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KERALA FESTIVALS
 
 
KERALA - Festivals
 
The colorful mosaic of Kerala festivals and fairs is as diverse as the land, is an expression of the spirit of celebration, that is an essential part of the State. Observed with enthusiasm and gaiety, festivals are like gems, ornamenting the crown of Kerala tradition and culture. Round the year the fests keep Kerala life vibrant and interludes in the mundane affairs of life.

Every season turns up new festivals, each a true celebration of the bounties of nature. The festivals exhibits an eternal harmony of spirit. Packed with fun and excitement, festivals are occasions to clean and decorate houses, to get together with friends and relatives and to exchange gifts.New attire, dance, music and ritual, all add to their joyful rhythm. It is a time for prayer, for pageantry and processions.....a time to rejoice.

 
Vishu Read More
 
Onam - The National Festival of Kerala Read More
Kerala's most important festival, honouring King Mahabali, a mythological king of ancient Kerala, whose period was reckoned as the golden age in the history of the state. He was the embodiment of virtues, goodness, so was his regime which was marked by equality and harmony among people.

   
The golden age was abruptly ended when Mahabali was unseated by Vamana, the dwarf incarnation of Vishnu. However, Vamana was lenient to accede Mahabali's request that he be permitted to visit the land and his people once a year. The time allowed for the visit was the 10th day in the month of Chingam, ( first Malayalam month, August-September). His visit is celebrated as Onam which sync with the harvest season in Kerala.

The 10-days festival is supposed to begin from the lunar asterism Atham and culminate in asterism Thiruvonam.

 
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Onam is marked by festivity. Keralites bash up the day. Flower carpet is being prepared in the front yard of every house. Special prayers are offered in temples. . Delicious dinner is the USP of Onam celebration. Traditional food is served on plantain leaves. An emotional string is attached to this festival since Keralites living elsewhere in the world make it a point to reach their native place to join the gala.

The State Tourism Department has arranged several programmes to tap the tourism potential of the season. A snake boat race is organized in Alappuzha Punnamada lake. State's ethnic art forms are being presented in all important towns in the state during the festival.

   
Thrissur Pooram
The most spectacular spectacle in the state. This festival was introduced by Sakthan Thampuran, the Maharaja of erstwhile Kochi state. Celebrated in Medom (April-May) the festival parades the fulgent faces of Kerala culture. With every passing year Tthrissur Pooram, the temple festival, attracts large masses of devotees and spectators.

Of the groups displaying their artistic prowess in the Pooram, the prominent are Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi. When Paremekkavu and Thiruvambadi vie each other for their best performance, the connoisseurs of festivals are blessed with the rare chance to enjoy Kerala's art and culture.These temples organise impressive, awe inspiring processions starting from Krishna temple and Devi temple.

Thrissur Pooram
On the day before the closing of the pooram the groups enter the Vadakumnatha temple through the western gate and come out through the southern gate to parade themselves, face to face.Caparisoned elephants and the exchange of parasols are other virtual feast to eyes.
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The hours-long dazzling fire works submerge the Thrissur city in an ocean of colour. The consummate pyrotechnics exhibited by the two temple groups paint the Thrissur sky with flamboyant pictures. What unfurls in the dark sky will be a rich tapestry. The marvelous as well as magical effect of the Panchavadyam, a combination of five percussion and wind instruments, is to be felt and enjoyed. Although this grand festival is known as Thrissur Pooram, it is in fact the conclusion of the eight day Utsavam of nine temples. The commissioning of elephants and parasols is done in the utmost secrecy by each party to excel the other. Commencing in the early hours of the morning, the celebrations last till the break of dawn, the next day.
 
Aranmula Uthrittathi
Jalolsavams evoke the waves of enthusiasm in the minds of Southern Keralites. its history is flirting with, paddling with river gods. Down the years the boat race has accrued sporting value and tourism importance. For ages, Keralites have cherished a reverential attitude to rivers. It is the apt time for Keralites to hold the Jalotsavam (water-carnivals). Boat race is in a way a display of physical might of the people who forget their differences in partaking of this sport.

