms hence the rightly gained name as the “cultural capital” of Kerala. The name Thrissur is derived from “Thiru-Shiva-Perur”, which literally translates to “The city of the Sacred Siva” .

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Trissur Pooram

Thrissur Pooram

Temple festivals in Kerala are a part and parcel of people’s lives and occur at regular intervals in multiple temples varying in time according to the deities and Kerala calendar. The size and importance of these festivals vary from a small gathering to mega spectacles like the Thrissur pooram.

The Thrissur Pooram is considered to be the Mother of all Poorams, a culture highlight that towers above all other festivals .Thrissur pooram is a festival unique in its pageantry, magnitude and participation. It is not a mere temple festival in its strict sense but at the same time it is the festival of festivals of Kerala.

The Thrissur Pooram, celebrated in the Malayalam month Of Medom (April-May) is a grand assembly of Gods and Goddesses in and around Thrissur. These Gods and Goddesses make their visit to the Vadakumnathan Temple premises on caparisoned elephants accompanied by grand ensembles of Chenda melam and pancha vadyam.

The Ten participants of the Pooram are the Thiruvambady Bhagavathi and Paramekkavu Bhagavathi, Nethilakkavu Bhagavathi, Karamukku Bhagavathi, Ayyanthole Bhagavathi, Laloor Bhagavathi, Choorakkattukavu Bhagavathi, Chembukkavu Bhagavathi, Panamukkumpally Sastha, Kanimangalam Sastha. The processions and rituals of each of these deities follow a very strict itinerary, scheduled in such a way that the tempo of the Pooram celebrations – 36 hrs non-stop – is maintained without any loss of energy.

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Origin

Thrissur pooram is 200 plus years old prior to which the “Arattupuzha pooram” had been conducted at Arattupuzha, some 16 km away from Vadakumnathan, which was known as the biggest temple festival of Kerala. All the temples participating Thrissur pooram and Kuttanellore pooram was the regular participant of “Arattupuzha pooram” .

Once these temples were delayed to attend the festival due to heavy rain or so and then chief of Peruvanam Gramam denied the entry. As an act of reprisal Thrissur Naduvazhi the chief of Vadakunnathan, known as Yogadiripad and Kuttanellur Naduvazhi started the pooram in Thrissur.

Later due to some reasons the Kuttanellur Naduvazhi disassociated the celebration at Thrissur. Since the withdrawal of Kuttanellur Naduvazhi the glamour of the pooram was lost and the two ‘Naduvazhies’ began to treat each other as enemies.

It was in this juncture the former ruler of Cochin, His Highness Ramavarma Raja, popularly known as Sakthan Thampuran (1751-1805 AD) became the Maharaja of Kochi. Sakthan Thampuran unified the 10 temples situated around Vadakumnathan temple and took steps to celebrate Thrissur Pooram as a mass festival.

Sakthan Thampuran classified the participants in to two groups the western and the Eastern The western group consist of Thiruvambady, Kanimangalam, Laloor, Ayyanthole, and Nethilakkavu temples. Paramekkavu, Karamukku, Chembukavu. Choorakottukavu and Panamukkamppilly comes under eastern group. The Maharaja re – organized the annual festival in its present form in front of Vadakumnathan. Sakthan Thampuran also directed the main temples at Thrissur, Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady to extent all support and help to other poorams which are coming from 2 to 10 KM. away from Vadakumnathan temple. Recently the Kanimangalam changed to eastern side. The event management of the whole pooram was chalked out by His Highness Sakthan Thamburan and followed iota till now.

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Thrissur Pooram – The Format

The participant poorams are divided into two parts namely “Paramekkavu side” and “Thiruvambady side”. The Paramekkavu side consists of besides “Paramekkavu Bagavathy”.

