Like every other place in the world, here in Kerala, the people go crazy about their festivals. And when they are celebrated with all grandeur, it would positively be affecting tourism. In fact, Kerala Tourism is often boasted of by showing the extravagant Onam festival, a jovial Christmas, a vivacious New Year’s Eve, a pious Eid-ul- Fitr and plenty of other such traditional festivals. Such a diverse list of traditional festivals that are being celebrated here in this small strip of land, clearly suggests the communal harmony followed in Kerala. Yet, its culture is prominently influenced by Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, all of these festivals are seldom celebrated by all communities regardless of belonging to any other community.
Furthermore, culture and traditions are closely linked with the tourism industry now. Travelers who are on their Kerala holiday tours would be keen to explore and their quest will be worth it. The history woven with this small strip of land located amid the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea had evolved throughout various years of civilisation. However, after having trade relations with the gulf and other European countries, some of the foreign cultures too had been blended with the typical traditions of Kerala. Nevertheless, not many changes have happened to the festivals celebrated by Keralites. Below given are the major traditional festivals of Kerala that you may watch out for during your trip to God’s own country.
This is known as the largest festival of Kerala and is celebrated mostly in August or September, or to be more precise in the first month of the Malayalam calendar called Chingam. Although this is a ten days long Hindu festival, here in Kerala, people of all religions are castes are seen celebrating them. And they would be seen enjoying every part of this festival, whether it be the making the flower carpets on the floor (called Pookalam), cooking sadhya (which is the traditional meal of Kerala), Dancing to the tunes of Kayyikottikali gathering of the entire family and lots more. And many parts of the state, especially in the central parts, Snake boat races would be conducted, as part of the festival. However, the major point of Onam is celebrated in Thrikakara in the Ernakulam district. Furthermore, in Athachamayam, the grand procession at Thripunithara, spectators would be able to watch them in Thripunithara. In the brochures of most of the tour packages in Kerala, you will be getting to spot splendid picture of this effervescent event.
Though Christians are a minority here, their beliefs and traditions have got a great influence on the society of Kerala. Therefore, Christmas too had become yet another secular festival of the state that is celebrated by people of all religions. Both the houses and streets will be decorated with lights and stars. And every home will be in yet another vibe and people in a celebrating mood. Even otherwise, the days from the second half of December to January are the time for celebration, as there would be parties, cultural programs, preparation of wines and other holy masses in the churches and lots more. Since it is during this season that the tourist inflow is high they could get to enjoy a slice of this celebration, if they are booking their best tourism packages for Kerala during this peak season. Other than the festival highlights already given, the cooking and the serving of the grand feast on Christmas day is the next major thing to be talked about. While the Christians would break the fast they had been following, spiritually, others would bake cakes and other merry things and exchange with each other. In short, there would be round a clock celebration.
Muslim celebrations such as Eid Al Fithur (popularly known in Kerala as Cheriya Perunal) and Eid Al Adha (Valiya Perunal) are also observed with much joy and excitement. On these days, special Id prayers are conducted on vast grounds in the morning, followed by a public festival. And Muslims from all walks of life will be seen praying together in the mosques and on these grounds. In some areas, Id days are also famous for shopping, notably for clothing and sweets. During Ramadan Fasting Month, unique nighttime bazaars are frequent in various regions of the state and one must strive to savour Malabar snacks consumed as part of breaking fast. When returning home after the prayers, devotees will be having sweets and Malabar Special delicacies after the prayers to mark the beginning of the festivities. You too will be able to enjoy Malabar Biriyani and other traditional foods. But for that, you will be suggested to book your best family tour packages for Kerala during these times of the year. When you are choosing to visit the Northern parts of the state, you could savor a plethora of delicacies.
At this time, Christians in the state would be taking a fast known as Lent season, as it is believed to be the resurrection of Jesus Christ after being crucified a few days before Easter. This fasting will be continued for around 40 days, which also will comprise a Holy Week. But what makes the Easter celebrations in Kerala unique is the traditional washing of feet in accordance with the ceremony of Lord’s Supper. It would be conducted on the previous day of Good Friday. Further, on the day of Easter, an elaborate Easter feast including varied types of dishes will be served on the plates. Moreover, in most of the Christian households in Kerala, a ritual called pascal bread is conducted. And after the last meal of the day, the distribution of ‘cross cake’ is done amidst the members of the family once they are divided into different pieces.