The famous snake boat carnival on the Pampa, held annually at Aranmula on the day of Uthrittathi asterism, in connection with the Onam festival is to commemorate the crossing of the river by Lord Krishna on that day. The deity is supposed to be in all the boats that take part in the carnival and all of them are expected to arrive a t their destination simultaneously. There is thus no element of competition in the Aranmula Boat Race as in other regattas held in this district and elsewhere. The race is not conducted to win any trophy or prize. The crew regards the occasion as one for rejoicing and merry-making and cheerfully row up and down the river to the tune of songs.The people of Central Travancore and special boats and buses ply to carry the people to witness the event.

 
 
Aranmula Uthrittathi

During the races, the banks of the river on either side, for a distance of about three kilometers, would be thronged with millions. In recent years, the festival attracts spectators from all parts of the world. The Valla Sadya is an important vazhipadu (offering) in the temple on this occasion.

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The snake boats at the Aranmula regatta present an enchanting as well as imposing spectacle. They are of extraordinary shape. About 100 ft. long, the end of the boat is curving upwards with the front portion tapering gradually. The rear portion would be towering to a height of about 20 feet. The boats resemble snakes with their hoods raised. Crews of over hundred men vying to win the coveted trophy, attract spectators from all over. The occupants carry banners and ornamental umbrellas of silk and gold. It is doubtful whether there is any other national festival resplendent with such an aura of spiritual devotion, endearing friendship, sportsman spirit, majesty and rapturous delight as the Aranmula boat race.

Similar Snake-boat races are organized at Champakkulam and Paippadu in Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala, during the Onam days.

 
Chittor Konganpada (war festival):
Kerala, once a land of small kingdoms, had witnessed several pitched battles. Few in the state commemorate the war victories of their forefathers. However, people of Chittor in Palakkad district had assimilated a story of triumph into their cultural veins and in every February (on first Monday after the dark lunar in Kumbam, Malayalam calendar) they remember a war they had fought and won; Konganpada, the only war festival in the state. The history of this festival is interwoven with myths.

Konganpada recollects a war the Chittor Nairs fought against King Rajadhi Raja of Kong dynast from Coimbathore in which the former won. Chittorians believe that Goddess Bhagavathy saved them from the Chola King. (According to historical version Kings of Kongu attacked Palakkad and the King of Kochin with the help of Zamorins defeated them. and Konganpada is being celebrated to keep alive that great victory. The festival begins with chilambu; recalling Konganpada’s declaration of the war and a perturbed Chittor people thronging the Goddess Bhagavathy pleading to save them from the ordeal. Next morning a flag is hoisted indicating their readiness for the war.

When dusk falls, people gather near the temple premise ands after three popgun shots march to a place supposed to be the battleground. Oracle leads the procession while others hold torches. At midnight the procession returns from the battleground. Next morning procession resumes from a nearby kavu, this time with colour and festivity. Girls are being paraded in men’s wear (kolam) on the ground that the Goddess encountered the Konganpada in man’s robs. Cultural programmes are also staged in the pageant. In the evening the procession encircles the temple and a messenger from Konganpada reads scroll declaring the war.

About 10pm Kongan appears and the symbolic war begins. Rival groups run the horses to and fro to recreate a battlefield- like situation. After this Kongan team retreats. A few persons feign death whose bodies are being taken back to their wailing relatives. Later the festival ends with an hour-long percussion. This may be one of the bizarre festivals in the state.

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Easter
Easter is the oldest Christian festival, as old as Christianity itself. The central tenet of Christianity is not the birth of Jesus, but his resurrection. Easter is derived from this paschal mystery and from the events of Good Friday.

The content of Easter was gradually analysed into historical events and each began to be celebrated on a different day. As a result, Easter grew into a Holy Week and came to have a preparatory season to precede and a festive season to follow. Thus we have four distinct periods in connection with the observance of Easter -Services are held in the afternoon.

In most churches one finds a bitter drink prepared from leaves, vinegar, etc. for everyone to taste after the service, Holy Saturday is a day of mourning and wailing. A total silence reigns in the church from morning to dusk. But by ten at night the church is full, to observe the Easter Vigil.

