Sree Poornathrayeesa temple, Thripunithura, Kerala - row over elephants' parade during festival 2021

 The famous Vrishchikolsavam festival is to take place soon at Sree Poornathrayeesa temple in Thripunithura, Kochi and the traditional  Seeveli  marks the opening of the  8 day temple festival.  As part of  this  ritual participation of a large number of elephants is a must.  The deity Thrayee signifies Rig, Yajur and Sama Vedas -  the God of the Three Vedas, hence the deity in the temple is known as Thrayeesha.  Participation of elephants is part of the worship protocol of this temple.


Seeveli at Thripunithura temple

Beginning on December 2 to December 8, 2021   the 8-day festival  ends on the Thiruvonam nakshatra day in Vrischikam month.    Also known as  Anguradi festival,the main event is   Ezhunnallippu (procession of the utsava murti of the temple atop than elephant).  Caparisoned elephants  (Number varies) accompany the deity with Panchari Melam  and the ritual lasts a few hours. 

Thripunithura,, Kerala

Above image: The main deity in Srikovil/ sanctum is Maha Vishnu (Santhana Gopala) in rare sitting posture. Never have I seen a Sri Vishnu temple in states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Karnataka with  Sri Vishnu in the sitting posture  .Sepent  Adisheha with this 5- headed hood fom the cover for the lord over his head...........

Sree Poornathrayeesa temple in Thripunithura,

The crux of the  matter is the decision by the authorities to  permit 11 elephants to be paraded at the  temple in  Thripunithura, has  shaken the hornet's nest  with objections being raised by a member of the Elephant Monitoring Committee. The decision was in violation of  guidelines issued by the Kerala High Court and the Supreme Court, according to  a member of the   committee who alerted the Ernakulum Collector. The arbitrary decision taken over participation of elephants is  tantamount to  contempt of court.

Location map, Thripunithura, Kerala

On Nov. 22 the district administration made a decision not to increase the  number of elephants to be paraded in the festival. ''The High Court and the Supreme Court had  made  it clear that ''the district Elephant Monitoring Committee was the sole agency which could decide on all matters related to parading of elephants.''   The collector by issuing permission for parading 11 elements has run into rough weather and  is being criticized  for violating the court decision. His decision. the  collector  said,  was within the purview of duties entrusted by the Monitoring committee. 

The Thripunithura temple had permission to parade 15 elephants for the temple rituals, but  only  the administration allowed 7 elephants. The temple authorities made a request to allow 15  citing customary practice. Finally only 11 elephants were allowed to be participated  in the festival as the COVID threat is yet to come down in Kerala and the now the medical officials are getting ready  to deal with the new threat of  Omicron.  

During  last year Vrischikolsavam festival  from  14 to 22 November 2020  only three elephants were paraded and it  was mentioned  that  the assistant conservator of forests (ACF) failed to enforce the order.   Tripunithura  Poornathrayeesa Temple Advisory Committee  got into hot water for alleged violation of restrictions on elephant parade. With respect to  District Collector's action  he had accorded sanction to parade elephants under the Disaster Management Act. The forest department can register an FIR only in case of violation of captive elephant rules. That time Kerala government followed the COVID -19 restrictions protocol.

In this famous temple where the presiding  deity is Sri Vishnu is seen in a sitting posture  with  serpent Adisheha  forming the cover for the lord with his hood.   The God  is fond of elephants, participation of a large number of elephants for  Seevali ritual has been in vogue for decades. Only in the last two years, the festivities and participants in the temple function are very much restricted  as a  precaution against COVID -19.