Braving scorching heat, thousands of festival buffs gathered around the sprawling Pooram grounds before the famed Vadukkumnathan temple in Thrissur on Sunday to immerse themselves in the pomp and glory of famous Thrissur Pooram, showcasing the best of Kerala's traditional art and culture for hours on end since day-break.
Billed as "the festival of festivals", the annual spectacle comprises processions of caparisoned elephants, orchestra of drums, horns and cymbals, religious ceremonies and fireworks.
The Pooram day marks the meeting of deities of nearby shrines before the Vadukkumnathan temple in the "cultural capital of Kerala."
Apart from the Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi temples as the two competing sponsors of the event, processions were also taken out from other shrines in and around the town to converge at the Thekkinkad Maidan in Thrissur.
The main event in the afternoon was the 'elannjithara melam', an ensemble of temple orchestra of about 300 artistes, including drummers and pipers, lasting for about four hours.
Display of colourful parsols atop scores of elephants lined up face-to-face by the two competing sides is the most striking feature of the festival in the evening, before the spectacle concludes with a fireworks display in the wee hours tomorrow.
The day started with the procession of the Kanimangalam Sastha, followed by feeder processions from seven other temples in and around the town.
Apart from the Pooram ground, the city was overflowing with people cutting across all religious and social barriers to enjoy the festival.
Besides the 'elanjithara melam', there was also a display of various types of temple orchestra like Panchavadyam and Pandimelam, with leading artistes participating.
Of late, Thrissur Pooram, dedicated to Lord Shiva, has been attracting foreign visitors in large numbers, as the event has been listed as a major attraction in the state's tourism calendar.
Instead of being a mere religious event, Pooram has also assumed a commercial dimension with the city organising its biggest exhibition on the occasion and shops and hotels getting good business.
Unlike most other religious festivals, Pooram has always been conducted with the whole-hearted participation of the local people, cutting across religious barriers.