Thrissur Pooram, one of Kerala's most famous festivals, began Tuesday morning as thousands of people gathered to witness the visual extravaganza.
The festivities include participation of caparisoned elephants, a midnight fireworks display, parasol exchanges and drum concerts.
The festival is a heady mixture of pomp and pageantry, and is celebrated every year in the month of 'Medam' (mid-April to mid-May) as per the Malayalam calender. It was introduced by King Sakthan Thampuran of the erstwhile Kochi state in the late 18th century.
A large number of foreign tourists were also watching patiently various events unfolding in the 36-hour-long festival.
The participating temples include the Vadakunnathan temple, the Krishna temple at Thiruvambadi, and the Devi temple at Paramekkavu. The festival is being held at the sprawling Thekkinkadu Maidan, a major venue of Thrissur Pooram.
A significant feature of the pooram festival is the participation of a cross section of people and elephants. The pachyderms emerge out in all their regalia with newly- fabricated caparisons.
The exhibition of the paraphernalia of elephant decorative, commonly known as 'Aana Chamayal pradarsanam', the spectacular show of 'Kudamattom' in which parasols of myriad numbers, designs and colours are exchanged by the people atop the 30 elephants.
Another event is the Panchavadyam in which about 200 artistes from the disciplines of thimila, maddalam, trumpet, cymbal and edakka participate. Then there is the Pandemelam where another 200 artistes in the disciplines of drum, trumpets, pipe and cymbal participate.
"This is something remarkable. I have been to numerous places across the globe but I'm yet to witness something like this. Everything appears as per schedule, and despite hot weather, none wants to go away. This is my first visit to Thrissur and now I know I have to be here every year," said British tourist Antony Gray.
Secularism is the hallmark of this festival as most of the pandals are the craft work of the experts from the Muslim community, and the CMS High School, owned by the North Kerala Diocese of CSI Church becomes the venue as the elephants take their place, before moving to the main stage.
Police have made elaborate security arrangements for successful conduct of the event.
Inspector General of Police S. Gopinath, in charge of the security arrangements at the festival, said 40 close-circuit television cameras have been installed at various places to keep an eye on the venue. He said there is also a helpline to help devotees and visitors.