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Every society is composed of a collection of families and people. Culture is established over time in a society. Festivals, rituals, and social events indicate a society’s culture. The chapter offers a lovely account of a Pooram, a traditional Kerala festival that depicts a cultural element of the state.
Thira and Poothan
During the Pooram festival, the atmosphere is filled with the mouth-watering aroma of murukku, mountains of bananas, paddy hillocks, yards of jasmine, rows of gleaming glass bangles, dazzling satin ribbons in rainbow hues, trinkets, and toys. These elements compel the author to visit the Muthassi kavu to attend the pooram.
Families prepare a para with a stack of paddy and a lit bronze lamp. The children scramble down the mango trees and rush to hide behind the elders as the faint thud of drums inches nearer. The Thira and Poothan swagger in with a deafening jingling and clanging. Thira and Poothan are images of the goddess who come to each home to ward off evil spirits and bless the family.
Thira and Poothan start dancing. They twist, gyrate and spin like mystical beings, generating clouds of dust with their dancing. In the past, gratitude was expressed in paddy measures; presently, it is expressed in money. The Poothan tucks the money into his sash and proceeds to the next house to herald the arrival of the pooram.
The day of the kaala-vela.
Many art forms, whether classical, folk, or contemporary, bloom on the pooram ground. From Kathakali to Carnatic vocal concerts, mimicry, and ballet, which is the local word for a musical production involving many costumes, songs, and dancing, all bound together by a tight plot line. Artists are recruited from all throughout Kerala, and each year the temple committee attempts to outperform the preceding committee.
It is the day of the kaala-vela. The kaala (oxen) is a common sight in a temple pooram from North Kerala . Each pair is made of straw, is formed around a bamboo frame, and is lavishly embellished with sequins, mirrors, and bright colours to stand out. At the kaala parambu (oxen ground, more than 25 to 30 kaalas arrive from various communities.
After that, the fireworks begin. On the ground are rows of iron cylinders packed with gunpowder. When one is ignited, the spark from it ignites the other. The explosions shake the land, flood the ears, and make the heart beat faster. And by the time one recovers, the drums have started playing their booming music. For a little moment, each is lost in their own universe. The elderly recall previous poorams and, as is customary, compare this one to those in their recollections, which have grown richer with time.
The chapter is an extract from ‘A Village Pooram’ by Anita Nair. It is a concise curation of a beautifully described pooram celebration. The true essence of the festival is enjoyed in its original form and space.