Chitra Purnima

Chitra Purnima is a festival celebrated on the Full Moon day of Chithirai month.

Dedicated to Chitra Gupta

This festival is dedicated to Chitra Gupta, the deva who keeps record of human actions, on behalf of Yama, the God of death.


        Chitra Gupta

Chitra means, “picture”, and Gupt, “hidden”.

Chitra Gupta keeps a secret record of all our deeds in the “ethereal system”.

On this day, people worship Chitra Gupta to make amends for any wrong actions. Thus this is a day to remember that, “You reap, what you sow”, because nothing escapes the divine software. We need to perform good actions to reap good results. This is the “Law of karma” that is ingrained in the ethos of this land.

Chithirai being the first month, in the Indian calendar, Chitra Purnima is an occasion to look forward, as well as back at what we have come through – the good and the not so good.

Wedding of Sundareshwara and Meenakshi

Chitra Purnima is also the day when the celestial wedding of Lord Sundareshwara, a form of Shiva took place with Goddess Meenakshi, a form of Devi Parvati.


The celestial Wedding of Devi Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwara

Sundara– Divine Beatitude

Sundara means beauty, Eshwara refers to the Lord.

The words Sathyam Shivam Sundarm is used to describe the divine, which stands for Truth, Auspiciousness and Beauty.

Lord Sundareshwara here stands for divine beatitude, the beauty in Creation and the beauty in its understanding.

More on this beauty in Creation, is in our book and film – Creation – Srishti Vignana.


Meenakshi – Beautiful eyes

Meen, means a fish and akshi, eyes.

The Devi has a beautiful eyes, similar to that of a fish. In expressing the beauty of a lady, one of the expressions is that of beautiful eyes. These description are sometimes linked to an animal, flower and also a fish.

  1. Mrigha Nayani, the beauty of the eye of a doe, a female deer
  2. Kamala Nayani, lotus eyed
  3. Here in this context, it is Meenakshi, eyes of a fish.

Kayal Vizhi

At the time of wedding, the bride’s eye is beautified with Shingar as a doe eyed or fish eyed. Madurai, where Meenakshi temple is, being the centre of Tamil culture, it has another equally ancient local Tamil word for Meenakshi, which is. Kayal Vizhi, Vizhi meaning the look and Kayal is a type of slender fish. Here it means Slender Eyed.

Inner Significance of open eyes

A fish always has its eyes open. This signifies that the Devi’s grace are always on Her devotees.

Apart from the continuous flow of divine grace, there is another significance to the eyes of Devi Meenakshi.

A fish hatches its eggs through staring by its eyes.  This signifies that Devi Meenakshi’s bestows on us fertility, creativity and prosperity in our material life with graceful looks.

Indra Legend

There is a legend associated with Chitra Purnima, which throws more light on the aspect of Divine Grace.

Once Indra, the Lord of the Deva, had an argument with his Guru Brihaspati. The Guru then distanced himself from Indra and refrained from advising him on any matters. Indra then began to commit wrong deeds, for which he had to reap the consequences. At this time, Guru Brihaspati returned and asked him to undertake a pilgrimage on earth, so as to reduce some his sins. Indra started his pilgrimage, and visited many scared spots. At one place, he felt the burden of his sins being lifted. He discovered a Shiva lingam at this place in Madurai, which he worshipped. Indra was thus relieved from all his sins.

Chitra Purnima was the day when Indra performed this worship to the Shiva Lingam and propitiated the Lord.

Thus goes the legend which shows that divine grace can mitigate our sins, if we propitiate the Divine sincerely with faith.

Azhagar Attril Erunghirar, the festival after Chitra Paurnami

Chitra Paurnami is the biggest festival in Madurai city, from time immemorial, which involves Lord Vishnu too.

As the story goes, Meenakshi is the sister of Vishnu, who is to give her beloved sister, in marriage to Lord Shiva. Lord Vishnu in His aspect as Kallazhagar lives some distance away from Madurai, in the forested hills. He takes His time in reaching the ceremonial Kalyana Mantap. The auspicious hour of marriage was nearing, and he had not yet reached the venue. Then the Vishnu aspect from the local temple, Kudal Azhagar, came and gave away the bride in the wedding. By the time Kallazhagar reached, the wedding had already been performed.

