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Festivals of Kerala: Witness the Rich Traditions of God’s Own Country

12 mins. read

‘God’s Own Country,’ Kerala is righteously justifying this title with its abundant natural beauty, delectable cuisines, and rich culture. The state has many festivals that have their own distinct mood, fragrance, and music and also reflect the rich heritage it has carefully preserved.

The post mentions some of the top festivals of Kerala (in no particular order) to provide you with an insight into its cultural side.

Onam Festival

Onam Festival

The national festival of Kerala, Onam falls at the beginning of the month, Chingam, of the Malayalam calendar which is the months of August-September. Every festival that is celebrated across the country holds a special place in the hearts of people for some specific reason. However, Onam is one festival that is celebrated by every individual with great pomp and fervour across the state, irrespective of their social status. Also known as the ‘Harvest Festival of Kerala,’ it is celebrated to mark the coming of the king, Mahabali, who gave up his life for his people.

The celebration of this festival starts ten days before Thiru Onam, which is the most important day, and each day of the festival has its own importance. During Onam, people decorate their homes, offices, and shops with flowers intricately and that is called Pookalam. Besides, people pay a visit to temples, exchange gifts, and buy new clothes. An extremely important part of the Onam celebration is the Sadhya, which is the lunch on the day of Thiru Onam. This event is a great opportunity to experience and explore Kerala cuisine. This is because around 25-26 dishes are served during lunch.

Vishu Festival

One of the popular festivals of Kerala, Vishu marks the beginning of the new year which is celebrated in the month of Medam of the Malayalam calendar which is the month of April and usually falls between the days of 14th-16th. The legend has it that on the day of Vishu, Lord Krishna killed the demon Narakasur.

Vishu Kani is an important part of this festival. It includes an arrangement of several auspicious items such as gold, white cloth, yellow cucumber, mirror, coconut, a lamp, and an idol or image of Lord Krishna. It is deemed that Vishu Kani brings prosperity and good luck for the coming year. Besides, Vishu Kani, there is a ritual called Vishu Kaineetam, which includes giving money to others. Elders of the family give money to their children which are like a blessing and believed to bring prosperity for them. Vishu festival in Kerala is also known as the festival of fireworks and lights as bursting firecrackers is a part of the celebration.

Theyyam Festival

Almost 800 years old, Theyyam is a main festival of Kerala that reflects the rich and vibrant culture that ‘God’s Own Country’ has beautifully preserved. Theyyam is a form of dance worship that has over 450 types, all of them are performed by males, except the Devakoothu theyyam which is performed by females. Besides, Rakhta Chamundi, Kari Chamundi, Muchilottu Bhagavathi, and Wayanad Kulaven are some of the most significant and popular theyyam performances.

Performers are dressed as deities for the dance or invocation. This ritualistic dance is performed at the venue of the village shrine and doesn’t involve any stage or curtain. During the performance, the spectators stand very close to the performers who enact mythological stories. Therefore, this traditional festival of Kerala is also known as the ‘Dance of Gods.’

Attukal Pongala Festival

Attukal Pongala Festival

Celebrated in the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple in the month of February-March, this famous festival of Kerala is known to have women participants only. Although the festival lasts for ten days, the ninth day is the most important day. On the ninth day, thousands of women from across the state of Kerala visit the holy temple to participate in the ‘Pongala’ festival and also pay respect to the deity, Goddess Kannaki, a manifestation of Goddess Parvati. They come here dressed their best and cook Pongala, a sweet dish that is made using ingredients such as rice, coconut, banana, ghee, and jaggery. This sweet dish is offered to the Goddess.

The most beautiful thing about this festival is that it unites women from all religions and castes. The festival even holds the Guinness World Record for hosting the biggest union of females. The festival of Attukal Pongala starts with a musical rendition which is performed by the members of particular families who have been performing and narrating the story of the deity. After Kerala’s Onam, Attukal Pongala seems to be quite the main festival of Kerala.

Thrissur Pooram Festival

Having been celebrated for over 200 years now, Thrissur Pooram is one of the biggest festivals of Kerala. The festival is celebrated in the holy temple of Vadakkunnathan in Thrissur, every year on the day of Pooram, in the Malayalam month of Medam, which can be April/May. The day of Pooram, in the month of Medam, is the day when the moon rises with the Pooram star and is also known as the mother of all Poorams.

Many people know this festival as Kerala’s elephant festival. This is because people, on this day, sit on huge elephants that are caparisoned from head to toe. Watching these huge and humble creatures passing through the streets in rhythm on the beats of drums is a one-of-a-kind thing to experience. This vibrant festival reflects the rich musical heritage of the state. Besides, the traditional puja is a major highlight of this festival that lasts for almost three days. In the end, a long and spectacular firework is conducted that typically lasts for a few hours and ends this grand festival.

