Thrissur

The cultural capital of Kerala, Thrissur is synonymous with the world famous and spectacular Pooram Festival. The abode of several prominent culture centres including the Kerala Kalamandalam, Sahitya Academy and Sangeetha Nataka Academy, Thrissur has an extraordinarily rich past as well as a vibrant present.

It is also a center for learning for some of the exquisite performing arts of Kerala as well as ancient Indian knowledge systems like Ayurveda. Thrissur has some of the popular Hindu Temples in Kerala, and the temple city of Guruvayur is a popular pilgrim center.

From ancient times, this district with its cultural heritage and archaeological wealth has played a significant role in the political history of South India. Many rulers and dynasties beginning with the Zamorins of Kozhikode, Tipu Sultan of Mysore and Europeans including the Dutch and the British have had a hand in molding the destiny of this region. Raja Rama Varma popularly known as Sakthan Thampuran is the architect of the present Thrissur town.

History

History of Thrissur has played a prominent role in carving the district as it is today. Thrissur derived its name from “Thiru-Shiva-Perur” which when translated means “ The City of Sacred Siva”. The region is built around a hillock, crowned by famous Vadakkunathan (Siva) temple which is believed to be founded by the legend Parasurama, who is said to have reclaimed Kerala from the sea by throwing an axe.

The place has played an important role in shaping the political and social perspectives of the region. Thrissur had witnessed the  rise and fall of various dynasties that include the Chera and Kulasekaharas in the 12th century , Zamorins in the 14th and 15th century followed by the Mughals (Tippu Sultan), Portugese, Dutch and British.

The history of Thrissur is interlinked with the Cheras of the Sangam age, who ruled over vast portions of Kerala with their capital at Vanchi. From the 9th to the 12th century Kulasekharas of Mahodayapuram took over the rule and from the 12th century onwards the history was of Perumpadappu Swarupam. The Perumpadappu Swarupam had its headquarters at Mahodayapuram. Central Kerala was the control of the Perumpadappu Moopil, known as the ‘Kerala Chakravarthi’.

In the 14th and 15th centuries the Zamorins of Calicut managed to occupy a large part of the present Thrissur district. Kodungalloor, the old harbor of India, attracted European powers to Kerala for trading spices and other commodities.

In the consequent centuries the European powers dominated the scene. In the start of 15th century, the Portuguese came and by the beginning of the 17th century the Dutch and the English appeared on the panorama and challenged the Portuguese. Internal conflict in the Perumpadappu Swarupam helped the Dutch to establish their domination in Kerala coast. Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan figured very prominent in the northern part of Kerala during that period.

In the medieval age, the region prospered in culture and became home to communities including Jews, Christians and Muslims. The world’s second oldest mosque namely, Cheraman Juma Masjid which is believed to be built in 628AD, seven years after the Prophet’s migration to Medina is located at Methala in Kodungalloor in Thrissur.
Moreover, Thrissur is also the house of India’ oldest Church, St. Thomas Church Palayur. The Church is believed to be built in AD 52 by the renowned Christian missionary, St. Thomas who spread Christianity in India.

Thrissur is also the home town to the great Hindu Saint, Adi Shankara. It is believed that Adi Shanakara was born in answer to the prayer made by his mother in Vadakkunnathan Temple. His disciples have established four Madhoms (mutts) in the city, namely the Northern Madhom, the Middle Madhom, the In-Between Madhom and Southern Madhom. Adi Shanakara after travelling several places spreading his teachings came back to Thrissur and spent his last days here.

Thrissur also gave birth to the renowned mathematician and astronomist, Aryabhata. He is believed to be born in Kodungallor of Thrissur district.

With the decline of Jainism and Buddhism as a result of growing Brahminism, Thrissur became an important center of Sanskrit learning and house for several sacred shrines.

The architecture of modern Thrissur is Raja Rama Varma, the enlightened ruler of Cochin who ascended the throne in 1790. Shaktan Thampuran, as he is popularly known, revived the cultural heritage of the region and built it up as the main commercial center of Kerala.

Thrissur for years hosts the famous pooram “Thrissur Pooram” (Grand Assembly of Gods and Goddess  from various villages and towns) which is known as the mother of all poorams. It is a festival that continues non-stop for 36 hours with over 100 elephants till the final fireworks marks an end. UNESCO has adjudged Thrissur Pooram as “the most spectacular festival event on the planet”.