Kallazhagar then returned, on His horse, back to His temple, getting into the nearby Vaigai River, which in that season has only knee deep water. He wades in the river itself reaching all the way back to His temple. Along with Him, the lakhs of people, who had to come to witness the Meenakshi Sundareshwar Kalyanam also get into the Vaigai.

This over the centuries and millennia has become a festival, and is celebrated the day after Chitra Paurnami.

This festival was popularized by King Tirumal Nayak, Raja Tirumal Nayak, the popular king of Madurai, who ruled about 350 years ago.

The event of Kallazhagar getting into the river, is thronged by lakhs of millions of people, and is a festive sight to behold, to rejoice, to take part in.


Azhaghar Attril Erunghirar

This journey in the Vaigai river is symbolic of a groom’s party returning after the marriage, leaving the new bride in her new home with her spouse.

This event is called in the ancient Tamil language as, Azhaghar Attril Erunghirar, meaning Azhagar wades into the river.


Nrsimha Jayanthi

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The incarnation of Nrsimha happened on Vaishakha Shukla Chaturdasi, in Swati Nakshatra.

Nrsimha in the evolution theory of avatars

Nrsimha was the 4th incarnation, Avatar of Divinity Vishnu.

In India, the concept of evolution has been discussed in the sequence of Dasavatara of Vishnu, starting from the fish and evolving all the way to the intellectual human.

These avatars are Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Nrsimha, Vamana, Parasurama, Rama, Balarama, Krishna and Kalki.

The beast like Nrsimha form is symbolic of man living like a savage.


The Legend

King Hiranyakashipu was a mighty Asura king who was blinded by ego and greed for power. He was a tyrant king, who had a son called Prahlada, who was pure at heart, a believer in good and the Divine.

Prahlada believed in Narayana, the ultimate source of the entire Creation and hence earned the wrath of his father Hiranyakashipu for not regarding him as the ultimate master. Hiranyakashipu therefore tried various means to kill Prahlada, his own son, but Prahlada always emerged unscathed.

Finally, Hiranyakashipu challenges Prahlada to prove that Narayana is indeed real, supreme and resides in everything including the inanimate. He then breaks a pillar in his palace with his mace to disprove Prahlada.

Lo and behold, the pillar splits and from within, emerges a ferocious being, of half man-half lion, the 4th avatara, incarnation of Vishnu, who lays Hiranyakashipu on His lap and slays him. This form was Nrsimha meaning half man, half lion – Nara, “man” and Simha, “lion”.


Why did Narayana have to manifest in this peculiar form?

Hirayanyakasipu had won a boon from Lord Brahma, that He shouldn’t be killed by a man or an animal or God, neither during day or night, neither indoors or outdoors, neither on earth or sky, or by any weapons.

Thus the Lord comes in the form of Nrsimha, and slays him during the dawn, by placing him on His lap, on the steps of the palace, and piercing the Asura with His claws.

Where exactly did this slaying of Hiranyakasipu take place?

This is at Ahobilam in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

The Ahobilam Hills in Kurnool district of present day Andhra Pradesh, are the Avatara Kshetram, place of the incarnation of this Nrsimha avatar. It is no wond therefore that all over Andhra, there is affinity towards Lord Nrsimha, be it in Simhachalam near Visakhapatnam, in Mangalagiri near Vijayawada as Panakalu Nrsimha Swamy or in Yadagiri Gutta near Hyderabad.


Monolithic stone sculpture of Lord Narasimha emerging from pillar, carved on a stone pillar at Ahobilam, Andhra Pradesh


When Lord Nrsimha, after the Vadham, the slaying of the Asura Hiranyakashipu, was still very angry and visibly ferocious, it is one of the young tribal girls of the local Chenchu tribe, by name Chenchu Lakshmi who manages to calm down Lord Nrsimha from His wrathful state, marries him and makes him shower His blessings on the people of that region.


This incident tells us that Lord listens and can be calmed even by a young loving and affectionate girl. For the Lord, there is no Jaathi or Varna as He married this local, tribal girl. This legend also tells us that, to the Lord, all people are one and the same.

In commemoration of this event, even to this day, the Chenchu tribes through the ages, to this generation, are the custodians of the Ahobila Kshetram and the Ahobilam Hills.