Makaravilakku Festival

The Makaravilakku festival is celebrated every year on the occasion of Makar Sankranti in the holy temple of Sabrimala, which is one of the most popular places to visit in Kerala. The temple of Sabrimala is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa who is also known as ‘Hari Hara Putra.’ The literal translation of ‘Hari Hara Putra’ is as follows – Hari is Vishnu, Hara is Shiva, and Putra is Son. The deity, during the festival, unites both Shaivites and Vaishnavites.

The seven-day festival starts on January 14 where you will get to witness religious processions of people who dress up in sacred attire and wear ornaments of Ayappan which are also called Thiruvabharanam. The festival ends with the ‘Guruthi’ ceremony, which is an offering to the deity of the temple. The entire program is organised and managed at the Ayyappa Temple in Sabrimala.

Thiruvathira Festival

Generally celebrated in December or January, Thiruvathira holds a special place in Kerala’s festival list. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this day is deemed as the most auspicious day in the year to worship Lord Shiva. Also popular as Arudhra Darisanam, Thiruvathira is widely celebrated in Tamil Nadu as well.

Speaking of the mythological significance behind this famous festival of Kerala, the day is believed to be the day when Goddess Parvati met Lord Shiva and he accepted her as his life partner. This festival holds great significance, especially among unmarried women. They keep fast on this auspicious day and pray to Shiva for getting a good life partner. On this day, temples are decorated with great zest and several rituals and traditions are performed in temples. Devotees of Lord Shiva visit temples in great numbers to seek his blessings. On the occasion of Thiruvathira, people can witness the Thiruvathirakali dance in temples performed by women and listen to the folk songs dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

Kerala Boat Festival

Kerala Boat Festival

Several cultural activities take place during the ten days of Onam Celebration in Kerala and one of them is the world-famous Kerala boat race. The magnificent backwaters of Kerala are not just a prominent tourist attraction but also the main venue for exhilarating boat races. The state of Kerala hosts several boat races usually between July and September because the depth of backwaters increases due to rains. However, the most popular races are Champakulam Moolam Boat Race and Nehru Trophy Boat Race.

Snake boats are the eminent highlights of these races which are also known by the name of Chundan Vallams. These wonderful boats are typically 100-120-foot-long canoes that use wood in their make and are locally called ‘Anjili Thadi.’ With about 100 rowers in each boat, the race is pretty epic to witness. One can feel the electrifying ambience where people are cheering up loudly for their team to win the race. Another important part of this event is Vanchipattu, which is a kind of poetry in Malayalam that is recited during the race.

Christmas Festival

About a quarter of Kerala’s population is Christian which makes the festival of Christmas quite prominent across the state. While almost every individual knows why Christmas is celebrated, it is more important to learn how it is celebrated all over Kerala.

Being one of the main festivals celebrated in Kerala, people celebrate it with great passion. They make a crib for baby Jesus, shop, decorate their homes with lights and a Christmas tree, prepare delicious dishes, attend Christmas mass to greet each other and visit the church to offer prayers. On the day of Christmas, churches here showcase important events from the life of Jesus Christ with Christmas carols and hymns in the background that add to the festive mood. In the evening, many carol groups in different areas visit residents of locals with Santa Claus where Santa dances and sings with children and distributes gifts. After participating in the Christmas mass, people relish the homemade plum cake with homemade wine.

Arattu Festival

Aaraattu or Arattu is a popular festival of Kerala which refers to the holy bath of Lord Padmanabhan. It is more of a ritual than a festival that is performed during the festival of Painkuni in Padmanabaswamy temple.

The thing that makes this festival pretty unique is that the idols of the lord are still escorted by the head of the Travancore royal family, in his traditional attire during the procession to the beach of Shanghumugham. It is one of the festivals of Kerala that is celebrated twice a year. First, the spring festival that is conducted in the months of March-April and second, the autumn festival that is held between the months of October-November.

For cultural aficionados, the state of Kerala is no less than a paradise. The excitement is not just limited to festivities, the state has a lot in store for you. Right from tranquil beaches, backwaters, and verdant wildlife sanctuaries to stunning hill stations in Kerala, you are sure to gather many memorable moments here.

February 12, 2022


Veena World
Veena World

We are an Indian travel company founded in 2013 and excel at domestic and international tour packages including guided group tours, specialty tours, customized holidays, corporate MICE travel, inbound travel and destination weddings.

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