THRISSUR (Trichur), a bustling market hub and temple town roughly midway between Kochi (74km south) and Palakkad (79km northeast) on the NH-47, is a convenient base for exploring the cultural riches of central Kerala. Close to the Palghat (Palakkad) Gap – an opening in the natural border made by the Western Ghat mountains – it presided over the main trade route into the region from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. For years Thrissur was the capital of Cochin state, controlled at various times by both the Zamorin of Kozhikode and Tipu Sultan of Mysore.
Today, Thrissur derives most of its income from remittance cheques sent by expatriates in the Gulf – hence the predominance of ostentatious modern houses in the surrounding villages. As the home of several influential art institutions, the town also prides itself on being the cultural capital of Kerala. One of the state’s principal Hindu temples, Vadukkunnathan, is here too, at the centre of a huge circular maidan that hosts all kinds of public gatherings, not least Kerala’s most extravagant, noisy and sumptuous festival, Puram.