1) Pookattikkara-Karamukku Baghavathy, 2) Choorakattukara Baghavathy, 3)Chempukkavu Baghavathy, 4) Panemukkumpilly Sastha. Besides Thiruvambady Baghavathy, the Thiruvambady side is having 1) Ayyanthole Baghavathy 2) Nethilakkavu Baghavathy 3) Laoor bagavathy 4) Kanimangalam Sastha.

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Getting There

BY FLIGHT

Thrissur does not have an airport. Nearest airport is Kochi Airport. i.e. 56 km away

Calicut International Airport (CCJ), Kozhikode, Kerala i.e. 95 km away

BY TRAIN

You can easily get regular trains to Thrissur from other major cities of the country.

Railway Station(s): Thrissur (TCR), Divine Nagar (DINR), Thrissur Punkunnam (PNQ)

 

BY BUS

There are regular buses from other major cities of the country to Thrissur.

Bus Station(s): Thrissur

 

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Travelling Safe in India

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India is a land of boundless cultures, flora and fauna, languages, attires and so on with a dash of unpredictability and uncertainty added to the mixture. It offers the world the adventure of a lifetime ranging from lifestyle to natural splendour.

And just as you would pack your safety gears on your other adventure trips, India requires a certain amount of safety measures for those coming from a more predictable and routine life.

Because India, you would find is far from what you can ever imagine to be ‘predictable’.

High Risk Areas Advised Against  Travelling

As per the government guidelines  issued on Thursday, 26 March 2015, places like State of Jammu and Kashmir (except Ladakh region, Jammu and Srinagar) and India-Pakistan border (except Atari crossing) are not allowed for travelling.

The government recommends reconsidering travelling to locations like North-eastern states (Assam, Nagaland, Tripura and Manipur) and Chhattisgarh and the border areas of neighbouring states owing to unrest in the region.

Awareness About the Locations

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India is a vast land stretching across  3,166,414 square kilometres and the number of locations worth visiting and near to infinite with the prevailing diversity in regions. Hence it is very important to have a very good idea and knowledge about the climate, terrain and facilities in a region you intend to visit apart from the necessary knowledge about the lifestyle and beliefs of the people there.

Health

It is generally advisable to get vaccinated for some of the known tropical viral diseases prevalent in the said geographical conditions. In addition to it, carrying a first-aid kit is always a sensible way to travel in case of emergencies.

The quality of medical services and facilities varies throughout the country. Medical facilities are generally good in major centres, but are usually limited or unavailable in rural areas. Private facilities often provide a higher level of care, which can be expensive. Most hospitals require up-front payment or confirmation of insurance coverage prior to commencing treatment. Government hospitals provide services free or at minimal cost.

Transportation

It’s always advisable to book prepaid taxis from known taxi companies in the country  if you intend to travel by a cab.

If you are looking to get a real feel of the land by travelling by public transport, then it is best to use trains for long distance travelling.

Almost all the places are connected by plenty of buses as well. The time chosen to travel usually determines the rush in the buses. It is essential to take good care of your valuables as the buses and trains are usually pretty crowded and there’s a lingering threat of pick pocketing and thievery.

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Auto rickshaws (three wheelers) are another common mode of transport used quite frequently and a ride worth experiencing. Though these should be given a second thought when travelling at night particularly if you are not aware of the route to be taken since rickshaws function independently and not under a company like cabs excepting the prepaid ones at the Railway station or airports.

If you value your personal space when travelling, then public transports are definitely not for you as this is the last thing that a crowded train or bus would ever offer you in an India.

Personal Safety

There are numerous incidents and stories circulating in the media regarding the safety of tourists in India especially women. It is necessary to know that all of India is not the same, nature of the people and the security and protection available from the police varies from region to region. Having said that it is a must to take some basic precautions against any such unpleasant situations.

The body language and mannerism in addition to the attire in India varies considerably from cities to villages and region to region hence its safer (especially for women) to dress up a little more conservatively as per the norms of the land so as to not attract any undue attention. The Indian cotton ‘kurtis’ form one of the most comfortable ways to tolerate the climate as well. Loose fitting cotton garments form the best option in this regard.

