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Famous Festivals in Kerala

Festivals in Kerala are always celebrated with much pomp and show. The
festive seasons display the best of Kerala’s rich culture and heritage. You will
not want to miss the vibrant colours, exotic fragrances, scintillating music, and
century long traditions that set each festival apart from the other.

Here is a quick rundown on the popular festivals celebrated around the year in
Kerala.

Onam

Pookalam : Image by Ramesh NG via Flickr

Onam (also known as Thiruvonam) is the state festival of Kerala, observed by
all its citizens, irrespective of caste, creed or community. It is a harvest
festival celebrated once a year during the Malayalam month of Chingom
(August-September). Onam is traditionally celebrated with much joy and
fervour.

as it is believed that the fortunes of the upcoming year depend on what object is seen first on the morning of Vishu. The most significant ritual observed during Vishu is the Kani Kanal (meaning ‘first sight’).Some of the celebrations include creating a Pookalam (an extravagant arrangement of colourful flowers). feasting on an elaborate meal served on plantain leaves. Vishu Vishu Kani: Image by Aroon via Flickr Vishu is an auspicious festival celebrated by Hindus on the first day of the Malayalum month of Medam (April-May). Vishu is hailed as the beginning of a new year by residents of Kerala. visiting temples. a variety of sporting events and even Pulikkali (a tiger dance). . gifting others with new clothes. participating in boat races held on the backwaters.

The entire family joins in for a mid day feast (Sadya) and then ends the day’s celebration with a dazzling display of fireworks. Christmas Christmas in Kerala is celebrated unlike anywhere else in the world.Another practice is Vishu Kaineettam. sharing the love of Christ and the peace of the season with families and neighbours. Easter Easter is celebrated worldwide to signify the resurrection of Jesus Christ. infusing it with the spirit and culture of Kerala itself. Easter is observed with the same fervour as in the west and is marked by four distinct periods. . The ever growing Christian populace here has adapted the Christmas celebrations. where money is gifted to the younger members of each family. As the Christians in Kerala account for about 23% of the state’s population. The birth of Jesus Christ is observed with traditional church services and elaborate nativity arrangements.

As Ramadan ends. to serve as a counsel for men in 615 AD. and fasting from to food to purify the body and soul. . This period of fasting ends when the crescent moon becomes visible on the western horizon. giving up something they value for the entire period. Ramadan is a month long festival observed earnest prayers. Id-Ul-Fitr (the feast of fast-breaking) commences and is celebrated for 3 days.The first is Lent where one undergoes a 40 day fast. Ramadan Image by Faris Algosaibi via Flickr Ramadan is an important festival observed by Musims to commemorate the day when the Holy Quran was sent by Allah. and become closer to God. Next is the Octave of Easter (the period of traditional Baptism) and it finally ends with the paschal season that extends for another 40 days more. Then comes the Holy Week consisting of the 4 days leading up to the Easter Sunday.

grand feasts and merry-making. food and money to the poor and the downtrodden. The greeting of Thakhir (Allahu Akbar) is heard all around as everyone asserts their belief that God is great. and then glittery Taziyas (tombs made of bamboo and paper to replicate Hussain’s tomb) are created and carried out into the city streets. preservation and demolition. lectures are arranged where Muslim Ulemas deliver religious sermons and share about the life of Prophet Muhammad. At the end of the procession. who voluntarily killed his son at God’s command. the night of Shiva) that he performed the Tandava Nritya – the dance of primeval creation. There is a period of fasting. . the God of destruction. it is observed by reciting the Moulood. According to Hindu the mythology. For the first twelve days. visit each other’s homes and exchange good wishes. followed by prayers at the mosques.Bakrid Bakrid is a festival of sacrifice observed by Muslims commemorates the sacrifice of Hazrat Ibrahim. Huge processions follow these taziyas and people are seen beating their chests mourning the slaying of Hussain. a short biography of the prophet written in Arabic. Muharram Muharram is observed by Muslims to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (Prophet Mohammed’s grandson) who died in the bloody massacre at Karbala in 680 AD. Maha Shivratri This festival is observed by Hindus who offer prayers to Lord Shiva. Miladi Sheriff Miladi Sheriff is celebrated by the Muslims as the birthday of Mohammed who was the prophet of Allah. it was on Shivratri (meaning. The celebrations also include giving away food to poor people and other charitable activities arranged by individual Muslim communities. devotees end their fast and give away clothes. The event is celebrated by sacrificing an animal (usually a goat). In Kerala. Muslims wear new garments.

