by Murli Menon
One is writing this from one’s homestay at Karripode village in interior Kerala. Kerala is a paradise for all those who love the sun, the mountains and the greenery. My homestay is a short walk away from the nearest motorable road, on the banks of one of the many lakes that dot the interiors of Palakkad. Pooram is one of several tourist attractions at Kerala in the months of April and May. One can find old wooden houses and narrow streets with antique shops and several traditional vegetarian restaurants overlooking the rice-fields. The 70 km. drive from Palakkad to Thrissur takes you through several shades of green. All along the way, we see rice fields waiting for the next monsoon rains.
One has just returned after a close encounter with nature at Thrissur in Kerala State. Thrissur is a 120 minute drive away from Karripode. Thrissur is more famously known as the home of Vaddakunathan and Thiruvambady temples, which have an annual festival every May, featuring thirty temple elephants and divine music (panchavadyam and elanjithara melam). The deities from twelve temples near Thrissur are carried on elephant back accompanied to the sound of music from its present abode to the Vadakkunathan temple at Thrissur for a grand display of colourful umbrellas. Two groups of 15 elephants, each from a different temple gather facing each other and display colourful umbrellas on elephant back, in synchronicity for an unbelievable display of team-work and discipline.
The elephant procession moves in an orderly line followed by hundreds of locals, visitors and tourists on foot. It is indeed a pleasure seeing the elephants line up before the parade and then slowly move in a procession to the main temple to return the mother goddess to her sanctuary.
Thrissur is decorated with colourful flowers, plantain leaves, coconut leaves and brass lamps. Every house celebrates Thrissur Pooram by setting up impromptu roadside stalls which sell everything from fresh lime juice to watermelon salads to idlis and doshas. Each elephant is served a platter of bananas, coconut leaves, water melons and coconuts by local residents all along the way to the temple.
The devotees enjoy eating in the outdoors under the shade of trees around which these stalls are set up. One can also buy Kathakali masks, coir footwear, Kerala brass lamps, cold pressed coconut oil and traditional handicrafts at the pooram stalls at Thrissur.
The pooram is a three day event and starts at 7:00 a.m. and concludes at 11:00 p.m. on each day. The music performance goes on from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the first day and is incredibly addictive with the sound of the trumpets, flutes and cymbals.
Panchavadyam in Malayalam means “five instruments”. It is a form of ritual temple music that accompanies elephant parades during temple festivals and is performed by several musicians playing five different kinds of musical instruments. The music is played to wake the mother goddess so that the deity would bless the ensuing festivities. Four percussion instruments including the timila, maddalam, ilathalam and idakka, is accompanied by the soothing sound of the kombu, which is a wind instrument. The rhythmic beats of the music puts one into a trance as the music follows a binaural beat pattern. Binaural beat music is used by NLP therapists to put patients into a light trance before starting creative visualization exercises.\
Thus, the main role of the panchavadyam music was to destress the devotees by putting them into a mild trance, by the use of binaural beats. The community spirit festered by the occasion and the celebration of the festival by the entire village in unison also created an aura of calmness, peace, gaiety and greenery which was relaxing for the body, mind and soul.
Karripode is a small village located in the interiors of Kerala, away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. One wakes up in the morning to the sweet songs of the hundreds of colourful birds that are perched on the giant trees that surround one’s heavenly abode.
The shrill cries of peacocks can be heard at sunset as they search the forest for fallen fruits. At late nights it is not uncommon to hear the shrill howling of packs of jackals that roam the outskirts of these forests. There are several uninhabited hills that surround the rice fields of Palakkad. Karripode, in Kerala situated in the border with Tamil Nadu is a sanctuary for the Malabar Hornbill and several other colourful birds. This extraordinary area gets partly inundated by about 2 feet of water in the monsoon months (July-September). Once below sea level, this area was raised by earth movements which cut it off from the Eastern Ghats. It was broken up by later earth movements into flat farmlands (where people can be seen growing rice) and higher grounds with sandy, salt-free soil. The Hornbill depends on the thorny scrub of the higher ground area for its feed. The other wildlife sighted at Palakkad includes blue bull, elephants, foxes, jackals, wild-cats and caracals.
How to get there?
Thrissur is 70 km. away from Palakkad Town. The non-stop drive from Palakkad to Thrissur should not exceed two hours.
Thrissur Railway Station is the nearest railhead to reach Thrissur. From Palakkad, KSRTC buses ply to Thrissur via Alathur.
Avoid the private buses in Kerala, as they are unsafe and overcrowded.
All trains going to Kochi and Thiruvanthapuram via Coimbatore stop at Palakkad and Thrissur.
Visitors traveling by road have to drive from Palakkad to Thrissur which is approximately 70 km.
The nearest airport to reach Palakkad is at Coimbatore. Coimbatore is connected by direct flights from most Indian cities.
The nearest airport to reach Thrissur is at Kochi. Kochi is connected by direct flights from most Indian cities.
Where to stay?
Homestays are the cheapest option for tourists who want to visit Pooram. A family of four can avail a homestay at Rs. 2000/- per night, exclusive of food. Breakfast, lunch and dinner which includes traditional Kerala delicacies like idlis, doshas, injipuli (ginger with tamarind) , rice and elisseri (pumpkin) can be home delivered from the small eateries at Karripode.
Where to eat?
Lots of small restaurants serving Malayali vegetarian cuisine dot Palakkad. Freshly steamed vegetables with spices, cooked in coconut milk, with hot freshly steamed idlis are available at most roadside dhabas. The food at the high profile hotels is only for the gastronomically adventurous who like greasy food. Vegans can opt for fresh tropical fruits including water-melons, papayas, tender coconuts and bananas which are available at the local market. Vegans should stick to rice, sambhar, vegetable stew with coconut milk and sauted cabbage with lentils and avoid items like avial and mango curry, which contain animal products. All items shown in the photograph above are perfectly vegan selected from a traditional Kerala meal called sadya.
About the author
Murli Menon, is a travel writer, stress management consultant and author based at Ahmedabad, India. He is the author of “ZeNLP-Learning through stories” published by The Written Word Publications, “ZeNLP-the power to succeed” published by Sage publications and “ZeNLP-the power to relax” by New Dawn Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org