Tap the bell icon on the YouTube app And never miss out on unique stories from 101India It’s Rosh And I’m taking you all the way into the land of Massive elephants, Traditional temples Incredible food and culture The mother of all festivals Thrissur Pooram Bam! For the next few days, I’m in Thrissur Not as a tourist, but as someone who will take you All The Way into Thrissur Pooram Thrissur Pooram is the busiest day for the folks here You just barged into my room? I don’t see the point of this damn camera I’m going to be meeting my crew The guy who is going to be taking me around Thrissur The cultural capital of Kerala, they live here So they know the place inside-out Thrissur Pooram is a showdown Between two major temples Known as The Paramekkavu And Thiruvambady temple It’s like an inter-temple Game of Thrones But instead of dragons, we have elephants And what better way to see it than to tag along with the star of the festival Shivasundar! No, that’s not him This is Chandrettan, my ticket to meet Shivasundar When you think of pets You imagine dogs and cats But over here, they think big And there he is Shivasundar The thoroughbred Malayali superstar It’s not everyday that you get to bathe an elephant And Chandrettan, Shivasundar’s inseparable mahout for over a decade Had invited me to do just that Don’t get me wrong Although I’m looking all cool and composed My balls have shrunk I’m terrified with the prospect of giving this giant an all out shower This is how he drinks water They put a straw in his mouth He drinks gallons and gallons of water And it’s all dropping out We’re going all the way and giving Shivasundar the bath of his life He’s one dirty elephant But he’s stunning looking I’m scrubbing his ass clean! There is a rhythm to cleaning an elephant’s trunk The trunk is so beautiful It can pick up a needle and tear a human in two bits Or it can pull a tree trunk out of its roots It’s that powerful and that precise It’s said that only if an elephant has 18 toenails, it is beautiful It takes it into the league of its own if has 18 toenails It was fun as hell Plus it sorted out my morning bath as well So Shivasundar’s girlfriend just walked in Well done man She’s well out of his league But I think he’s done well for himself, look at her He’s going for it, man Going for the genitalia Rosh? You want to? I’m good We’ve seen the mahout And the elephant So here’s the guy who owns the elephant Padmashri Sundar Menon 45 years old And how old was he when you bought him? 13 years ago I bought him in 2003 And then offered him to the temple Captive elephants and their use by temples has been a touchy subject Controversy has been raging regarding the mistreatment of elephants Even Pamela Anderson had written to the Chief Minister of Kerala Urging him to ban the parading of elephants And use cardboard cutouts instead But from what I can see, these guys really take care of their elephants After the bath, Shivasundar will be joined by his friend She was also donated to the temple by her owner And there’s Laxmi I thought she’s his girlfriend But temple elephants are supposed to be celibate Sorry, Shiv! From the looks of it, I can see the elephants have Sundarji’s unconditional love Like a close knit family It was time to march alongside the freshened up elephants To their affiliated temple – Thiruvambady Where Shivasundar and Laxmi will offer their prayers to the presiding deity Shivasundar and Laxmi, both the elephants They’ve now done their rounds in the temple And now they’re coming out I don’t know how they fit in this temple but it’s beautiful the way it happens They go in, they do a round, they bow They pray to the temple, they come out and walk to the next temple It’s amazing, they’re so well trained And on the other hand, I’m shitting bricks standing two feet away from them The prayers have been offered And Shivasundar will be resting for the big day tomorrow Only male elephants are allowed to participate in the Pooram So Laxmi can take it easy on this one Damn you, gender bias! In the meantime, I decided to walk around the city and soak in some of the festival And here it literally means ‘going around’ Because the city is built around a circle The age old Vadakkumnathan temple is at the epicenter of this circle In fact, the festival a dedication to the presiding deity at the Vadakkumnathan Lord Shiva The festival itself is the brainchild of Rama Varma Popularly known as Sakthan Thampuran Who was also the architect of modern Thrissur As I walked around I ran into these people digging holes into the ground I was told that they were digging it for the famed fireworks This is going to be filled with a f*ckton of gunpowder Fireworks and the elephant face-off are the main events put on by the two rival temples And the crowd decides who is the best The controversy regarding the powerful fireworks has toned down the spectacle Much to the dismay of the people here Thrissur is literally ‘Elly-land’, everywhere I go there are just elephants They’re like mushrooms, cropping out of everywhere Look to the left, there’s an elephant Straight, elephant. Right, elephant Choose a good card, mice Your business and future look promising When it comes to Pooram, only local elephants are used That means immigrant elephants from places like Bihar and Assam Do not get a chance to be in the spotlight It’s hot as f*ck out here and right now all I need is a cold beer It’s not as if I could order a chilled one like in Bombay Out here buying booze is an adventure itself It’s quite a process even to get one beer You can’t get liquor from any other store You have to get there And there so there are long lines I just want a f*cking beer man, that’s all I want The heat is getting to my head and I’m losing my shit The line is all the way around that corner One drunk dude offered to let me take his place for Rs. 20 The shit that people do for small amounts of money is ridiculous I understand Hindi a little No I don’t understand Hindi You don’t know? Do one thing, tell me what do you want me to do? Hindi, Hindi? Well, it’s Thrissur Pooram tomorrow, which is the biggest festival Happy day, Happy Pooram I’m trying to talk to you guys, but I guess you’ll find the guy behind me more entertaining This dude has taken it upon himself to ensure that I get into line How many? Eight In no time however, a scuffle broke out Because people were pissed off that we jumped the line Thankfully I don’t know Malayalam, because I was pretty sure Some of these people were cursing me with the choicest of Malayalam cuss words Finally, I got my beer Which, by the way, was warmer than the West Indies It was time to go back to my room and chill with the crew for the big day tomorrow So right