on the banks of the Periyar river. . The Tamil communities in Kerala begin their celebrations early in the morning with a ritual oil bath before sunrise. also called Diwali means ‘a row of lights’ in Sanskrit and is celebrated by Hindus all over India as the festival of lights.Here in Kerala. Sivarathri is celebrated in the month of Kumbham (February- March) with all day fasts. Deepavali is a celebration of God Sree Krishna’s triumph over the demon Narakasura. There is a Siva Lingom (idol) that emerges out of the sand on the river bank that attracts thousands of pilgrims. In Kerala. The crux of the Sivarathri celebration is at the Siva Temple at Aluva. Deepavali Deepavali. This is immediately followed by consuming a concoction of jaggery and dry ginger. reciting the Panchakshara mantra “Om Namah Shivaya” and singing hymns praising Lord Shiva. Deepavali is observed on the day before the new moon in the Malayalam month of Thulam (October-November).

All the celebrations include feasting on mouthwatering sweets and crunchy savoury snacks. During these nine nights. female dieties – Durga. Image by Kamakshi Sachidanandam Via Flickr The celebrations include wearing festive garments. with the burning of an effigy of Ravana and the bursting of crackers. Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshipped as the three different manifestations of cosmic energy. bursting firecrackers and a watching the colorful fireworks lighting up the sky. Navaratri Navaratri is a Hindu festival that literally means ‘nine nights’. The triumph of good over evil is celebrated on the tenth day of Navratri. distributing special sweets. The celebration begins after the Mahalaya Amavasya and ends with Vijaya Dasami or Dassara. Homes are lit up with clay oil lamps and the sparkling lights dazzle every neighborhood during Deepavali. .

The arattu refers to a holy bath. . where the dieties are taken in a ceremonial procession to Shanghumugham beach.Major Temple Festivals in Kerala Now let’s check out the popular temple festivals in Kerala. come to see these events. Arattu at Thiruvananthapuram Image by dilip … via Flickr The Arattu of Lord Padmanabha is held during the Painkuni festival at Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple. They are colorful and people from all parts of the country. The King of Travancore also accompanies the procession as the vassal of Sri Padmanabha Swamy. even from abroad.

Ambalapuzha Arattu Ambalapuzha Arattu is a temple festival celebrated at the Sri Krishna Swamy Temple at Ambalapuzha. The temple’s annual Poornam festival is held during February / March every year. The celebration last for 10 days and the Arattu is conducted on the final day – Thiruvonam Nakshatram. This has now evolved into a snake boat race. . Uthralikavu Pooram Uthralikkavu Pooram is a festival held at the Shri Rudhiramahakalikav temple. Aranmula Uthrattathi The Aranmula Uthrittathi is celebrated with a ritual boat race held during the Onam festival. presented as an offering to Lord Parthasarathy. Attukal Pongala Attukal Pongala (also known as the Sabrimala of women) is considered the largest congregation of women in the world. situated at Wadackanchery in Thrissur district. People from the neighboring areas sent their snake boats to protect it. Legend has it that a boat carrying offerings to the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple was under attacked by enemies. The temple enshrines Ambalappuzha Unnikannan – Lord Krishna as a baby.

jaggery and banana is an integral part of this offering. and the Adoor Gajamela is the highlight of it. The highlight of this temple festival is Kuthiyottam and Kettukazhcha. ‘Payasam’ – a sweet dish made with rice. Kuthiyottam and Kettukazhcha The Chettikulangara Temple near Kayamkulam celebrates the Bharani Utsavam in the Malayalam month of Kumbham (February-March). as hundreds of visitors throng the temple gates to witness the regal spectacle. . Image by Seema Krishnakumar via Flickr Women all over the city cook their offerings and bring it to the Attukal temple. Adoor Gajamela An annual 10 days long celebration is held at the Parthasarathy Temple in Adoor. Nine elephants in their ceremonial attire are paraded.

