THIS TOWN, built around an elevated area called The Round, was planned during the reign of Raja Rama Varma, the ruler of Cochin (Kochi) in the 18th century. In the heart of The Round is the multiroofed Vadakkunnathan Temple. This great Shiva temple was built in the 9th century, and has superb woodcarvings and rich decorative murals. The splendid Pooram festival is held here each year, with the main activities taking place outside the temple walls (non-Hindus are not permitted inside the shrine). Northeast of the temple is the State Museum, displaying a good collection of murals, woodcarvings, sculpture and antique ornaments. The Archaeological Museum is nearby.

Thrissur is often dubbed Kerala’s cultural capital as the town is home to two prestigious state-run cultural institutions. These are the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy (for music and theatre) and the Kerala Sahitya Academy (for literature). The town suffered political upheavals for centuries, having been successively ruled by the Zamorins of Kozhikode  Tipu Sultan of Mysore and the rulers of Kochi. The Dutch and the British have also made their presence felt in the history of this district, as is evident from the many impressive churches, such as the late 19th-century Lourdes Cathedral, around the town.

ENVIRONS: Guruvayur, 29 km (18 miles) north of Thrissur, has Kerala’s most popular temple. Legend has it that the 16th-century Shri Krishna Temple was created by Gurus (“Instructor of the Gods”), and Vayu (“Gods of the Winds”). A large number of Hindu weddings take place here. The temple’s elephant sanctuary is within the compound of an old palace nearby. It houses more than 40 elephants that belong to the deity – it is customary to present an elephant as an offering.

The renowned performing arts and teaching centre, the Kerala Koala Mandalain, is 32 km (20 miles) northeast of Thrissur. Founded in 1930 by the famous Malayali poet, Vallathol Narayan Menon, at Cheruthuruthy, it offers intensive training in Kathakali, Mohiniattain and Koodiyattam dance forms. Instrumental and vocal music forms are taught here as well. The complex also has a large natyagriha (dance hall) for performances.

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