Travel Guide

If you are planning to visit Thrissur, then you can reach by air from any part of India or International destination and by rail or road from any part of India.

By Road

You can access Thrissur by well connected and maintained road transport system. Thrissur has got several bus depots that connect you to other parts of the State and major cities of neighboring states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The main Bus Terminal is situated at the middle of the city and provides bus services for short routes.

You can access to Thrissur by hiring a cab or tourist bus through the well maintained road from any part of the country. The connected road in Thrissur will offer you an easy drive to all tourist spots.

The sign boards throughout the National Highway will guide you in and out of Thrissur city.

Distance in kilometers to Thrissur from major towns in Kerala

Guruvayur – 27 km

Palakkad – 65 km

Kochi – 71 km

Alappuzha – 130 km

Kumarakom – 131 km

Kottayam – 135 km

Kollam-229 km

Varkala- 254 km

Trivandrum-282 km

By Train

Almost all major trains passing through the region halts at the Thrissur railway Station. You can reach Thrissur from any part of India. The railway tracks of Thrissur will connect you to all parts of India. If you prefer to travel to nearby destinations in Thrissur, you can prefer local trains and to travel to other parts of the country, prefer express trains. The Railway station is well equipped to make your exploration by train comfortable.

By Air

You can access Thrissur easily by air. The nearest airport is Nedumbassery (Cochin) International Airport which is located 58 kilometers from Thrissur. Kozhikode (Calicut) airport is about 80kms from the city.

On Departure at Nedumbassery airport, you can cover the distance to Thrissur by a privately hired cab or public transport buses. The international airport is well equipped with all infrastructural facilities to make your trip memorable.

You can find daily flights operating to and from Delhi, Bangalore, Calicut, Mumbai and Chennai at Nedumbassery International Airport.

What to see and experience in and around Thrissur 

Thrissur Pooram

The most colorful temple festival of Kerala, Thrissur Pooram attracts large masses of devotees and spectators from all parts of the country and even abroad. Celebrated in Medom (April-May) it consists of processions of richly caparisoned elephants from various neighboring temples to the Vadakumnathan temple, Thrissur. The most impressive processions are those from the Krishna Temple at Thiruvambadi and the Devi Temple at Paramekkavu which is quite a significant event for its devotees.

This festival was introduced by Sakthan Thampuran, the Maharaja of the erstwhile Kochi State. Perhaps, there is no other festival in Kerala that draws such an unbelievable number of people to a single event. However Vadakumnathan is a mere spectator at this festival, lending its premises and grounds for the great event. The pooram festival is also well known for the magnificent display of fireworks. Fireworks start in the early hours and the dazzling display lasts three to four hours.

The pooram festival is celebrated by two rival groups representing the two divisions of Thrissur; Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi vying with each other in making the display of fireworks grander and more colorful. Each group is allowed to display a maximum of fifteen elephants and all efforts are made by each party to secure the best elephants in South India and the most artistic parasols, several kinds of which are raised on the elephants during the display. Commencing in the early hours of the morning, celebrations last till the break of dawn, the next day.

The procession of the Thiruvambadi Pooram to the grounds of Vadakumnathan Temple and back is not only important, but also quite enlivening. The marvelous as well as magical effect of the Panchavadyam, a combination of five percussion and wind instruments is to be felt and enjoyed.

Vadakumnathan Temple: 
One of the oldest temples in the State, the Vadakumnathan Temple is a classic example of the Kerala style of architecture and has many decorative murals and pieces of art. This is the venue of the world famous Pooram festival celebrated annually in April-May. The fireworks at the Pooram are a spectacular sight. Non Hindus are not allowed entry into the temple. (Open: 04:00 – 10:30 am & 05:00 – 08:30 pm).

Archaeological Museum:
Open from 1000 – 1700 hrs on all days except Mondays and national holidays. Located on the Zoo compound, the art museum displays collections of wood carvings, metal sculptures and ancient jewellery. (Open 1000 – 17 00 hrs on all days except Mondays).

Town Hall:
Houses the Picture Gallery where mural paintings from all parts of Kerala are on display.