 
Easter
In the gloom, which envelops the church, new fire is struck from flint and blessed. A big candle is then consecrated and from it is lighted many candles indicating the resurrection. Bells peal, music fills the air and light floods the hall.
 
Halleluyah is the joyous word of Easter wish. Easter Sunday is a quiet day and the celebration is rather spiritual and inward rather than social showy. There will be a grand dinner at homes and visits of relatives.
 
Maramon Convention
The largest Convention in Asia, Maramon is held on the sands of River Pampa, at Kozhancheri, near Tiruvalla in Pathanamthitta district. Every year tens of thousands of Christians attend the convention to hear the Word of God and seek His grace. Erudite orators from various countries address the 10-day long convention. Of the years Maramon has become a meeting place of culture and tradition.Maramon is also famous as the birthplace of Palakkunnath Abraham Maplah, a 19th century leader of the Syrian Church of Malabar.Preaching and Bible studies occupy the major part of the conference Along with the religious discourse, special prayers for indisposed are also held.
Maramon Convention
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Nellikulangara Vallanghi Vela
A festival unfurling the cultural faces of Palakkad villages which are still under Tamil sway. The festival at the Bhagavathi temple at Vallanghi in Chittur is in fact a competition between two villages-Vallangi and Nenmara- to propitiate the Goddess. Both villages, in their effort to excel the other leave no stone unturned. The main festival is on 20th Meenam (March-April).One of the attractions is the grand procession carrying the image of Bhagavathi on bedecked elephant escorted by the temple oracle, and devotees.

The competition spirit of the villagers goes up every year. So is the pomp and pageantry of the festival. The flag-hoisting ceremony is held jointly by the Vallanghi and Nenmara on the 9th Meenam, 11 days prior to the festival. During the festival days art forms such as Kummatti, Karivela and Andivelaare staged. The festival is a rare occasion to see the dying folk art forms of the state.

 
Thiruvathira Festival
The festival falls on the asterism Thiruvathira in the Malayalam month of Dhanu (December-January). On thiruvathira morning, devotees throng Shiva temples for an early worship which is reckoned as highly auspicious.

Tradition says thiruvathira is celebrating the death of Kamadeva, the mythological God of Love. According to another version, Thiruvathira is the birthday of Lord Shiva. The festival has similarities to adra darshan celebrated in Tamil Nadu.On the festival day, women discard rice meal, but only take preparations of chama (panicum miliaceum) or wheat.

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Thiruvathira Festival
The day's menu include plantain fruits and tender coconuts. They chew betel and redden their lips. A custom that women should chew 108 betel on the day had prevailed among Namboodiris, Ambalavasis (temple-servants) and Nairs ( all Hindu communities).
 
The first thiruvathira after the marriage of a girl is known as puthenthiruvathira or poothiruvathira( new thiruvathira).Oonjalattom, (swinging on an oonjal (swing) is another amusement women engage themselves with. During the chilly night, women keep vigil for God Shiva and stage Thiruvathirakali, a bewitching dance form.
 
Pretty girls in traditional attire circle around a lighted brass lamp, and step to the rhythm of the songs they sing, clapping their hands. Pathirappoochoodal,( wearing of flowers at midnight) is still prevalent among women belonging to Namboodiri, Ambalavasis (temple servants) and Nair communities.

That thiruvathira is still being celebrated with pomp vouch for the enviable position Kerala women enjoyed in the society. The status she occupied at home and in the society had influenced the state's social structure, customs and religious practices.

Oaachira Kettukazhcha
Oachira, near Kayamkulam, has emblazoned its name in the chronicle of war. Battle of Kayamkulam, a watershed event in the history of Travancore, was fought between Marthandavarma, the Maharaja of Travancore and Raja of Kayamkulam. Oachirakkali, commemorating the war,' is conducted in the beginning of Mithunam (June-July) every year.

