Kerala is most popularly known for its festival of Onam, but it also has other major festivals that we all ought to know about and that’s what I am about to help you out with!
Here is a list of Festivals in Kerala celebrated with zeal and zest:
Onam! The national festival of Kerala celebrated for the coming of the King Mahabali. This festival falls in August-September and has a wonderful story attached to it. Ok, so as far as what I’ve heard the story goes this way. Mahabali was a great king who loved his people and his reign was the best that people had ever seen, there was no poverty or sadness. This angered the Devas as their popularity started decreasing and they found heed in Lord Vishnu who took the form of a dwarf and cheated Mahabali into giving him three foot of land. When Mahabali agreed Lord Vishnu took his actual form and took a big step that covered earth then another big step that covered heaven and for the last st,ep Mahabali offered his head. Seeing his devotion, before pushing Mahabali to Pathalam Lord Vishnu granted him to visit his people once a year. This day is celebrated as Onam! Well, what a lovely little story.
Onam is a very important festival to the people of Kerala and has been celebrated in a grand manner every year. The houses are decorated with florals for ten days before the actual day. On the day of Onam, presents are exchanged, relatives meet each other no matter how far and sit together to feast on Plantain leaves.
The best part is the food and games festival that starts afterwards, the most famous that all of you might know about is the crazy boat race which marks its beautiful culture.
There is not much to be said about Vishu but it is the Second most important festival of Kerala as it marks the New year which normally falls on the 14th, 15th, or 16th of April.
This day determines how the rest of the year is going to be for the malayalis. It is believed that the whole year depends on the first thing that the person sees on the morning of the Vishu and it has to be an auspicious article. So, the people prepare a Kani to see the next day. The main attractions of this festival is the first gift that the elders give to the young ones, shopping and of course, most importantly what the kids enjoy the most- Fireworks!.
This festival is one of the most famous Temple festivals of Kerala. It is celebrated in Vadakkunnathan Temple in Thrissur. People sit on huge elephants that are fully dressed for the occasion outside the temple.
It requires a continuous dedication of 3 days which is almost 36 hours in which time people do their traditional pujas, decorations and ens the beautiful festival with breathtaking fireworks. Thrissur Pooram is celebrated mainly to worship Lord Shiva and has a lot of colour and music.
The festival is attended by almost 300,000 people across India and makes Kerala busy and filled with people so if you want to attend this festival early booking in hotels will get you good rooftop rooms so you can view the amazing fireworks and parade.
Thrissur Pooram is famous for its very long and beautiful fireworks that are lit all night.
This festival is mostly celebrated in the month of either December or January. This festival is in total dedication to Lord Shiva and it is believed that this day is perfect and very auspicious to worship Lord Shiva. All the devotees of Lord Shiva make their way to the temple for the Lord’s blessing.
The myth behind this festival is that t is celebrated to commemorate the death of the God of Love, Kamadeva.
On this day, women get up at 4 am in order to have a bath and sing songs that relate to the God of Love and produce rhythm by splashing water with their hands. In the end, the women stand in a circle and sing songs in Kamadeva’s praise.
So, what is Theyyam Festival? Remember those painted, masked faces you saw when you were little dancing to beautiful rhythms? Well, Theyyam is just that. This festival is almost 800 years old and has people coming from all over India to perform their dances while dressed up as Deities.
The performers go through 3 main stages being:
a. 1st stage: This is when all the dancers cover themselves with colours, flowers and mask;
b. 2nd stage: This involves self-torture and
c. 3rd stage: This is the most important one of all and it is all about dancing on a rhythm.
This festival is celebrated on a large scale and people have so much fun that it takes them to a whole new level of pleasure.
This is celebrated on the ninth day of the ten long days of the actual festival in the month of February- March, only women are allowed to participate in this festival. The sweet dish called ‘Pongala’ is prepared by the women in the morning and is ready by noon for the offering. This dish is made from boiled rice, jaggery, and coconut.
Pongala is then offered to the Attukal Devi and is blessed by the holy priest and taken back by the women to the house to consume the blessed food. Attukal Devi is said to be an incarnation of Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva. This is one festival, where people celebrate it without remembering their religion, caste or colour.
Attukal Pongala is a festival for the women and holds a record in the Guinness Book of World records for having the largest female crowd on February 23, 1997 which saw participation of 1.5 million women
Like in any other place, Christianity has also taken its toll in Kerala with the number of Christians increasing day by day. Due to this reason, Christmas is a very big festival in Kerala, thanks to all the Christian communities. Well, I don’t think I have to explain the reason Christmas is celebrated right? I mean everyone knows the story of the birth of Baby Jesus. The time from 23rd December to 2nd January is filled with shopping, decorating, parties, lights, singing, dancing etc.
Parades in big and major churches is very common and is a sight that you would not want to miss, as you see all the beautiful ancient churches lit up with lights giving people a sense of happiness, love and most importantly a sense of Hope.
Makaravilakku is an annual festival that is celebrated in Sabrimala temple on the occasion of Makar Sakranti on 14th January each year. A procession of people, dressed up in sacred attire, carry ornaments of Ayappan that are called Thiruvabharanam. The journey advents two days prior to Makara Jyothi Day from Pandalam.
The Arattu (holy bath) of Lord Padmanabhan is held in Padmanabaswamy temple during the Painkuni Festival.
It is one of the important rituals held as part of the festival, and the uniqueness of this festival is that the head of the Travancore royal family still escorts the idols in his traditional attire during the procession to the Shanghumugham beach. The idols of Sree Krishna, Sree Narasimha, and Sree Padmanabhaswamy is carried across three miles to the shores of the Arabian Sea which are given ritual baths.
Held at the Sree Krishnaswamy Temple at Alapuzha, the Ambalapuzha Arattu festival is celebrated enshrining Ambalapuzha Unnikannan. It is a ten-day festival where the Arattu is conducted on the final day called as the Thiruvonam Nakshatram. Built somewhere in between the 15th and 17th century by the ruler Chembakasserry Pooradam Thirunal-Devanarayanan Thampuran; the temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna. It commences on the first day -Atham and ends on the day of Thiruvonam. A significant event at the festival is the Velakali performed from the second day until the final day.
The Aranmula boat race is a century old boat race that’s celebrated on the occasion of Aranmula Uthrattathi. The snake boats move in pairs with an excited crowd cheering on the banks of the river Pampa. As per the legends, the boat carrying offerings to the temple Aranmula Parthasarathy was attacked by enemies, and neighbouring people sent their snake boats to protect it. Which is now a snake boat race celebrated during the festival.
It is all in the name. Gaja in Sanskrit means elephant and mela is fair. Kerala is a place that revers elephants, hence any of the temple festivals you visit, you’re sure to witness elephants. Adoor Gajamela is a ten-day long festival held in the Parthasarathy Temple that’s dedicated to Lord Krishna. The festivities include Ashtamirohini, the birthday anniversary of Lord Krishna, Parichamuttukali – a martial art, Velakali – a symbolic dance of ancient warfare, Mayooranritham – a form of peacock dance and a significant number of cultural programs as a highlight.
Visit Kerala during any of these festivals and be a part of the enriched culture of the state!