After Hiranyakashipu was slayed by Nrsimha, Prahlada, the son of Hiranyakashipu, continued to live here and ruled a large part of this land from Ahobilam. We should remember that even though Prahlada was born to Hiranyakashipu of the asura kula, he was still accepted as the prime devotee of Vishnu and an embodiment of knowledge and humility, again going to show that irrespective of one’s birth, all areequal when it comes to acquiring true knowledge and divine love.


Prahlada ruling from Ahobilam – an artistic impression

More on this in our book, Telugu Talli – Her Unknown Side.


Multan – The Seat of Lord Nrsimha

There is also an an interesting footprint of Nrsimha at Multan in Pakistan.


Multan location

The word Multan is synonymous with Multani mitti, a clay like substance known in English as Fuller’s Earth and used as a mud pack for treating acne, oily skin etc. For ancient India, Multan was also synonymous with Nrsimha, a divine incarnation of the divinity Vishnu in the form of a Half Man, Half Lion. Nara means man and Simha, lion.

It has been widely held from millennia that it was at Multan that this King Hiranyakashipu met his end at the hands and on the lap of Nrsimha. Multan has thus been revered as the place of incarnation of Lord Nrsimha. Sculptures showing a pillar splitting into 2 have been identified from here as also the ruins of the temple here called Prahladapuri in honour of Prahlada for whom the Lord incarnated.


The present day ruins of Prahladapuri temple are believed to stand where Prahlada had built a temple originally to Lord Nrsimha. Successive generations have ensured the presence of a temple here through the flow of time.

Multan was known as Kashyapapura in ancient times. The name Multan is a shortened form of “Mula Sthan” meaning the “place of origin”.

More on this in our book, Breaking the Myths – About Identity, in the Autobiography of India Series.

Symbolic Meaning of Nrsimha Story

There is a symbolic message relevant for our present times, from the legend of Hiranyakashipu and Prahlada.

The name Hiranyakashipu means, “one who has a golden bed”. Hiranya means gold or golden hued and Kashipu denotes a bed. Hiranyakashipu was a King who rolled in absolute wealth, wealth that led to ego and arrogance, which in turn demanded submission and recognition as he being the supreme power.

Hiranyakashipu symbolises the greed for wealth, power and recognition in the society today which has eventually now led us to a corrupt society.

Prahlada means, “one who naturally evokes a feeling of happiness and peace”. It comes from the word “ahlada” which means, “reviving, refreshing, cheerfulness, joy, delight, gladness”. It denotes the gladness that leads to peace and happiness which can arise only from the possession of true knowledge. Pra means “special”, “natural”. It is akin to how the vision of a full moon inherently gives rise to a feeling of peace, comfort and happiness.

The slaying of Hiranyakashipu by Nrsimha is a moral lesson on how one should not cultivate ego, not be blinded by uncontrolled greed and desire for power, as it can finally lead to unprincipled ways of living and a violent end.

Dr. U Ve. Swaminatha Iyer

Dr. Uttamadhanapuram Venkatasubbaiyer Swaminatha Iyer, known as U.V. Swaminatha Iyer, was one of the famous Tamil Scholars, born on February 19th 1855 in Uthamadhanapuram nearby Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu.


For his efforts in the publishing field, he is respectfully referred to as “Thamizh Thatha”. The grandfather of Tamil Literature.

His father Venkata Subbu Iyer was a leading Musician.


Sri Swaminatha Iyer

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The original image of Sri Swaminatha Iyer


Dr. Swaminatha Iyer did his schooling and music in his own town. In his 17th year, he started learning Tamil from Thirisipuram Sundaram Pillai, who was a teacher in Thiruvaduthurai Saiva Athinam. U.V.Swaminatha Iyer learned Tamil for 5 years and later he worked in a college at Kumbakonam in the year 1880, and then he worked for some time in Presidency College, Madras.

Salem Ramaswami Mudaliyar’s encouragement

When he was working in Kumbakonam, he made friendship with Dr. Salem Ramaswami Mudaliyar, who gave him the idea to edit and reproduce ancient Tamil Classics and Tamil poems.


Dr. Salem Ramaswami Mudaliyar

Important Publications

He edited the manuscript Seevaga Sinthamani, a Jain Classic first.

