The oldest pooram in Kerala, the Arattupuzha Pooram is held at the Sree Sastha Temple in Arattupuzha village, Thrissur. It is considered to be the “Devamela” on the earth as it is believed that all the gods and demons come to witness the festival. The festival is famous for its rituals and melams. The main event happens on the night of the pooram, which is called the shasthavinte pooram, but the traditional rituals start seven days prior to the main event.
History of Arattupuzha Pooram
As per our sources, Arattupuzha Temple, which forms the venue of the pooram, is more than 3000 years old. The ritual started 1400 years ago.
The story is as follows; In the year 1798, due to heavy rain, the convoy from Thrissur was not able to reach the Arattupuzha temple. By the time the rain was over and they reached Arattupuzha, it was late and they were denied entry by the temple officials. Angered and humiliated by the denial, they went to the then ruler of Thrissur, Sakthan Thampuran, to resolve the matter. As such, he united the temples around Thrissur Town and started a Pooram there, famously known as the Thrissur Pooram.
The Beautiful Rituals
Usually, Arattupuzha pooram is famous for Tharakkal Pooram, Shasthavinte melam, Deva Sangamam and Arattu. But the truth is that the festival starts five prior days to the main event. There is Thiruvathira Purapad, Thaikkattussery Pooram, Peruvanam pooram, Anayottam in peedikaparambil temple, Thottippal Pooram, Tharakkal Pooram which is finally followed by the overnight celebration. After the extravagant melam, deva sangamam is the next highlighted event, in which, more than 20 deities from different temples come to visit the pooram ground and shastha. The deva sangamam lasts early morning in the nearby paddy field which almost has more than 70 elephants. The pooram is concluded by the arattu and upajaram.
Arattu means the holy bath which takes place in Mandara Kadavu. All the deities are taken to the river and immersed in the water after sacred chanting and proceedings. This gives locals and visitors a chance to gather and bathe themselves with the deities. Upajaram is the final event in the pooram where the shastha bids farewell to all the deities who came to the pooram.
The Banger Of A Melam
Melam is the playing of percussion and wind instruments in temples during festivals. These are unique to parts of South India, especially Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The famous two Melam include Panchari melam and Pandi melam. The former is the most popular form of “chenda melam” in Kerala. It comprises of instruments like chenda, kuzhal, kombu, and ilathalam.
The panchari melam has five stages wherein each stage, the beat is different. It starts with 96 and then goes to 48, 24, 12 and finally 6. The panchari melam’s temple follows a pyramid-like form; it starts with a slow tempo with long musical cycles and then ends with short and fast music.
It has a symbolic meaning to it too. The broad tempo of the first stage represents the ordinary life of people, and the peak of the last stage represents the ideal human. Panchari melam is widely regarded as the most spiritual of all melams. The latter is a kind of Melam that consists of instruments like chenda,kuzhal, ilathalam and kombu. This melam is popular in many temples. This melam is mainly performed outside temples and it lasts for nearly two and half hours. Basically, it has four stages and each of them with rhythmic cycles totalling 56, 28, 14, and 7 respectively. The Pramani (lead conductor) for several years has been Padmashri Peruvanam Kuttan Marar.
Thrissur Pooram & Arattupuzha pooram – A Comparison
Arattupuzha pooram is the oldest pooram while Thrissur pooram has its origin from the Arattupuzha pooram. However, over the years, it has acquired and discarded several practices. Thrissur pooram was founded as a means to compromise the shame that was inflicted on the priests of Thrissur when they were barred from entering Arrattupuzha. Over the years, it has grown to become the epitome of Thrissur’s tradition and rich cultural heritage.
While Arrattupuzha focuses mainly on the rituals and worship, Thrissur pooram, while not neglecting it completely, adds its own flair with vibrant events like “Kudamattam” and the different melams that unite people of all religions and castes. Arrattupuzha stays true to its name and has rituals that involve regularly dipping the deities in water. The river-less Thrissur, however, does not stress doing it. Thrissur Pooram is only 36 hours while Arattupuzha pooram lasts over a week. It has a normal farewell procedure, mainly consisting of Kodikuthu, while in Arattupuzha Pooram involves the Arattupuzha deity (host of the pooram) walking with the other deity (guest of the pooram) through seven kandams (paddy fields). The seven kandams symbolizes seven Yugas.
There is also a certain procedure for selecting the Pramanis for the Thrissur Pooram. To become a Pramani one has to have the experience of becoming a Pramani either in Arattupuzha pooram or any small poorams.
Here’s Why Arattupuzha Pooram Is A Must-see Pooram
Despite being a Hindu festival, Arattupuzha Pooram is celebrated by all religions harmoniously. It is a much-awaited festival for the people of Thrissur. This year’s pooram is held on 16 March 2022. Usually, the pooram is held mainly in April (meenam masam), but the dates always change as it is calculated according to Malayalam months and stars.
There used to be a time when at least 70+elephants used to assemble for this pooram. It was one of the largest in terms of the number of temples participating and also in terms of the number of elephants.
Only recently, the number of elephants reduced due to some rules by the local governing bodies and also taking Corona into consideration.