Going round and round The Round...........
Watched the recently celebrated Thrissur Pooram Festival, comfortably from home. Always a grand pageant with those beautifully caprisoned elephants. The sound of the Panchavadyams and Chenda really set the blood racing. Its a wonder how those elephants keep their calm amidst such loud beats and the cacaphony of the pressing crowds.
And it was such a pleasure to get glimpses of sights remembered from past visits : The lovely facade of Paramekavu Bhagavathy temple. The pretty Thiruvambadi Temple . And The Round. What is Thrissur without The Round !
Thrissur ( "Thiru-siva-perur" ) has a nice, cosy, laid back character though it is home to a gaggle of thriving business enterprises. In the middle of the city is The Round. Or, the city is around The Round. People with spare time go and sit in The Round. People make time to go and sit The Round. It is the heart and nerve centre of the city , just as it was the heart of The Kingdom of Kochi once upon a time. "The Round" denotes both the plaza and the circular road running around it.
The modern name for this beloved circular landmark Is The Swaraj Round. The traditional vernacular name is Thekkinkaadu Maidan , a pointer to the Teakwood forest that once covered the whole area. The Round serves as Trissur's Hyde Park where people can gather for anything : card playing, " hanging out ", pamphleteering, political debates, local fairs , TaiChi sessions , jogging , romantic rendezvous, what have you. Kids , invariably dressed in imported attire, (Gulf ! ) make merry in the children's park within The Round.
Everything in Trissur - distance, direction etc- is referenced to The Round. When we first drove into the city and asked for directions to reach a certain address, we were told to " go west of The Round ". And then, the locality of a friend's house transpired to be " 3 kms. from The Round ". Before that we needed to pick up a box of sweets for which we were sent to a confectioner " just across the road from The Round ". We couldn't go from anywhere to anywhere else without cruising through at least one arc of The Round. It seemed like we were in perpetual motion around The Round.
The Round encompasses a hillock, at the summit of which stands the magnificent temple complex dedicated to Lord Vadakunnathan, surrounded by a massive stone compund wall. Spread across 9 acres , this multi shrine complex is a notified National Monument and is a treasurehouse of traditional keraleeya art. The exquisite Koothambalam ( dance hall) has a rich collection of finely carved wooden motifs, while the murals on the shrine walls, illustrating episodes of Mahabharata, are a feast for the eyes. Rich details, dynamic postures, vibrant hues.
Of the many shrines, three are considered premier : Siva, Shankaranarayana and the two storied shrine of Rama. In the central Siva temple, the original Sivalingam, instituted by Parasurama, is no longer visible as it is covered in a 15 ft. high mound of what looks like snow. It is Ghee, poured over as ablution for centuries and solidified into an astounding stalagmite. The imposing mound is decorated with golden crescents and snake hood ornaments.
I noticed worshippers performing some unique rituals while making the rounds of the various shrines. They tapped on a wooden plank by the doorway, ostensibly to wake up a napping Nandi who is supposed to register every pilgrim's attendance ! Some were placing small stones near a minor shrine, which they claimed was symbolic of laying their burden of troubles at the feet of god. They also showed us three spots within the compound from where we could "courier" our salutations to Viswanatha of Kasi, Nataraja of Chidambaram and Ramanatha of Rameswaram ! Instant delivery guaranteed.
Two things are Big in Trissur. One is Gold . Seems like, every third shop is a jewelry store. We gathered that 75% of the state's gold jewelry is made in Trissur. As a young girl, i used to have a Thrissur made gold Chocker necklace. It was a " dog- collar " model with three rows of tiny gold droplets dangling from a broad " belt". These droplets shook and shimmered with the slightest movement of the head. Though it looked chunky, it was actually lightweight. Clever and delicate workmanship.
The other big thing is Actor Mohanlal . Huge hoardings and graffitti ads. of the superstar plugging everything from jewelry to ayurvedic potions to housing projects to beedis are all over the place.
But the original superstar of the place has to be Shakthan Tampuran Raja Rama Varma, who built the present city from scratch, after the little outpost was sacked by Tipu Sultan. The king was instrumental in bringing in and settling a large population of Syrian Christians who developed many business enterprises and made the city prosper. He also prepared the ground for Thrissur becoming the cultural capital of God's Own Country. Today, The Kerala Sahitya Akademi, The State Sangeeth Nataka Akademy, Lalitha Kala Akademi are all headquartered here. And BTW, no taxi driver will let pass a chance to inform you that the very first movie projector in the whole state was installed in Trissur's Jose Theatre. And everyone is quite proud of the fact that India's second largest Convention Centre is also located here.
The Shakthan Thampuran Palace, now an impressive museum, is located close to the Vadakunnathan temple. The king's reign is described as a golden age, as he was an able administrator, daring visionary and a ruthlessly just ruler.
We found that other than the circular road, most streets within the city were rather narrow. But we dint notice any road rage or unruly driving. And it was nice to see that most people on the streets carried a newspaper or a book under their arms. I presume , waiting time anywhere is never wasted.
When in Thrissur, we were enticed by acquaintances to try out the famous Ashtavaidya shala called Thaikatmoos. Thats the name of a family of Royal Physicians to the ancient Zamorins of Malabar. They have made a name and earned worldwide goodwill for their scrupulous following of the ancient Indian methods of healing and medication.
As we were not ailing of even a common cold at that point of time, we dint visit. But indexed the name for future use , when aged bones start creaking ! After all, Gods Own Country has today become the Mecca for ayurvedic spa treatments.