It is not uncommon to find yourself being stared at by every second person in several locations but sometimes these are usually harmless; although its best to ignore and not respond to avoid miscommunication.

It’s important to be alert at all times, especially when travelling alone and to keep emergency numbers at hand to call for help at any point.

Avoid travelling late in the night, and if there is a necessity travel in groups if there are people accompanying you or using recommended and registered transport system like the prepaid cabs who are accountable.

Southern India including states like Kerala are generally safer in comparison to the Northern states

Eating Right in India

India is ridden with numerous mouth watering cuisines and drinks; all the more reasons to be careful about what and where you eat from since it’s hard to resist the delectable looking food. Make sure you eat from good reputed restaurants if you have weak stomach. Not all places offer hygienic and fresh food. Its best to take recommendations and opinions before having food or water at any particular place.

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Its best to always carry bottled water whose seal you should check before buying from a shop.

Other Tips and Points to Keep in Mind

Beggars are a common sights in the streets of India and their condition and poverty very heart wrenching but it’s crucial to harden your heart to such sights as they are usually part of intricate web of a network which usually forces children and women to go begging . The people begging might not even get the money that you give them. The networks are often run by petty criminals who harass the children and compel them to begging.

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They also involve a large number of people who have no interest in working and make a livelihood by just begging. Women with babies in the scorching heat is usually a heart wrenching sight but these babies are most often borrowed and drugged for the sole purpose of begging by gaining sympathy.

It is also important to stay on your toes dealing with friendly strangers; some may be good but there are plenty who may be up to no good.

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Planning a Trip to Kerala

A land rich in culture, intriguing traditions and  customs seething with abundant wildlife, Kerala is a coastal state that lives true to its tagged name of “God’s Own Country ” offering tourists venturing out here, a perfect holiday.

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If you have your mind set on journeying through this land of the maharajas and elephants, here are some of the things that you might want to include in your planning.

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Days of Visit

Kerala, being a land overridden with exotic beaches, beautiful hill stations, enthralling wildlife, , delightful Ayurvedic therapies and Spa, important historical and architectural splendours and so on; it’s very important to narrow down on the number of days and the time of the year that you intend to visit this sought after tourist destination in Asia.

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The number of days is important in regard to the tourist spots that you want to visit in this state as there are a wide variety of things that you can do here ranging from adventure to relaxation. The time of the year matters as during the peak summer season, the climate tends to become very humid and hot which would probably stop you from appreciating the true beauty of this land.

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Hence a longer time in the cooler periods of october to february would be the most ideal time to visit.

Purpose of Visit

Starting from the Northern Kerala to the Southern tip of the state, customs, traditions, land terrain, people and so on keeps varying.

Hence depending on the number of days you have for your vacation, it’s important to jot down in advance as to the things you are actually interested in seeing or the places and culture that  you really want to experience during the valuable days of your holiday.

It could range from experiencing the art forms in Kerala, cruising through the scintillating backwaters, getting a feel of the village life etc. Research and collect information beforehand so that you know what you are in for.

( Not sure where to visit in Kerala? Read more at http://blog.backwaterbreaks.com/post/98541406399/top-6-places-to-visit-in-kerala )

Booking hotels, Home stays, Houseboats

Hotels and Homestays

If you are someone looking to take a tour package from one of the many tour agents, they usually accommodate the hotels as well into their packages which may or may not turn out to be to your liking. Otherwise if you wish to experience Kerala on your terms and not see what someone else shows you on a  standard basis, there are a plethora of registered hotels and home stays available throughout the state whose reviews and ratings are available on websites like trip advisor.

You can either book these online in advance or on the go basis which could be little difficult during the peak season.

Houseboats

In light of the availability of a numerous number of houseboats, which again maybe offered by a tour agent as well, they come at varying price range, availability and facilities.

