The day before Thrissur Pooram, there is an exhibit housing the Aana Chamayam, the many umbrellas and other decorations that will be used on or for the elephants (“aana“) during the festival. This year, the exhibit will be taking place in a small building behind Paramekkavu Bagavathi Temple.
When we arrive, there are already hundreds of people there to view the chamayam. It’s pretty humid again today, but indoors, there is AC thankfully. There, displayed in row after row, are gorgeous embellished umbrellas and decorations for the elephants to wear.
Photography is allowed, and most people have taken out their smartphones to take photos, but unfortunately, the heavy police presence is strict about keeping the line moving. There is even more to see on the second floor.
When we emerge, we see a crowd of visitors milling around the back of the temple. Three elephants are there, chained of course. One is being fed, another is being hosed down. Hundreds of people are taking photos of the elephants.
As I’m taking photos and video of the elephant closest to us, my husband grabs my arm and yanks me toward him. I glance back and see another elephant walking right towards me! He is being led by a paapan (elephant keeper) and the crowd parts to allow them through. Pumpkin is amazed by the sheer size of the creatures and actually stops talking for a few minutes—rare for her!
After taking a few more photos and family selfies, we decide to leave, as it’s getting late and the crowd is growing. Also, I begin to feel slightly nervous about staying too long near the elephants, as they have been known to become suddenly violent (especially when they are in musth), and the throngs of gawkers and cameras can’t be helping.
Paranoid? Maybe. But I’ve seen lots of elephants this week, more than I’ve seen in all my life, so…I’m good. We can go.
In the evening, my mother-in-law tells us the vedikkettu (ground fireworks) will be happening around 2 am in town near on the temple grounds and that we could watch from the terrace. These fireworks are a precursor to the start of Pooram.
We go up to the terrace in the wee hours and wait. We sit for some time, and I stand up and say, “If it was going to happen, it would’ve happened by now. Maybe it got canceled..?”
As I began to descend the steps to collapse into bed, there is a loud BOOM!. Then another. I race back to watch.
There is BOOM! after BOOM!, so many continuously, that they become one loud deep sound of explosions. The pitch-black sky is lit bright orange and pulsates with sound and fury. I can make out the silhouettes of coconut palms between the flashes of light. The sound rattles my chest. The smoke from the vedikkettu is so immense, it rises to the sky and covers the stars, looking just like an enormous cloud.
It’s all over in less than five minutes. The silence is deafening. We wait for another few minutes, to make sure it’s really over.When nothing else happens, we slowly make our way down and back into the house.
It was as if planes had flown overhead dropping bombs, but both Pumpkin and Peanut managed to sleep through the entire thing!