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.
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.
- The National Festival of Kerala
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.
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.
10-days festival is supposed to
begin from the lunar asterism
Atham and culminate in asterism
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.
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 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Snake-boat races are organized at
Champakkulam and Paippadu in Kuttanad,
the rice bowl of Kerala, during
the Onam days.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
© 2004. kidswebindia.com
All Rights Reserved.