Thrissur Pooram, billed as the "mother of all festivals" in Kerala, begins Monday. The grand finale, however, will be days later, with the fireworks display on Sunday.
The participating temples include the Vadakunnathan temple, where the Pooram (festival) is held, and two other temples, the Krishna temple at Thiruvambadi and the Devi temple at Paramekkavu.
The first official programme that signals the beginning of the festival starts when the flagpost is raised Monday, at the Thiruvambadi temple and immediately thereafter at the Paramekkavu temple.
The festival began to be celebrated in the late 18th century, and was started by Sakthan Thampuran, Maharaja of the erstwhile princely state of Kochi.
Sakthan Thampuran unified 10 temples around the Vadakunnathan temple and organised the first mass festival, which came to be called the Thrissur Pooram.
The most keenly watched event of the festival is the parading of more than 50 elephants and cracker displays, Sunday. The elephant parade and festivities last about 36 hours, and end in the early hours of the next day.
While the Pooram is held in the premises of the Vadakunnathan temple, the other two temples, Thiruvambadi and Devi temples at Paramekkavu, vie with each other in exhibiting their Pooram costumes, parading caparisoned elephants and "Kudamattam" (or colourful umbrellas atop the elephants), and fireworks display, leading to a grand finale.
Both the Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu Devasoms (religious trust or society) present several innovative patterns and varieties of fireworks every year. This year too, a marvellous display is expected, though its precise nature is usually a closely guarded secret.
The Thrissur Pooram sees the active participation of Muslims and Christians too.