In 1887, Dr. U.V Swaminatha Iyer successfully published Seevaga Sinthamani, and after that he published Pattupattu.


Dr. UV Swaminatha Iyer continued his publishing works. He published many prominent books. Otherwise we may not have a single line from the books like,

  • Silapathigaram written by Ilango Adigal, one of five epic in ancient Tamil Literature,


  •  Manimegalai written by Seethalai Saathanar, one of the five Epic in ancient Tamil Literature and


  •  Purananuru, one of the Pathinen Melkanakku books of Sangam Period written by more than 150 poets,

which were published by UV Swaminatha Iyer.

He published more than 100 books including Tamil classics, poems, devotional books etc, during his life time.

Thiyagaraja Vilas, where ‘Tamil Thatha’ U V Swaminatha Iyer lived and published his works

Work continues in Retirement

In 1919, Swaminatha Iyer retired and later he joined as a principal in Meenakshi Tamil College, Kumbakonam. Due to health problem he resigned his job in 1927 and he became involved in manuscripting, editing and publishing until his death.

Tribute of Subramanya Bharati

Subramanya Bharati, the famous Tamil poet who inspired people during the freedom movement, wrote a poem in tribute to U. V.Swaminatha Iyer, whom he considered to be of the statue of Sage Agastya.


Subramanya Bharati

He has sung in the poem:


Rabindranatha Tagore’s Tribute

In 1926, Sir Rabindranath Tagore called on Swaminatha Iyer, and even penned a poem on him, praising his great efforts in publishing ancient Tamil works.


Rabindranath Tagore


The poem composed by Rabindranath Tagore on Swaminath Iyer


Iyer was awarded the title of Dakshinathya Kalanidhi in 1925 by Madras University. He was also conferred the title Mahamahopathiyaya, meaning: “Greatest of Great teachers”.

Dr. U V Swaminatha Iyer passed away on 28th April 1942.

The Indian Postal Department issued a commemorative stamp in his name in 2006. His house in Uttamadhanapuram has been made into a memorial.


A stamp released on Dr. Swaminatha Iyer


Swaminatha Iyer House

A great literary figure and son of Tamil Thai who salvaged the ancient Tamil texts, from palm leaf manuscripts. This is the debt that the Tamil literature owes him.


Tamil Thai

Srinivasa Ramanujan

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Srinivasa Ramanujan, the genius mathematician was born on 22nd December 1887. In December 2011, Ramanujan’s birthday was declared as ‘National Mathematics Day’, in recognition of his contributions to the field of mathematics.


Srinivasa Ramanujan

A person who lived for a little over 32 years, Ramanujan was born in Kumbhakonam, the famous temple town in the Cauvery River delta.



Kumbakonam, the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu has been famous for many things, from temples to rice and now for the aromatic Kumbakonam Degree Coffee.


Kumbakonam Rice Fields


 Kumbakonam Degree Coffee

 But, the greatest son of Kumbakonam is the mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan.


Srinivasa Ramanujan’s house

In his Dreams

Ramanujan attributed the mathematical formulae that he came up with, to Namagiri Thayar, the Goddess of Namakkal temple.

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                         Namakkal Temple                                                               Goddess Namagiri

He often mentioned that it was Goddess Namagiri who came to him in his dreams and gave answers to his mathematical problems.

From Wife

The wife of Ramanujan, Janakiammal has an interesting input about her husband.



Ramanujan used to feverishly do all his basic calculations on a black slate. This was the norm of every student in India then.

She says, “Ramanujan did his calculations on a hand held slate, then transferred the final results to his note books, erasing the slate.”


Ramanujan did his calculations on a slate

Thus we have few clues as to how he arrived at these equations, and there is no doubt that they are true.

This is expressed by the mathematics historian George Gheverghese Joseph in his book ‘The Crest of the Peacock’, Page 11.


The Crest of Peacock Book


George Gheverghese

His work notes and formulae that he arrived at are available in his now famous notebooks.


Ramanujan’s notebook

Mathematicians till to date are trying to understand and use them.

To Cambridge University

When Ramanujan was working as a Clerk in Madras Port Trust, he sent some of his mathematical workings to Prof. G H Hardy of Cambridge University.


