Culture of Kerala - Rich Culture & Traditions!

When we hear someone say 'Kerala', so many beautiful sights cross our mind. Famed as God's Own Country, Kerala is indeed an ideal vacation spot and has also been called as one of the paradises of the world. Kerala is well known for its scenic locations, the Kerala architecture which is used to design its majestic temples, festivals like Onam, its variety of food and also its vast and rich Malayalam literature.

Here are some of the elements of Kerala Culture: 

1. Cuisine 

The food of Kerala consists of a wide variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. The food consists of fish, meat, poultry and rice preparations. Kerala food is loaded with many spices as well. Kerala Sadya is a banquet meal prepared during functions and festivals. Coconut is grown in abundance in Kerala. Hence they use coconut oil and milk in thickening flavours. Kerala food consists of many rice preparations like idli, dosa, etc. which are made from a batter prepared from rice. Chillies, curry leaves, mustard seeds, turmeric powder and asafoetida, are all frequently used.

Kerala Culture
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2. Clothing

Women of Kerala wear sarees and blouse. During festivals, they wear set sarees called Kasavu. Men wear 'mundu' which is a long piece of a garment wrapped around their waist in a certain manner. Mundu, an integral part of Kerala Culture is similar to a lungi and a dhoti. Younger generations mostly wear western clothing. However, lungis are still very common for casual occasions whereas sarees are worn for formal occasions.

Kerala Culture
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3. Architecture 

The architecture of Kerala is unique and quite a contrast to the Dravidian style of architecture commonly found in other parts of the south. Kerala architecture is heavily based and influenced from architectural sciences like Vastu Shastra, and the temples are built on the basis of two construction thesis, Thantra-Samuchayam, and Sliparatnam which allow positive energy to flow inside the temple and does not retain any negative energy. The structure of any residential or religious centre usually consists of a rectangular or cylindrical structure at the bottom with downward
sloping roofs at the top.

Kerala Culture, Architecture in Kerala
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4. Folk Dance and Music Dance

The folk dance of Kerala consists of the Kaikotti Kali dance, Kuthiyottam dance, Tiruvathira Dance, Thirayattam dance, Kakkarissi Kali, etc.   Kanniyar Kali (also known as Desathukali) is a dance done in front of Goddess Bhagvaty. It is one of the oldest folk dances. It is a fast-moving dance to the rhythmic devotional folk tune. Kaikotti Kali folk dance (also known, as Thiruvathirakali) is performed by women of Kerala by dancing in symmetric circles. It is often performed during festive seasons like Thiruvathira and Onam.

Women sing Thiruvathira songs, which are full of literary wealth. The women dance gracefully and move in clockwise and anti-clockwise circles while clapping their hands. Kuthiyottam Dance is popular in the district of Thiruvananthapuram and is performed in temples in front of deities. There are 4 participants in the dance. The songs are sung during the dance are Padapattu and Kalaripattu. Thirayattom dance is performed during the festival of kavus. The dance includes the use of torches. The Kuravas folk from the Thiruvananthapuram district perform the Kakkarissi Kali. This dance involves a lot of enthusiasm from its participants. Drums are also played during the dance. Dappu Kali is a dance that uses an instrument called dappu. The dancers are even in number and form two rows and keep switching sides. Kolkali dance is a group dance form of the farming community, which men and women move in circles with sticks in their hand and clash the sticks together. Kalaripayattu is a type of swordplay in which men use swords and move around gracefully as if defending and hitting each other. Kathakali dance involves 'story play' in which the dancers put on heavy costume and makeup and tell a story through their dances. There are other dances as well like Parichamuttu Kali, Ayyappan vilakku, Sarpam thullal and Poorakkali.

Music: Music forms a major part of the Malayalam literature. Kerala is known for Sopana Sangeetham and Carnatic music. Sopana (meaning 'holy steps') Sangeetham is a form of classical music that involved folks singing invocatory songs inside the temples. Kerala is also known for its Kathakali music.
Kerala Culture, Folk dance and music of Kerala
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5. Literature

The literature of Kerala can be traced back to the 13th century. The Malayalam literature initially consisted majorly of poems and songs (pattu). Manipravalam poetry, which is a mixture of Sanskrit and Malayalam language, also flourished in the state. Many prose and poetry also emerged like the champus and sandeshakavyas. Ezhuthachan who is given the title of the father of Malayalam language made great contributions in the 16th century.