now, we’re with the three main showstoppers of the Thiruvambady A side Which will be front of tonight’s procession We have Arjun, we have Shivasundar and we have Chandrashekhar They don’t let the public inside the premises Since the elephants will be parked within a limited area But thankfully, I had an all access pass Elephant culture is so massive and the build up is incredible The elephant is worshiped and admired and looked at with such awe One of the showstoppers is breaking wind and seriously excreting right now For the whole street to witness I’ll be asked to pick it up at some point Which I’ll politely decline Don’t be fooled by the chains Thinking that they are being mistreated or captured or something It’s just a way to keep them in control Because elephants, unlike other animals, are unpredictable They can do anything and when they’re among such massive numbers of people They have to be controlled Otherwise they are treated with absolute love and so much respect They are sacred, they are like a member of the family I was walking along with Shivasundar and his entourage For an important ritual known as the ‘Madathil Varavu’ An event that marks the beginning of the main festival day The elephants have entered the temple premises So this is Madathil Varavu The thiramba or the deity is mounted on the main elephant In this case, Shivasundar who will lead Thiruvambady temple’s elephant team It’s like a Tony-Stark-turning-into-Iron-Man moment for Shivasundar An exciting moment for his fans as well And the deity will stay mounted until the end of the festival To start the procession, this is a ‘kolam’ that they’ve put there Which is like the God of the Thiruvambady Temple You have to really rough it out Like move this dude So hot! The festival guidelines call for taking measures like watering the roads Where the processions take place Wet jute sacks under the elephant’s feet to cool them And mandatory breaks during which the elephants are fed and hydrated You can see people falling out of every nook and corner To watch this procession build up, it’s quite a scene So 3 of the 15 elephants of the Thiruvambady temple are here Decked up, completely dolled up They’re in the massive crowd of fans Cheering them up, building them up For the main procession, will start at 5 pm So I decided to head to the rival temple, Paramekkavu to see what’s happening there The place was crowded to the rim It looked like Paramekkavu was also warming up for the showdown And they are teasing the audience for what’s to come This is a sneak peak of the main showdown in the evening A family closely connected to the Paramekkavu temple Had invited me for serving ‘sambharam’ a.k.a. buttermilk They’ve been a part of this 100 year old tradition where they serve buttermilk To all the audience in the scorching heat Serving buttermilk to hundreds of people in the scorching heat I wanted to head back to meet Shivasundar But it was a real task, with this massive crowd milling around We’re now following my main man Shivasundar to the procession grounds Where he’ll prepare to be the main showstopper They want me to follow them, so I’m going to follow them The mahouts had asked me to stay close to them As it is, we had lost most of our crew in the crowd The mahouts didn’t want me to miss the real show 2…3…4… I’ll give it 6 seconds 5…6…7… Oh, that’s a big one! Bam! I proceeded to take a round within the Vadakkumnathan temple Where the elephants will pay their respects to Lord Shiva Before exiting for the main event The ‘Kudamattam’ I couldn’t help but notice that Sundarji had not left Shivasundar’s side since morning either He’ been leading the elephant by his tusks all along Although at one point all hell broke lose But kudos to the cops for keeping their shit together I can hear the crowd waiting at the other end of the tunnel I’ve been told that there are 150,000 people waiting at the other end of that tunnel It was absolutely breathtaking Shivasundar was like a rock star getting on stage in a stadium arena The moment of truth, we’ve finally come to that time We’re going to have the massive elephant face off The main attraction of Thrissur Pooram We have 10 elephants lined up, 5 more to come from Thiruvambady temple Then on the other side, we have 15 elephants from the Paramekkavu temple It’s expected to be absolutely crazy Just see this ocean of people cheering It’s so many people, you literally cannot breathe Hopefully I don’t get trapped in a stampede So the ‘Kudamattam’ or the show of ornamental umbrellas was in progress And there’s my main man Shivasundar right at the centre The umbrellas have been crafted by hundreds of artisans And the designs are secretly guarded until the showdown And the people are the judges Their excitement and cheers will decide the winner of this crazy spectacle This is where the ‘backstage’ is Where all the umbrellas are being passed on for the new rounds Every three minutes, a new umbrella round starts from both sides These are all the guys for the next 5 rounds already waiting They prepare well This is one of the umbrellas, look at it It’s not even an umbrella It’s Shiv, beautiful! This is what I promised earlier To show you the other side of Pooram All the way in! It’s almost 4 AM because the fireworks were delayed And everybody’s still out here eagerly waiting for the show to begin It was absolutely incredible All sorts of colours and the whole sky had lit up with firecrackers It was mindblowing I was told that it usually rains after the fireworks And it actually did Even though it’s a competition between two temples There are no real winners or losers here All in all, this has been one of the most phenomenal experiences To see such a massive gathering of people so excited About a festival rooted in their traditions Thrissur Pooram is over I’ve been here for a couple of days It’s been one hell of a ride My main man, Shivasundar is heading to another Pooram He’s being put in his private customised truck So this is it, this is the end of my journey My first time in Kerala I got to attend one of the most incredible festivals on the planet Thrissur Pooram With this stud-muffin Shivasundar One of the most celebrated and glorious elephants of India I really got to understand the elephant At his core, that’s how it feels And despite living in India, I’ve never come This close to an elephant in my life This close to an elephant in my life I’m definitely going to miss him And I think I’m going to come back to Kerala Next year for Thrissur Pooram To see this guy again, Shivasundar And ride his big hump Through the city with glory And experience the traditional temples The amazing food The hospitality of these guys was phenomenal 2018!