Art & Culture

Amid rising Corona cases in Kerala; annual Hindu festival Thrissur Pooram to take place with few restrictions

Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja briefed the media today about how the event cannot be canceled at the last minute, even though the state’s health officials are against it. Kerala is currently facing a covid surge with the all-time highest cases being reported. Religious appeasement politics is being put above the health of the public.

Thrissur Pooram is an annual Hindu festival that is held in Kerala on the Pooram day—the day when the moon rises with the Pooram star in the Malayalam Calendar month of Medam. It is the largest and most famous of all poorams that take place in “God’s Own Country “Kerala. Poorams are festivals that are usually celebrated in the honor of goddess Durga or Kali. Grand processions of elephants richly decorated, traditional music, stalls selling various paraphernalia, and large crowds irrespective of their religious belief are some of the highlights of this Hindu festival.

This year’s Thrissur Pooram is scheduled to take place on the 23rd of April at a time when Corona cases are reaching an all-time high (13,000 cases recorded yesterday) and the positivity rate is 17%. Last year it was canceled and a mere symbolic ritual was conducted in a temple.

Amid speculations of it to be canceled Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja said that there was a downward trend earlier during election time, and permission to conduct the Thrissur Pooram was also given considering the dip in cases. The same cannot be canceled now at the last minute as it will create a lot of hardships. She said that only those who test negative for the virus and have taken the vaccination will be allowed to take part. People vaccinated with a single dose will be allowed too with a negative RT-PCR test.

“Many preparations have been made for the festival, so it is not possible to cancel it entirely. It will cause many problems. Clear instructions have been given to conduct it with caution which the Devaswom committee has been agreed to. Even those who test negative should still wear masks, apply sanitizers and keep as much distance as possible from each other,” the minister said.

The collector of the district said that more people will be vaccinated for the festival. This is mere optics as a vaccinated person will need at least 15 days to develop the required antibodies. Unfazed by the pandemic more passes (numbering 500) are being demanded by various temple organizations and a relaxation in certain restrictions, which is very dangerous amidst the situation prevailing.

Bowing down to the pressure from Devaswom (temple management organizations) rules are being relaxed, the celebrations will be conducted with the usual parade of richly caparisoned jumbos and performance of traditional music and there will be no restriction on the number of people attending it. This all contrary to the government’s own rules which limit attendance to public events to 200 people. The government has also brazenly permitted for fireworks to be used when it is a known fact that pollution can cause the virus to spread rapidly. Stalls will be allowed to be set up too which can result in crowding.

The district medical officer (DMO) K J Reena is dead against it and said to the media that she expects the government to rethink its decision due to the pandemic surging ahead at a break-neck speed. She said, “I don’t think any government will play with the lives of the people. If it does, we are inviting grave danger. We will have to re-open the Covid-19 Frontline Treatment Centres. Our efforts of the last one-and-a-half-years will go waste.” Later on she retracted and denied opposing to the festival instead said she just wanted it to take place with necessary protocols.

Religious appeasement politics in Kerala:

The North has always been blamed for bringing religion into politics, while this facade of Southern politics being development-oriented always propagated to us. This lie sustained itself due to the linguistic divide but in reality, Kerala politics is as cate-religion centric as the North is. English media sitting in their elite Luteyns clubhouses and Noida based studios always propogate Kerala to be a model state with rational thinking and scientific temparment, which is an absolute lie. All political parties have thier own vote bank based upon caste and religion.

The Pooram festival became a poll issue when, UDF candidate and daughter of former Chief Minister K Karunakaran, Padmaja Venugopal, went on a hunger strike late last month demanding that the district administration give a written word that the Thrissur Pooram will be held this year without restrictions.

Also, the organizing committees had started putting pressure on the government to allow the festival in its usual grandeur in early March before Kerala went to vote. Congress and BJP extended their support to the demand then. The organizers knew that the LDF government cannot ignore their demand, especially in the backdrop of the Lok Sabha poll setback the front had suffered in 2019 because of the public anger over its Sabarimala gamble. Hence the LDF government caved in and permitted the festival.

Truly Kerala is “God’s own country “where for small political gains religious politics is being used at a time of humanitarian crisis. This at a time when Kumbh Mela is being labeled as super spreader by the same parties, while they are allowing large gatherings down south under their governance to get ” interest ” on thier own vote bank. Also, the silence of certain media sections speaks volumes about their biased reporting. This festival along with Kumbh should not be allowed to take place in such a grand manner, a mere simple and plain symbolic ritual just like last year could have been allowed.

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