Kerala’s Thrissur Pooram Will Be Held, but Not Open to Public

With stringent COVID restrictions in place, all ‘pooram’ rituals will be performed, but without devotees this time.

Published
COVID-19
2 min read
A photo from the archives of elephants adorned with ornate golden ‘nettipattoms’ on their foreheads at Thrissur Pooram.
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Amid the surge in coronavirus cases in Kerala, the state government has decided, on Monday, 19 April, to limit the annual Thrissur ‘pooram’, a religious festival, to participants only.

The week-long debate over holding Kerala’s most popular celebration turned into a top trend on social media on Monday with many tweeting #PooramVenda (Don’t want ‘pooram’).

With stringent COVID restrictions in place, all ‘pooram’ rituals will be performed, but without devotees this time. While people won’t be allowed, media persons, on producing COVID negative certificates, will be given access to cover the event and telecast it live.

The Thrissur ‘pooram’ is an annual festival that is a competition of sorts between two sides – with five temples on either side – led by the Parmekkavu Bhagavathi temple and the Thiruvambadi Sri Krishna temples. During the pooram, hundreds of artists simultaneously perform five types of instruments, locally known as ‘panchavadyam.’

It is celebrated on the premises of the Vadakkunathan temple in Thrissur town and attracts thousands of domestic and international tourists every year.

A day before ‘pooram,’ ‘vedikkettu,’ a ritual where thousands of people gather to watch fireworks for hours, is held. This year, ‘vedikkettu’ will be held only as a symbolic ritual in order to avoid crowds.

Health Minister K K Shailaja told on Sunday that it would be difficult to cancel the festival, despite the public health concerns of organising large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it will “cause many problems”.

“Many preparations have been made for the festival, so it is not possible to cancel it entirely. Clear instructions have been given to conduct it with caution which the Devaswom committee has agreed to. Even those who test negative should still wear masks, apply sanitisers and keep as much distance as possible from each other,” the minister had told reporters on Sunday, 18 April.

This drew a lot of criticism from activists and people accusing the Left government of trying to play it safe as the party had faced backlash in the Sabarimala issue.

Last year, the state government had decided to close the event for public due to the surge in coronavirus cases.

Political parties including CPI(M), Congress and BJP had earlier told that the festival should be held, as “in no case religious customs should suffer.”

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala had proposed 14-point suggestions for the state government to manage the COVID situation, but had not commented on the festival.

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