For Kettukazhcha.As part of the Kuthiyottam ceremony. Chottanikkara Makam Chottanikkara Makam is an auspicious day observed at the Chottanikkara Bhagavathy Temple. local residents worship decorated effigies of chariots. and are taken in a ceremonial procession to the temple to the tune of music. horses and dieties and take part in a ceremonial procession. It is meant to commemorate the victory of the Nairs of Chittur over the militia of Konganadu (Coimbatore) which the Goddess Bhagavathy is believed to have orchestrated. after which it is accompanied by Lord Shastha and eleven elephants to an open ground until noon. The Murti of Goddess Bhagavathy is given a ritual bath. the beating of drums and ornamental umbrellas. The deity is clothed in regal attire and adorned . Chittoor Konganpada Konganpada is celebrated in the Bhagavathy temple at Chittur in the month of Kumbhom (February-March). young boys are required to fast.

Image by Roney Maxwell – via Flickr Ettumanoor Festival The Ettumanoor festival is celebrated in an ancient Siva temple about 12 Km North-East of Kottayam. The arattu festival of this temple is celebrated annually in a grand fashion on the Thiruvathira day in Kumbham. .with jewels. It is also believed that prayers offered during this time will be answered. Multitudes flock to the temple on the 8th and 10th day of the festival when seven and a half elephants made of gold are displayed for public view.

The rituals are served to purify and energize the deity’s powers. and culminates with the Aarattu on the 10th day. Homes are freshly painted and buildings are decorated with lights. Devotees carry kavadis (decorated wooden arches) on their shoulders and perform a ritualistic dance called Kavadiyattom as they proceed to the temple. bright lights.Guruvayoor Festival The Guruvayur festival begins on the day of Pushya in the month of Kumbham (February-March). decorative arches and non- explosive fireworks. coconut bunches and arecanuts. Thousands throng the premises to witness the Theyyattom – a dance ritual of the Goddess Mahadevi. plantain trunks. Some devotees also pierce their cheeks with long arrows and perform a tantric dance as an offering to the gods. Kanathurkava Uthsavam The Kanathurkavu Temple in the heart of Kannur celebrates its annual festival in April each year. . The cultural festivities include a variety of processions. Haripad Temple Festival The Thaipooyam Festival is a one-day affair held at the Sree Subrahmanya Swamy Temple.

oracles from various parts of the state arrive at Kodungalloor Bhagavathy temple. The 12th day is considered the most important day of the festival. smiting their crowns with swords and proclaiming their communion with the Mother Goddess. For this ritual. . Kodungallur Bharani Utsavam The Bharani festival is well known for it’s spectacular event called kaavu theendal. The devotees strike the temple rafters with sticks and throw their offerings over the roof in to the inner quadrangle of the temple. Kodiyettu Uthsavam The Kodiyettu Utsavam is a festival dedicated to the Goddess Bhagavathy. The men and women run around the temple in a trance.Kappally Kumbham Thira The Kappally temple conducts its annual Thira festival between the 3rd and 13th days of Kumbham (February-March) every year. celebrated in memory of the temple’s consecration. It commences on the Makayiram day in Vrischikam (November-December) and ends on the Uthram day.

devotees visit the Udayanapuram and Thrissur Vadakkunnatha temples and present their offerings. during Karthika. Sree Bharatha is worshiped here and the annual festival is conducted during the month of Medom (April-May). On the Karthika day. So. which is the highlight of the celebrations. Kalapathy Ratholsavam (Chariot Festival) . They hopped over the compound walls to look at here. puja is performed over the walls of these temples. The deity. called Karthika Vilakku. Kumaranalloor Thrikarthika Uthsavam Thrikkarthika is celebrated in the month of Vrischikam (November–December).Koodalmanikyam Utsavam The historic Koodalmanickam temple situated in the Manavalassery village is an architectural masterpiece. and were finally met at the walls by temple priests. There is also a magnificent display of lights in the evening. Legend has it that the gods of these two temples where enamored with the beauty of Devi as she returned from her bath.