6. Art and Craft

Kerala is famous for its Art. Some of the arts revolve around Chinese ceramics, brass-inlay, caskets, teapots, tin candle stands, bells and lamps, etc. Keralite jewellery is also unique in its design and mostly made up of gold. The necklace of the women is long and consists of a thick base chain to which elongated series of gold pieces are attached. The gold pieces attached may be petal-like or mango shaped or any other shape. People also purchase Mundus from Kerala.
Kerala Culture, Art and Craft of Kerala
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7. Festivals

Onam is a 10-day harvest festival celebrated in Kerala in the month of August - September. The festival is celebrated with grandeur. There are fairs and contests for people to indulge in. The floors are decorated with flower designs; there are dances for celebration and a snake boat race (Aranmula Boat Race) contest called Vallamkali is also carried out. The tenth or the last day of Onam is said to be most important and is one of the most popular manifestations of Culture of Kerala.

Vishu is the New Year for the Keralites. The first month is called Medam, which usually comes around April. Vishukani are the various offerings made to Lord Krishna on this day.'Vishu Pulari' is a ritual of waking up early in the morning and seeing God's face first. On this day, the elders give their children some form of a gift.

Thrissur Pooram is celebrated in the month of Medam. It is a festival of the temples in which two traditional groups called Thiruvambai and Paramekkavu compete against each other and showcase their best in the contest by clothing their elephants in beautiful garments and having different huge umbrellas.
Kerala Culture, Festivals of Kerala
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8. Religion

Hinduism and Islam are two major religions of Kerala. More than 50% of people in Kerala follow Hinduism, and more than 25% follow Islam. Around 20% are Christians, and others follow Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism and other religions.

9. Occupation of Kerala

Originally, people of Kerala were involved in agricultural activities. Apart from that, some were also into fishing and animal husbandry. Over the years, Keralites have received a good education and are doing jobs in the cities. However, most of the skilled workers and college graduates leave Kerala and go abroad, especially in the middle east. This had caused a short of skilled supply in Kerala and resulted in inflation.

Kerala Culture, Occupation of Kerala
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10. Rituals

The people of Kerala have many rituals for different occasions. Most of the rituals are temple rituals. Poothanu Mathirayum is a ritual for Goddess Kali in which dancers dress up as Kaali Ma and dance at all shrines in the village to remove and destroy the evil demon Daarikan.

Patayani is a week-long dance ritual for Goddess Kali. It is carried out on the banks of river Pamba. The dancers tell the story of how evil is destroyed by taking up various character roles. Midiyettu and Koothu are other such similar rituals.

Kanniyar Kali is a dance done as an offering to Goddess Bhagwati. There are many rituals performed during Onam as well. Onapottan is a folk character that appears during the first day of Onam. Athachamayam is an elephant march that signifies the beginning of the Onam festival. Pookkalam is the flower arrangement done during Onam. It is similar to Rangoli, but instead of powder, flowers are used. Pookalam is circular in shape, and people make them from the Atham day of Onam. The size of the flower arrangement is increased progressively each day till the 10th day

11. Importance of Elephants

The state animal of Kerala is the Elephant. Elephants form an integral part of the culture of Kerala. Elephants are found during all religious festivals outside the temples. Elephants are known as 'sons of shaya' and are also found on the emblem of the Government of Kerala.

12. Modern society

Kerala state has the highest literacy rate and education level in India. Its sex ratio is also favourable at 1084 (1084 women per 1000 men) according to 2011 census. Kerala also has the highest Human Development Index 0.712(in 2015) and the lowest positive population growth rate of 3.44% in India. Kerala has an agriculture background, but with improvement in technologies, a liberation of ideas, broader outlook, it has come far from it and continued to do so.

13. Tourism

Kerala is famous for its temples, backwaters, culture and many more things. Kerala's tourism industry has been booming since the early 2000s. The government carried of aggressive promotion of Kerala tourism and named it as 'God's Own Country' With the help of heavy advertising, it was able to boost its tourism industry. Its advertising campaign was so successful that it was one of the places with 'highest brand recall' in the minds of the customer.

Kerala is a very welcoming state for its tourists. The culture of Kerala is undoubtedly worth experiencing, and everyone must visit this paradise.

This post was published by Vidhi Jhaveri

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