Elephants are very much a part of the Kerala scene and the seething, exploding, Vivid Trichur Puram Festival, in April – May brings out 30 caparisoned behemoths in a temple competition unique to Kerala. Like a legendary medieval city, Trichur, 73 km from Cochin, is built around a central eminence crowed by the great Vadakkunathan temple. On Puram Day, teeming crowds pour into this ancient city and the gates of the temple are thrown open to all, regardless of caste or creed: a once –a-year opportunity to see the exquisite wood carvings, the murals and the impressive copper-roofed Koothambalam or temple auditorium.
That night there is an eye-dazzling display of fireworks that must be seen to be believed
The highlight of the Puram, however, is the Umbrella Competition. Two rows of 15 elephants, their heads heavily encrusted with gold visors, face each other across a sea of spectators. Cheered on by their teams, the elephant – mounted attendants raise colorful umbrellas, fashioned in year-long secrecy, to dazzle their rivals in spectacle, color and embellishment. Twelve or fifteen sets are displayed in succession by each side and the tension of the spectators is high till the decision is announced. That night there is an eye-dazzling display of fireworks that must be seen to be believed.