The Thrissur pooram experience  

Posted by Praveen in , , ,


As a malayali, it was a matter of immense shame for me, to say that I've n't watched the Thrissur pooram. But not anymore. After many unsuccessful plans over the last few years, I finally made it this year. And so, we took off from Bangalore on a date that cannot be disclosed(which if disclosed can bring down a pack of lies) in the karnataka state owned airavath volvo, the name of the bus being a nice coincidence. We could always say we went to Thrissur pooram in(on :P ) an Airavath. We were treated to some cheesy romantic talk over the phone by a guy sitting behind us. Wonder how the girl tolerated the 'mangalam vaarika(weekly)' inspired 'panjaara adi'(flirtations). In between, we turned around to look at this specimen and saw a thing wrapped in blanket from head to toe and mysterious voices coming from inside. Ipod saved the rest of the night!


Elephants getting ready for the pooram

Poorangalude pooram

Sunrise. All roads lead to Thrissur today. There's a frenzy of activity seen everywhere right from the morning. We headed straight to Raja's uncle's place. Now, here's one guy who has relatives on every corner of earth, every city, every village. And so, finding a place to stay while travelling is never a problem. His uncle being a pooram connoisseur, we got details of the various rituals associated with the festival, and their timings. The house was located close to Thiruvambady temple, one of the temples participating in the festival. The proceedings on pooram day starts from this temple. Elephants bearing the deity of the temple walk out majestically through the temple doors accompanied by chenda melam. The procession goes on through the city and reached Naduvil madam. This is where an important ceremony of the festival happens called 'madathil varavu'. This involves taking the Thiruvambadi devi and krishna deities to Brahmaswom madam. A reasonably long panchavadyam performance takes place in this square. We could see people all around, on top of buildings and trees. The town was fully soaked in the festive mood by now.

Ezhunnallathu(procession) from Thiruvambady temple


Madathil varavu ceremony at Bhrahmaswom madam

The next ceremony being the ezhunnallathu(procession) of the deity from Paramekkavu temple(the second temple partcipating in the festival), we had to walk almost half of the distance around Thrissur round(or thekkinkaadu maithanam). Its in this big ground that the Vadakkumnaathan temple is situated and where the 'Kudamattom', the most important ceremony of the 'Thrissur pooram' takes place. On Pooram day, the whole town converges to this round. We walked towards Paramekkavu temple, stopping to drink sambharam in between. I had an encounter with an old drunk man during that stop.

Old man-"Ithu auto zoom camera aano?" (Is that an autozoom camera?)
Me-"alla" (No)
Old man-"Oho...Hmm!..evde ninnanu?"(where are you from?)
Me-"Trivandrum"
Old man-"Prem nazeerinte veettinte aduthaano?"(Are you staying near prem nazeer's(an yesteryear popular malayalam actor) house?)
Me-"Alla, athinte 2 veedu appurathanu" (No, 2 blocks away from that)

and he walked away. I was left wondering what the hell is an auto zoom camera and why did he ask about an actor who's long dead and gone and whom I was not sure had a house in Trivandrum. The Paramekkavu procession was grander with 15 elephants lining up in front of the temple and a huge crowd cheering wildly. I perched myself on top of a makeshift stand to get a clearer view over the crowd's head. There are 10 temples participating in Trissur Pooram, out of which the major ones are 'Paramekkavu' and 'Thiruvambady'. The other 8 temples will take out their processions at various times to the Thrissur round. But only these two participate in the 'kudamattom ceremony'.
Nettippattam

Old man @ Pooram



Ezhunnallathu(procession from Paramekkavu temple)


The first highlight of the afternoon is the 'ilanjithara melam'. Also known as pandimelam, this has a huge fan following. 'Paramekkavu' temple has the right to conduct 'ilanjithara melam'. Padmashree mattannoor shankaran kutti maarar led the melam. It happens inside the 'ilanjithara' in Vadakkumnaathan temple. Getting inside itself was a luxury considering the rush at the temple gates. Once inside, we somehow got ourselves among the crowd listening to the melam just outside the 'pandal'. The pooram fans of Thrissur has this habit of holding their hands up and following the beats of the melam. Its a great sight to see thousands of hands moving in unison with every beat. They are also so proud of their elephants that some of the more famous ones even have fan clubs like film stars do. The expert pooram watchers will even tell you the strengths and weaknesses of each elephant. Once the melam gets over, its time to walk outside through the north gate of the temple. Its in this huge lawns where the legendary 'kudamattom' takes place.
Framed!

Aalavattom and Venchamaram

Melam!

