After days of uncertainties over allowing the popular Thrissur Pooram celebrations this year amid the second wave of COVID-19, the Kerala government has finally decided to conduct it on April 23, albeit with tight restrictions. District Collector S Shanavas confirmed to TNM that no public will be allowed this year to witness the annual temple festival, which usually draws crowds from across the state as well as the nation. Only the festival organisers and media persons will be allowed entry, provided they carry a negative COVID-19 test certificate or proof of vaccination (both doses).
Some of the traditional rituals have also been cancelled. In 2020, too, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Thrissur Pooram was held with minimum rituals and no public was allowed. The Thrissur Pooram is the largest Hindu temple festival held in Kerala every year and attracts around two million people on average from various districts. The decision to hold the Thrissur Pooram amid the second wave of COVID-19 in the country had raised serious concerns as Kerala recorded the single highest spike of 18,257 COVID-19 cases on Sunday. On Monday Kerala recorded 13,644 new cases of COVID-19.
The latest decisions were taken after the Chief Secretary convened a meeting with an expert board of doctors to review the risks of conducting the festival this year, on Monday. The board comprised doctors from the Government Medical College, Thrissur and was chaired by Dr Mohan Kunnumal, Vice-Chancellor of the Kerala University of Health Sciences in Thiruvananthapuram.
It is based on the boardâ€™s recommendations that the new restrictions for the temple festival have been put in place.
The new restrictions in Thrissur Pooram
The traditional rituals as part of the festival, too, have been slashed this year. Events preceding the Thrissur Pooram, including the popular Chamaya Pradarshanam, where the decorations or caparisons used on the elephants will be exhibited to the public for a day, has been cancelled. The Chamaya Pradarshanam, which is usually held at government schools or other buildings close to Thrissurâ€™s Swaraj Round, attracts hundreds of people every year. The Pooram or Pakal Pooram, which is usually held once a day after the main festival, too, has been cancelled this year.
The duration of some of the traditional practices, which are characteristic to Thrissur Pooram, has been cut short this year â€” sample fireworks and the Kudamattam, a ritual where teams representing different Devaswoms (government administrative bodies) sit on caparisoned elephants and exchange sequinned parasols or umbrellas. The event is a sort of competition between two temples â€” Thiruvambadi and Parmekkavu â€” to showcase the best and most innovative umbrellas.
Like every year, the Pooram will be held on the premises of the Vadakkunathan temple in Thrissur this year too. The District Collector, the District Police Commissioner and the District Medical Officer will ensure that the festival is conducted amid all COVID-19 safety protocols.
Festivals in other temples cancelled
Apart from the Thrissur Pooram, the Thrissur Koodalmanikyam Temple festival and the annual grand feast of the St Josephâ€™s Shrine, a Catholic Church in Pavaratty, Thrissur, have also been cancelled in view of the rising cases of COVID-19 in the state.
At the meeting on Monday, the Chief Secretary also decided to impose night restrictions in the state starting from Tuesday, in order to curb the spread of the virus.