Prof. G H Hardy


Cambridge University

Ongoing through the notes, Prof G H Hardy felt that here was an absolute genius at work.

Prof Hardy invited Ramanujan to the Cambridge University.

Ramanujan spent 6 to 7 years in Cambridge. The work that Ramanujan did then along with Hardy has now become a part of the legend of Mathematics.

The mathematical formula that Ramanujan came up has been used as algorithms in modern computer systems.

Unfortunately, due to severe cold weather of England, Ramanujan who was more used to the tropical climate of Kumbhakonam, could not acclimatize and picked up an illness. The illness grew from bad to worse and he sailed back to India.

A sick and sad Ramanujan returned to Madras on April 2nd 1919.  He passed away on 26th April, 1920 at Chetpet in Madras.


Srinivasa Ramanujan belonged to an illustrious lineage of mathematicians that India has offered to the world starting from Boudhayana, Apastambha, Aryabhatta, Varahamihira, Brahma Gupta, Bhaskaracharya, Madhava and a galaxy of others.

All these illustrious people through the ages specialized in this field of Ganitham, the Indian term for mathematics.

The word Ganitham has in it the phrase Gana, meaning weighty, heavy.  The field of mathematics has always been weighty and heavy.

The Lord of Mathematics in Indian tradition is Ganesha, Ganapathy. The term Gana also means numbers.


Lord Ganesha, the lord of Mathematics

An illustrious lineage

India has had an illustrious lineage of people who excelled in Ganitham.

Srinivasa Ramanujan is one among this illustrious lineage.

Today in our midst, we have another illustrious mathematician of Indian origin settled in USA, Prof Srinivasa Vardhan who is an Abel Laureate.


Prof Srinivasa Vardhan

Abel Laureate

It is to be noted that in mathematics there is no Nobel Prize as Alfred Nobel did not like Maths.

The same Norwegian Academy which confers the Nobel Prize year after year has instituted an award for mathematics, equal to novel prize in the name of their Norweigian mathematician, Niels Henrik Abel.


Niels Henrik Abel

It would be nice if the Indian government could institute an international award in the name of Srinivasa Ramanujan for the lineage that India has given to world in the field of Ganitham, mathematics.

Srinivasa Ramanujan Centre

A centre in the memory of Srinivasa Ramanujan was established in the year 2003 at Kumbakonam known as Srinivasa Ramanujan Centre. A museum on Ramanujan and his work is also housed therein which is the house of Ramanujan. This museum is maintained by Sastra University. This centre and museum was dedicated to the nation by President Abdul Kalam in 2003.

International Award

An international award of 10000 US dollars per annum has also been instituted for a mathematician who has done research on works of Ramanujan. Every year an International Conference is organized by Sastra on 22nd December, the birthday of Ramanujan, where the awards are given away to the selected recipients.

Mathematics – Crest of Peacock

Mathematics among the sciences is given a high place in India, like the crest of a peacock among its colored plum, in its ancient treatises. Vedanta Jyothisa, an ancient treatise on mathematics and astronomy mentions this.


We discuss in detail on India’s contributions in the field of Mathematics, in our book Brand Bharat – Roots In India, which include zero, infinity, numerals, metrics, algebra, algorithm, geometry, 360 degrees, Pi, trigonometry and calculus.

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The Man who saw Infinity

In the last decade or so, there has been a spurt of interest on Srinivasa Ramanujan. Books are being written and films are being made on this great man who saw infinity.


The Man who knew Infinity

We need to sustain this interest to encourage more Indians to take up pure mathematics.

Mohini Ekadasi

Mohini Ekadasi is the day when Lord Vishnu manifested in the form of Mohini at the time of Samudra Manthan.

Mohini means “enchanter”, is derived from the word Moha which means to ‘allure’ and ‘disillusion’.


Mohini, the Enchantress

The are two well know occurrences of Mohini, in our Purana.

Samudra Manthan

Mohini is a female form assumed by Lord Vishnu to lure the Asura away from the Amrita pot of Ambrosia, which gives immortality, which had come forth from the process of churning of the Ocean, Samudra Manthan.


   Samudra Manthan, churning of the Ocean

Interestingly, in the new airport named Suvarana Bhumi in Thailand, Bangkok, the central theme is of a gigantic Samudra Manthan.