Run,Forrest Run!..This is how you run after lighting a powerful Kathinavedi(Cracker)

As we walked down, I could see the media pavilion raised up right at the middle of the lawn. This wil provide a vantage view and lets you see the kudamattom happening at both ends of 'paramekkavu' and 'thiruvambady'. As I walked towards it, the policeman asked for media pass and then tried to drive me away. Without a media pass, my only hope was some kindness from the media guys sitting on top. I looked at them with pleading eyes and voila! they asked me to come up. Within seconds, I was on top, just in time to see the 15 elephants of 'paramekkavu' walking out from the northern door of the temple. They walked quite close to the pavilion, so much so that I could've jumped on top of the one going through the side. As they reached the other end of the lawn, there was this great surge of people from both sides and the whole ground was filled up. And then, the 15 elephants of 'thiruvambady' also walked out through the northern gate. It was a sight to behold! 15 elephants on each side facing each other and a sea of humanity in between them and around them. Treetops, building tops, hoardings, all were filled with people. The men on top of the elephants started their performances with 'aalavattom' and 'venchamaram'. And then started the 'kudamaattom' ceremony. Colourful jewel clad umbrellas were paraded on top of the elephants. Its a competition between the two sides on who shows the best design. There were double umbrellas, lighted umbrellas and umbrellas adorned with deities. As the kudamattom goes on for an hour, the supporters of each group cheer for each umbrella change. Its a healthy competition on view. Though to be honest, what excited me more is that huge gathering of people of various religions, castes and languages than the actual ceremony of 'kudamattom'. Few things can match the spirit that a Thrissurkaaran (native of Thrissur) has towards the Thrissur pooram. As dusk set in, the 'Kudamattom' was over and people started walking back to gear up for that early morning treat-'The pooram vedikkettu'[Fireworks].


The elephants of Paramekkavu walk out through the northern gate for Kudamattom

The melam which accompanied the paramekkavu elephants

The crowd fills up the space as the paramekkavu elephants passes the centre of the ground


crowd goes into a frenzy during kudamattom

There were people all around...here, on top of a lorry

Thiruvambady elephants lined up in front of the northern gate of Vadakkumnathan temple

standing tall..two guys who managed to prop themselves up above the crowd during kudamattom

We went for a walk around the round at midnight and the place was still very much alive. The melams were still going strong and there were people everywhere. Many where sleeping on the streets, a much needed rest before the fireworks starts. There were the highly drunk walking around too, singing double meaning laden parodies of 'naadan paattukal' [country songs]. One among those asked me, "Athu thokkano chetta?"[Is that a gun?], seeing my tripod. We went back and took a quick nap. By 3 AM, we were back on the round. Our legs were paining by this time, having walked close to 15 km altogether on this day. Even the pooram vedikkettu[fireworks] is a competition between 'paramekkavu' and 'Thiruvambady'. We had heard a lot about the fireworks, but nothing prepared us for the sheer power of this one. Rather than the visual element, it is the physical element which strikes you. What I meant by 'physical' is that thumping feeling that you get on your chest while those mammoth bombs goes off. It can be a shocking as well as exhilarating experience for a first timer, which I was. And then the aural element. 'Defeaning', will be an understatement. Then I realised, why 'Thrissur pooram vedikkettu' is known as the greatest fireworks experience in this part of the world.
This is what Thrissur Pooram vedikkettu[fireworks] can do to you...you shield your ears, you cringe, you open your mouth in amazement...you are truely overwhelmed
(Check the big 'gundu' on right side top)

The next day was the day of the 'Pakal pooram'[Pooram fest in the daytime]. This is when all the ladies and families attend the festival. By this time, the outside visitors and the huge crowd would've left Thrissur. The same ceremonies of yesterday are repeated. We saw the remnants of last day's fireworks lying around in the ground. They had already dug up more holes for the concluding fireworks. Two men each were carrying huge bomb like things and putting it carefully in each of these holes. Then we knew where that thumping in the chest was coming from. The whole ground was evacuated and the fireworks started, for one last time this year. Now, this was more shocking than the night's fireworks. The thumping in the chest changed to a deep kick. The pooram ended with the loudest and meanest of fireworks! We missed the 'vida chollal[goodbye] ceremony wherein the 2 main elephants of 'paramekkavu' and 'thiruvambady' bearing the deities come face to face in front of the vadakkumnaathan temple entrance and bow to each other. Its a kind of goodbye and a hope that we'll meet next year too...

That was our great pooram experience which ended in a 'chaayakkada'[tea shop] near the Thrissur bus stand.

PS-Check here my old post on the temples and palaces of Thrissur with more info and pics of these temples - Temples and palaces of Thrissur

In print, over the moon  

Posted by Praveen in , , ,

And so, after few years of running around with the camera and freelancing stints for few online magazine, I get few of my shots printed in a magazine, which actually has a print edition :D. It feels good to see your clicks in a publication, especially when its for the first time. It all happened thanks to the fireflies all night concert that I attended(and clicked) some weeks back. The guys at the score music magazine saw some of the pics which I uploaded in my facebook photography page(http://www.facebook.com/myopiclensesphotography -yeah, cheap marketing:P) and contacted me asking for the pics. The only condition being I should send unpublished pics. Thankfully, I hadn't uploaded my whole collection and was able to supply them with enough pics. And last week, they mailed me the magazine with the pics adorning 2 pages. You can also read the magazine online at highonscore.com. They got a really good interface where you can flip the pages and read in fullscreen. BTW, Skip to page 40 :D
screenshot of the page(yea, all shots r mine :P )