( Read more at – http://blog.backwaterbreaks.com/post/103475948334/kerala-houseboats)

At Backwaterbreaks.com the numerous cruise operators are registered with the website providing their information and the details of their houseboats and services including photographs of each vessel offered for a cruise and the corresponding seasonal rates.

Backwaterbreaks.com  offers you perspective and information to let you choose from different types of cruises and cruise operators at the best price and book it safely through the website eliminating the chances of being duped.

Travelling to and through Kerala

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Depending upon the initial location to be visited, you can choose to either fly to Kochi, Trivandrum or Calicut, each of which are starting points for some of the major tourist locations.

From there, there are various means of transport such as the bus, train or taxi to your next location. The timings and bookings of which are available on online portals.

If you have booked a package with the tour operators, then usually pick ups are arranged from the arrival to the destinations according to the packages availed.

You can also travel by your own vehicle or a rented vehicle with the GPS aiding you through the maze of roads to get the feel of a road trip.

Selecting Vehicle

select vehicle depends number of people travelling and luggage. Indica is good only if maximum of 3 people are travelling. If more than 3 people are travelling India will not have space to carry luggage as this vehicle does not have boot space and getting vehicle with carrier is difficult. Climbing the hills with 4 people will be difficult for a vehicle like Indica. Try Indigo if you want better luxury and Tavera is suggested if 4 or more people are travelling. Inova can be opted for better luxury. If number of people travelling is more than 7 go for traveller and you can get a traveller with 12, 14, 17, 19 seats and for groups 27 seater, 35 seater and 49 seater vehicles are also available

Available Taxi Services

Uber Taxi (https://www.uber.com/cities/kochi) service now available in Kerala aims to connect passengers with drivers, much like most other apps in the age of social media.

Licensed drivers with permits to carry passengers can sign up with Uber, which provides them a smartphone and basic training, following which they can ply the roads and pick up fares. Drivers can choose when they are available through the app, and all the info and fare collection is computed through the phone, with no further equipment or vehicle modification required. Passengers pay through the app, so there is no negotiation required with the driver, and the vehicles themselves are unmarked, giving more comfort and convenience.”

The company provides it’s lower cost UberX service in Kochi, with mid-size sedans doing most of the operation, while cities like Bengaluru and Chennai also get the premium Uber Black, which provides more luxurious vehicles for a corresponding increase in fare (users get a rough estimate on the app before booking, and get text messages alerts when their ride arrives). Time of arrival for riders, in Kochi is currently around 15 minutes.

Uber was founded in San Francisco in March 2009 by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp and has since spread to 280 cities in 60 countries, with Kochi being the 11th city of operation in India. Currently Uber only offers city-based services in Kochi, but is considering inter-city rides once operations are established. Drivers have the option of selecting when they are available to offer rides. The app can be downloaded from Google Play, Apple App Store and the Windows Phone store.

She Taxi, (http://www.shetaxi.in/)  an initiative by Gender Park, under the Social Justice Department of the Government, gained much popularity in Thiruvananthapuram, and expanded to Kochi in May this year. The Kochi wing of the operation has a fleet of nine cars to transport women and families, which are owned and driven by women entrepreneurs. The vehicles are available for transport within city limits or for longer rides, and equipped with navigation and tracking facilities.

Taxio, (http://www.taxio.in/) which calls itself the first radio taxi service provider in Kerala, is the more mainstream version of the transport service. The concept of the radio taxi service is that depending on call volumes from different areas, our taxis are spread out across the city and usually arrive within 20 minutes of a call. The vehicles can also be tracked and speed monitored, making it hassle free and safe, as it eliminates the uncertainty associated with normal taxis.

Luggage/Cash/ID card

Carry minimal ornaments and luggage. You find lot of ATMs everywhere hence carry minimum cash with you. Do carry an ID card as it is required at the time of check in to hotels.

I hope this article helps you in planning your Kerala trip.

Book Your Kerala Houseboat cruise with Backwaterbreaks.com and set adrift on the scintillating backwaters!

https://backwaterbreaks.com/

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