Archive for the ‘ThrissurPooram’ Tag

“Down On My Luck”   4 comments



What will you do when  you come face to  face with a place where history sleeps intertwined with culture on a hartal day with low mobile battery and no one for company ? Well, First you will take a snap. Then you pretend to think, trying to forget that you are the unluckiest person on the earth right now, until the rarest of the rare bus appears on the horizon. This is the southern entrance of the renowned Vadakkunnathan Temple in Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala. This ground plays host to the most famous Pooram in Kerala:The Thrissur Pooram which was  the brainchild  of Sri Raja Raja Varma the  Maharaja of  Kochi.


They say that the knowledge system in god’s own country can be broadly classified  into two. The  one which emerged from our own backyard, tracing its lineage to the Sangam heritage is dubbed the “Kaavu Parambaryam”/Traditional Knowledge. The other which had its birth up north, which migrated down south over the course of  time was baptized the “Kshetra Parambaryam”/Heterogeneous Knowledge. It is through the tug of wars between these contrasting but vibrant systems that the language called Malayalam, the identity named Malayali and the state called Kerala as we know today came into existence. Kaavu, which is essentially Dravidian, imagines nature as sacred and unbound assimilating within its embrace the mores of the folkways. Driven more by commonsense, this knowledge tradition includes flourishing sacred groves, rudimentary idol worships, instrumental magic rituals backed  by occult beliefs, unsophisticated but intricate arts and straightforward dance moves backed by oral tradition. The non systematic-practical learning rooted heavily in the vernacular completes the picture .

On the other hand, Kshetra parambaryam draws heavily from the migrant Aryan tradition which reached the southern tip of the subcontinent through flourishing contacts due to improved trade and flow of  ideas by hermits and monks. In sharp contrast to the Kaavu, Kshethra parambaryam draws heavily on rationality, based on which a sacred space is  demarcated based on formulas , a chosen god from an elaborate pantheon is placed, idol worship backed by detailed rituals are systematized, intricate art forms and  sophisticated dance moves dubbed as classical are practiced by a chosen few within four walls. A non utilitarian educational system backed by the language of the gods completes the Kshetra parambaryam. In short Kaavu celebrates the ordinary son of the soil, his mundane ways of life in the open, celebrating and  elevating his language and oral culture. But Kshetra parambaryam promotes the erudite Brahminical abilities and his devotion to pioneer, broaden and deepen his knowledge in various fields such as mathematics, astronomy, medicine and philosophy through god’s language all the while  maintaining a monopoly.

Over  the course of time, due to the rise and demise of  various ruling dynasties, these divergent knowledge traditions evolved as a consequence of thriving contacts between the two resulting in a unique cultural syncreticsm. Even though the convergence between Kaavu parambaryam and Kshetra parambaryam was visible across various art and dance forms, it  was more pronounced in Language as well as Festivals. Festivals especially Poorams in Kerala, from the outset, were fantastically designed rituals  based on grandstanding, aimed at perpetuating the rule of the mighty.

Pooram, the equivalent of carnival in Europe, was an  occasion for the subject class to forget their unbroken period of  unshrinking labour from morning to sunset. Pooram was that  occasion for a peasant which brought him some joy, colour, and moments of  brightness in his otherwise dark, depressed and deprived life. For the ruling jenmi, it was an occasion to stamp his wherewithal to stage a larger than life spectacle which remains incomplete without an array of caparisoned elephants, the perambulation of the presiding deity, imposing pyrotechnics, generosity towards  his subjects and  magnanimity for the deviant ones. Hence on a Pooram day one can find the confluence of  every conceivable forms of trade, tricks and personalities amidst a sea of  humanity gathered  at the rendezvous to witness the spectacle. Longstanding feuds are buried, egos are massaged, friendships are renewed, drunkards and fraudsters forgiven, deviants and iconoclasts are forgotten bringing together families, distant relatives, friends, kin groups and the society as a whole.

In many ways it is an ingenious way of sending out a message to the subjects about  who the real ruler is by an ostentatious display of power and wealth. Lost in the sheer joy of the moment and reliving them in the future, the subjects pledge their allegiance to masters voluntarily than by coercion.  This stabilized the kingdoms against threats from within in the form of grass-root protests and rebellions. Thus the power of  the mighty is  sealed for eternity. This oversimplified picture gets more complex when we bring into frame the effect of  heterogeneous cultures from across the seas like Christianity and Islam having strong influence on the society. We dont need to necessarily pick sides here because this  is how objective historical  forces bring together people resulting in cultural assimilation which gets reflected in changes across visible and invisible spectrums of a society. You just need to  be subjectively aware of these objective forces acknowledging that reality is chaotic and dynamic!!


This is  a mish mash of some trains of thoughts which chugged along the nerves in my grey matter during a Hartal Day in the past. The above syndrome gets all the more worse when  I am famished. It is just an attempt to scribble them down before they disappear and these are pure possibilities based on what I have read and heard from books and great minds over a period of time!


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