The magazine

Here are some of the published and unpublished shots from fireflies music festival. The fireflies fest was an all night affair starting at 7 PM on a saturday evening and going on till 8 AM on sunday morning. The stage was set under a banyan tree inside the fireflies ashram, a peaceful place about 40 kms from Bangalore city. 5000 people sat jampacked in the amphitheatre while a few hundred more lounged around in bedsheets in the outside lawn. Fireflies is an annual affair and it truely is India's version of the legendary woodstock festival. This year, we had a whole array of bands and artists spanning various genres. It was where I discovered the band yodhaka which fuses sanskrit lyrics,carnatic slide guitar,acoustic guitars and some great percussion. Swarathma were there with their brand of folk rock. Moonarra added flavour with visual representation of their music in the form of 3 brilliant dancers. The highlight of the night was when Thermal and a quarter sang a cover of the beatles' classic 'Hey jude'. The whole crowd sang along the end chorus at 3 O clock in the morning. A truely goosebump moment that was! Other notable performances of the night were something relevant, spinifex, bicycle days etc.

Here are some published and unpublished pics from that great night

Yodhaka





Something relevant


Thermal And A Quarter(TAAQ)



Spinifex






Bicycle Days




Moonarra


your crusader Praveen

Idukki in Rain-II  

Posted by Praveen in , ,

The second day of the Idukki trip started with a round table conference munching biscuits and drinking tea, at a place overlooking a vast valley. Blue sky was on view, so were white clouds floating over the greenery. Right when we started our journey for the day, the rain clouds came on view. Infact, this was a story which repeated all through the trip, rain while riding and those occasional dry spells when we got down at some place. The breakfast was also the same on the two days, that typical mouth watering kerala combination of appam and egg curry, the only difference being one was super good and the second one was not that good.


the round table conference(chaaya kudichittu biscuit thinnano biscuit thinnitto chaaya kudikkano)
laughter from the heart

nalacharitham aattakatha

With the idukki dam tragedy behind us(open only on onam/christmad), we reached kulamaavu dam, over which the main road passes. The dam was covered in mist, with only the starting point visible from a distance. As I got down to click with the car parked on top of the dam, I heard the whistle blowing from behind. It seems you are not supposed to get down on top of the dam and the guards were getting ready to prosecute us. We sped on and the next hour was spent looking for a kallu shaap(toddy shop) which serves (SLURP!!!) kappa(tapioca) and beef(yea, take that you anti-beef idiots!). As our luck would have it, either we stopped at a toddy shop with no food or a hotel with no toddy. On a downhill path, one of us spotted a toddy shop board. Sudden break, reverse. The shop owner came outside and began guiding us to the 'parking lot'- "aaa poratte, porattee...(come on, come on)". Slowly we parked, opened our doors, took a look at the shop, closed the doors and left without a word. The look on the face of the shop owner and the drinkers inside was priceless. The reason for leaving? Nothing! :P Another feature of the winding roads was the jewellery and textile shop ADs placed right at the hairpin bend. Some of them were indeed good enough to stop one's breath, like the one featuring malayalam actress Bhavana in an yet unseen poses![winks] And then there was this jewellery called "kandirikkal jewellers"[roughly translated as 'sit and watch' jewellers]! Sit and watch what?, that is the million dollar question.

We were riding through a forest path when suddenly one among us had an idea-"a photo in this setting will look good!" We got out and was excited to see thick greenery stretching a bit downhill. We decided to 'explore'. We didn't walk much over the wet dry leaves when I had this sudden thought of there being leeches. The moment I mentioned it, Ajith, the army man and the 'bravest' of the lot, let out a scream..."athe, attaaa![yes, Leeeeech]". Within seconds everyone was on the road near the car. All of us except me had a good collection of atleast 2-3 leeches each. My collection was discovered much later inside the car and brave me let out this huge cry of horror!
kulamaavu dam covered in mist in the afternoon

the leech attack

The highlight of the day was the trip to 'Ilaveezhapoonchira'[valley without any leaves]. The leaves doesnt fall on this hills because there are no trees at the top. Just a lush green hilltop filled with grass(the one which cows eat). It is located very close to thodupuzha. On the idukki-thodupuzha road, you need to take a left turn after kaanjaar. The road winds up with sharp curves and steep slopes for about 9 km from the main road. Then you've to get down and walk for about 1.5 KMs if you don't have an off roader. Its a fun climb with the scenery all around and the light winds cooling you in between. There's a lone rest house near the hilltop. The hilltop is the closest you'll ever come to heaven! There are a hundred small and big hill locks stretching on all four sides. Watching the subdued sunset in the slight drizzle was a treat. This is an unmissable place for anyone going anywhere near idukki or thodupuzha.

the guest house near the hilltop at ilaveezhapoonchira

view from the top at Ilaveezhapoonchira



And then we started the group shots




Hence proved:An umbrella can hold four people



the walk back