Lokanarkavu Uthsavam The Lokanarkavu Bhagavathy temple is situated at Memunda in North Kerala. The festival itself is a riot of colours and pageantry. and the last three days are called the Kalpathy Ratholsavam. the major theyyam forms of Kerala are performed amid thousands of visitors. The festival in Vrischikam is called Mandalavilakku and is the more important of the two.The Sree Viswanathaswamy Temple at Kalpathy holds an annual 7 day chariot festival. Kuttikkol Thampuratty Theyyam During the Kuttikkol Thampuratty Theyyam festival. making it very attractive to onlookers. The 700 year old temple celebrates this festival with Vedic recitals and a massive procession of decorated temple chariots drawn through the streets by thousands of devotees. It celebrates two festivals annually in the months of Vrischikam (November- December) and Meenam (March-April). Mannarsala Utsavam .

Subramanyaswamy temple in Haripad. close to the Chirayinkeezhu railway station.April every year. is the seat of the famous temple of Nagaraja (God of Serpents). Kaliyootu is actually a commemoration of the fight between Darika and Bhadrakali. there is a live band. an image of the deity is placed on a richly attired elephant and taken on a procession. all the serpent deities in the grove and temple are taken in a procession and are offered Nurum Palum (rice flour and milk). Sundareshwara Temple Festival The Shri Sundareshwara Temple was founded by Shri Narayana Guru in 1916 and it’s dedicated to Lord Shiva. situated near the Sri. . This temple conducts an 8-day long festival in the months of March. Kuruthi (a red liquid made of turmeric and lime) and cooked rice. Their annual festival is conducted in the 20th Meenam (March-April) every year. The temple itself is build in a grove and is known to have 30. On the day of Ayilliam in the months of Kanni and Thulam (September and October).000 images of snake gods.Mannarsala. Nellikulangara Vela The temple of Nellikulangara Bhagavathi attracts many visitors who seek to invoke the blessings of the Goddess. This temple celebrates the Kaliyoottu festival in Kumbham and the Bharani festival in Meenam (February-March). fireworks and a lot of pageantry. During the festival. Sharkara Bharani and Kaliyootu The Sarkara Bhagavathy temple is situated in the Sarkara village. To accompany the procession.

antique heritage and sanctity. The temple’s annual festival lasts for 14 days from 22nd Kumbaham (February-March). Varkala Janardhana Swamy Temple Arattu . Thirunakkara Uthsavam The Mahadeva Temple at Kottayam is located on the Thiruvakkara Hill. the Thrissur Pooram is celebrated by all residents. Unlike other temple festivals. It is a famous Siva temple.Thrissur Pooram The Thrissur Pooram is celebrated in the Malayalam month of Medam (April- May). caste or community. Thrichambaram Uthsavam The Thrichambaram temple is dedicated to Sree Krishna and is located in the Taliparamba village. known for its historical significance. irrespective of religion. The temple conducts a 10-day long Arattu Utsavam in the 1st Meenam (March-April) which attracts hundreds and thousands of devotees. The 200 year old festival displays a spectacular procession of elephants and drummers for a whole 36 hours.

and at dusk. This annual celebration held at the temple is a 12 day long affair. Image by RajeshUnuppally at ml. and then an Arattu is performed in a pond close to the temple.wikipedia The Ashtami falls on the last day.This temple’s annual 10-day long Arattu festival is celebrated in the month of Meenam (March-April). . Vaikathashtami Festival The Vaikathashtami Festival is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva and is held during November or December at the Vaikom Mahadeva Temple. deities from neighbouring temples are brought in a ceremonial procession. The festival also features various classical dances and cultural celebrations. It commences with a Kodiyettu (Flag hoisting) on Karthika day and ends with the Arattu on Uthram day. All the deities are worshipped and offered presents. held during the dark lunar fortnight in the Malayalam month of Vrischikam.

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