Arattupuzha:

This village is known for the annual pooram festival at the temple in April/May. The uniqueness of this festival is the ceremonial processions carrying the images of the deities of 41 neighboring temples to this village.

St. Mary’s Forane Church, Koratty (15 km from Cochin International Airport):
Also known as the Church of Koratty Muthy, this was established in 1381. The annual feast falls on the Saturday and Sunday following the 10th of October, during which the statue of Koratty Muthy is taken out in a procession from the church. An important offering here is the poovankula (bunch of plantain).

Guruvayur (29 km west of Thrissur):
Guruvayur is one of the most sacred and important pilgrim centers of Kerala. Its main attraction is the Sree Krishna Temple. This historic temple is shrouded in mystery. According to belief, the temple is the creation of Guru, the preceptor of the Gods, and Vayu, the God of winds. The east nada is the main entrance to the shrine. In the Chuttambalam (outer enclosure) is the tall 33.5 m high gold plated Dwajasthambam (flag-post). There is also a 7 m high Dipastambham (pillar of lamps), whose thirteen circular receptacles provide a truly gorgeous spectacle when lit. The square Sreekovil is the sacred sanctum sanctorum of the temple, housing the main deity. Within the temple there are also the images of Ganapathy, Lord Ayyappa and Edathedattu Kavil Bhagavathy. Only Hindus are allowed inside the temple.

Irinjalakuda Koodal Manikyam Temple (21 km from Thrissur):
Situated 10 kilometer away from Irinjalakuda railway station, this ancient temple is dedicated to Lord Bharatha, the brother of Sri Rama. It is perhaps the only temple in India with Bharatha as the deity. The colourful eleven day annual festival with a pageant of thirteen caparisoned elephants is held in April/May. The festival in this temple marks the end of the Hindu temple festival season in Kerala. (Open: 03:30 – 11:30 am & 05:00 – 08:30 pm)

Kerala Kalamandalam, Cheruthuruthy (32 km north of Thrissur):
Cheruthuruthy is the seat of the Kerala Kalamandalam, renowned the world over for its Kathakali training centre. The music and dance academy was founded by the famous poet, Vallathol Narayana Menon. Training in Kathakali, Mohiniyattom, Thullal and other art forms of Kerala is imparted here. Cultural programmes are also arranged.

Ariyannoor Temple, Kandanisserry:
This temple has a carved entrance gable which has been compared to the wooden sculptures of American artist Louise Nevelson. The Siva temple at Thiruvanchikulam as well as the Sri Krishna temple at Thirukulashekharapuram is believed to be monuments from the 9th century.

Shakthan Thampuran Palace: 
Also known as Palace Thoppu, the campus covers an area of 6 acres. Here you can see three shavakudeerams (tombs) including that of Shakthan Thampuran, the greatest ruler of the Cochin dynasty.

Saint Thomas Memorial, Kodungalloor:
St. Thomas is believed to have landed in Kodungalloor (formerly called Muziris) in 52 AD. The St. Thomas Church established by him houses ancient relics.

Cheraman Juma Masjid, Kodungalloor:
Located 2 km from Kodungalloor town, this mosque resembles a Hindu temple in appearance. Built in 629 AD, this is the first mosque in India and the second in the world where Juma prayers were started. Other places of interest nearby include the ancient Thiruvanchikulam Temple, Cheramanparambu, the Bhagavathi Temple and the Portuguese Fort.

Peechi dam (20 km east of Thrissur):
This picnic spot offers boating facilities. There are frequent private buses from Thrissur to Peechi Dam.

Punnathoorkotta (2 km from Guruvayoor):
This home of 50 temple elephants offers unusual spectacles of the gentle pachyderm.

Athirapally (63 km from Thrissur):

At the entrance to the Sholayar ranges, this 80 foot high waterfall is a popular picnic spot. The Athirapally falls join the Chalakudy river after plummeting down. The cool spray that covers a large area near the falls makes Athirapally a scenic location.

Vazhachal (68 km from Thrissur):
Just a short drive from Athirapally, this picturesque waterfall is close to dense green forests and is a part of the Chalakudy river. Athirapally and Vazhachal are the most famous waterfalls of Kerala which attract tourists in plenty.