Samudra Manthan, Churning of Ocean Model

Suvarna Bhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand

Coming back to the story, a dispute arose between the Asura and Deva as to who should get the Amrita first. Mohini appears on the scene. The enchanted Asura, deluded by the beauty of Mohini, their attention diverted, away from Amrita.


Mohini with the Amrita pot 

Mohini, the ‘distractress’, distributes the Amrita among the Deva. Thus, the Asura, who were, till her arrival, in control of their senses were denied a rightful share of Amrita.

The lesson being, not to be distracted from the job at hand.



Mohini and Bhasmasura, a painting by Raja Ravi Verma

Image: Courtesy Wikipedia

There is another legend attached to Mohini.

Lord Vishnu assumed the form of Mohini to rescue Lord Shiva from Bhasmasura who undertook a severe penance to propitiate Lord Shiva to get the boon of burning anybody to ashes by merely touching them on their heads. When Lord Shiva appeared before the Asura, and had finished giving him the requested boon, the Asura ran towards Lord Shiva Himself to test the boon on Him. Lord Shiva fled the scene and Bhasmasura chased Him all over.


Bhasmasura chasing Lord Shiva

To save Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu assumed the form of Mohini. The Asura stopped in his tracks seeing the enchanting beauty of Mohini. Mohini called the Asura towards Her and compelled him to dance along with Her. While dancing, the Asura was cast in a spell by Mohini’s beauty. In the course of the dance, the Asura was unknowingly enticed into placing his hands on his own head, and was burnt to ashes.

However mighty one may be, one can easily be distracted. To overcome this, we need to be in the present, constantly.

The above legend is said to have unfolded in Yana Village, by a hill called Mohini Shikhara, in the state of Karnataka known for its unique rock formations.


Mohini Shikhara

 The rocks here are formed from solid black, crystalline Karst limestone.


Yana rocks in Yana village

On this Mohini Ekadasi Day, let us resolve to develop focus and presence of mind while performing any work at hand.

Thrissur Pooram

The most spectacular festival

Thrissur Pooram is celebrated every year in the month of April-May at the Vadakunnatha Temple in Thrissur city of Kerala. The UNESCO has referred to Thrissur Pooram as, “The most spectacular event on the planet.”

Started by Raja Rama Varma

The festival was started by Raja Rama Varma, the then Maharaja of Mada Rajyam, the present day Kochi in the year 1798. The Maharaja brought together many temples around the main temple, Vadakunnathan and organized the event as a mass festival.


Raja Rama Varma, also called Sakthan Thambaran

Coming together of Gods

These temples are, Kanimangalam Temple, Chembukkavu Bhagavathy Temple, Panamukkumpally Sastha Temple, Pokkattikkara-Karamukku Bhagavathy Temple, Laloor Bhagavathy Temple, Chorakkottukavu Temple, Ayanthole Bhagavathy Temple, Nethilakkavu Bhagavathy Temple, Paramekkavu Bhagavathy Temple, Thiruvambadi Bhagavathy Temple and the main Vadakunnatha Shiva Temple.

As it happens, the gods and goddess of these various temple come together for celebration.


  Vadakunnatha Shiva Temple


Mass Festival

The festival attracts tourists from all over the country and also from abroad. One of the important features of this festival is that people from all communities participate and play a key role in organizing the festival.


People celebrating Thrissur Pooram

Elephants, the main attractions

The Elephants are the main attractions of this festival.

The festival is celebrated for 36 hours continuously with an array of elephants decorated with golden headdress, ornaments, bells, palm leaves, peacock feathers, umbrellas and beautiful paintings that are swayed along with the music. The sight is wonderful to behold!


Array of elephants at Thrissur Pooram

There is a magnificent display of colours during the kudamattom competition which involves a rhythmic alteration of coloured parols by those sitting on elephants.


Coloured Parols on elephant top

Pakal Pooram

The next day of the Pooram festival is Pakal Pooram with people displaying their skills in various traditional instruments such as Thimila, Edakka, Kombu, Chenda, Elathalam and Sanghu.

Display of fireworks

The Thrissur Pooram festival is concluded with a display of fireworks. A wide variety of colourful crackers are let up, delighting the spectators. The farewell is marked with 2 elephants greeting each other and fixing the next Pooram date.


Display of fireworks