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Nilamperoor Padayani
A festival that reflects the tradition and the culture of rural Kerala, Padayani is being held at Nilamperoor Bhagavathikkavu at Kuttanad in Alapuzha. Kolamkettu (making of effigies) and Kollamthullal (a ritual dance performed by carrying the effigies) are the main attractions of the festival. The chief kolams displayed are of Shiva, Bhima and Ravana. The 16-day festival begins on Thiruvonam day in Chingam (August-September) and ends on Pooram day, the main day in the festival. In Ezhunnellippu, a procession carrying the Kolams (deities)-another event of the festival- idols along with effigies of swans are being carried to the festival ground amid vociferous clamour and outcries from the throng. The tempo of the festival touches its peak with dazzling pyrotechnics. The kolams are brought before the Kavu and after some rites kept in its corner.
Ramadan
Idul-Fitr, of late known by the misnomer 'Ramadan' is one of the two festivals of Islam. Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar year. During this month the Muslims observe fast, giving up all kinds of food and drink during day time, and spend the major part of the night in devotion and prayer. Purification of the body and soul is the main aim of this observance.Recently in certain parts of Kerala new practices in connection with the celebration of this festival have been introduced.One of the novel features of the Id celebration is to invite members of the sister communities to participate in such functions.

Makaravillakku at Sabarimala
For centuries, Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta has been a major pilgrim centre attracting lakhs of devotees from all over India, more so from southern States. The presiding deity is Lord Ayyappa known as Dharma Sastha, a considered symbol of unity between Vaishnavites and Saivites. Darma Sastha is believed to have fulfilled his mission in life and rejoined his Supreme Self, enshrined at Sabarimala.

The temple is tucked away in the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats and can be reached only by foot. Pilgrims have to traipse through the narrow tracks in thick forests infested with wild animals.Pilgrims to Sabarimala is seasonal ( November to January). Those wishing to perform pilgrimage have to undergo forty-one day’s penance consisting of strict celibacy, daily ablutions and daily prayers. Early mornings and evenings in the festival season Kerala villagers will be reverberating with dedication calls of Ayyappa devotees.

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Sabarimala  
18 steps
 

The festival mood reaches its crescendo on Makara Vilaku day( January 14, the most important day in the festival). The day synch with the day of Sankramom (crossing of the sun from Dhakshinayana to the Uttarayana).On the said day, lakhs of pilgrims( each one called an Ayyappa), flock the shrine for worship. On that evening they descry Makara Vilakku, appearance of a strange light in the distant hill indicating the presence of God and return ennobled and strengthened in spirit.

Situated not far from the is a shrine in the name of Vavar, a Muslim, who was thought to be a close aide of Sri Ayyappa. It is a rare experience to see the Hindu devotees worshipping at the shrine of Vavar indicating the communal harmony in Kerala.

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Kerala Village fair

Every year, for the lush villages around Kovalam, mid January is the time for cultural events. The traditional thatched houses are decorated during the ten- day festival. The fair becomes a single window for selling Kerala artifacts. The fair nights ladle out folk dances, music and cultural programmes.


Kalapathy Chariot Festival ( Ratholsav )
Conquer the depths of the ocean. One of the finest dive sites in the world. If deep is too scary, then snorkeling is your option. If underwater is daunting, then ride the waves with a surfboard or a water scooter.

Celebrated in the second week of every November. During the festival season, the Vishwanatha temple and the agraharas (traditional houses) of settler Tamil Brahmins at Kalpathy village will submerge in a sea of devotees. The religious fervour will reach its crescendo when the Brahmins carry the rathams to the temple premise, an age-old ritual that is gaining popularity with every passing year. Five major rathams (car, chariot) are being dragged in the flamboyant procession accompanied by caparisoned elephants and percussion. The script chanting Vedic scholars maintain the religious tempo of the festival. Residents of each agrahara here have their own rathams.

 
Ratholsav
Historians reason that the festival is older than Thirssure pooram, initiated by Sakthan Thampuran. Myths are woven around the history of the festival. One among them say, a Palakkad lady, who had sacrificed material pleasures for worshipping Lord Shiva, left for Kasi Vishwanatha temple.
She, it is believed, returned years later with an idol of God Shiva and met the then Palakkad King and requested him to install the idol at the Vishwanatha temple at Kalpathy.She also believed to have given gold coins to the King to meet the expense of daily poojas, and requested to celebrate the temple festival every year on the lines of the car festival at Mayuram temples in Tamil Nadu.
 
 
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