This auspicious Hindu festival is celebrated on the first day of the Malayalam month Medam which coincides with the first or second week of April. It is believed on this day Lord Krishna had killed a demon named Narakasura. However, as per some other folklore, it is said that the killing of Ravana who stopped the visit of Surya Dev, is celebrated as Vishu. Anyhow, it is the celebration of prosperity and happiness. And at some places, the elder ones in the family will be giving coins as ‘kayyineetam’ to the younger ones and in some other places, it is another way round. The Vishu days start by watching Vishukani, which is an offering to Lord Krishna and would be comprised of Kannikonna(Cassia fistula), fruits, vegetables, a mirror, and any gold ornament and silk cloth. Then, later in the day, a grand feast will be served and distributed to the family members.
Other regional Festivals of Kerala
Apart from the already mentioned major festivals that are celebrated all across the state, there are plenty of other regional festivals. Even though, these festivals are centralized on that particular the splendor and grandeur of the celebrations are even more magnificent and close to the culture and traditions followed in the state. Some of them are elucidated below.
Thrissur Pooram: If you are arriving at Thrissur or any other central part during April, then make a point to pay a visit to the prestigious Vadakkunathanm Temple. At the time of the festival, you could spot thousands of spectators gathered to witness this two-centuries-old festival. So, if you wish to participate in it, you may book any of the best Kerala tour packages for your family. Numerous caparisoned elephants could be seen paraded at Thekkinkadu Maidan with percussion music in the backdrop. Kudamattom ceremony is yet another unmissable vibrant thing to watch out for in Thrissur Pooram. Meanwhile, at night, you could admire the flamboyant fireworks show up in the sky.
Kalapathi Ratholsavam: Celebrated in the agraharams (settlement of Brahmins) in Palakkad district, it is basically a chariot festival. Here, thousands of devotees would be seen pulling these intricately designed chariots through the streets from Vishwanath Swami Temple, which is situated on the banks of River Nila. They are carted in the final three days of the 10-day festival celebrated in the month of November. The most striking part of this place is that it has been recognized as a World Heritage Site for the presence of numerous similar-looking, around 98 houses in a single street. However, you may not find any Kerala government tourism packages on this spot.
Beemapally Uroos: This festival celebrated in the coastal town of Bheemapally in Trivandrum is called known as Chandanakkudam. During this 11-day festival, devotees would be bringing earthen pots filled with Chandana (sandalwood paste) and coins as an offering to the mosque. In association with the festival, an art form called Dhaharamuttu is done on the premises of Bheemapally. The uroos is conducted in remembrance of the death anniversary of Bheema Bevi and her good deeds.
Machattu Mamangam: Observed at Machattu Thirvanikavu Temple in Wadakancherry in Thrissur, the major highlight of this five-day festival is the procession of horse effigies. Regionally, it is known as Kuthirakolam. They are richly decorated and taken to the temple as offerings to Goddess. Later in the evening, the traditional percussion music called Chendamelam will be organized, along with the procession of elephants clad with headgear. Such temple processions could be watched if you are booking your 5-star Kerala tour packages during the festival season, you would be able to witness these extravagant spectacles.
Attukal Pongala: The temple where this regional festival is celebrated is internationally acclaimed and is known as the largest ever congregation of women for a festival in the entire world. As an offering to Goddess Attukalamma, women from all walks of life gather near the temple premises and prepare a pudding, which is called ‘Pongala.’ Though this Pongala offering is done on the final days of the 10-day festival, the streets of Trivandrum will be lighted up and the entire atmosphere would be filled with a festive mood. At this time, the entire city would be jammed with countless devotees.
Pulikali: In this interesting procession, men will be dressed as tigers by painting their bodies in yellow, green, black, and orange and will be walking in certain rhythms around Swaraj Ground in Thrissur. The pictures of this Pullikali could be seen on the official website of Kerala tourism. Pulli is the Malayalam word for tiger and in this procession, these dressed-up men will be accompanied by people taking the role of hunters. It would usually be conducted on the fourth day of the Onam festival. They will be moving to the rhythmic beats of thakil, chenda and udukku, which are the traditional percussion instruments.
Chettikulangara Bharani: This is yet another regional festival that every devotee would watch out for from February to March. The festival dedicated to a goddess is celebrated at Chettikulangara Temple in the Alleppey district, adjacent to Mavelikara. In the temple procession, Kettukazhchas will be pulled off through the streets of Chettikulangara up to the temple, since they are the major attractions of this Bharani festival. These 100 feet tall massive structures would be decorated with flowers, cloth, and ornaments. Inspired by popular characters from the major epics of India, they are being categorized into Kuthira (horse), Hanuman, Theru (chariot), Bhima, and Panchali. People without any difference in their religion, caste or creed do visit them and witness the other folk performances that are conducted here.
Kottangkulangara Chamayam: Festivals such as Kottangkulangara Chamayam are quite peculiar and cannot be seen anywhere else in the country. In this chamayam, you will get to meet men dressed as women, and that too in traditional attires. These beauties would be seen carrying lighted lamps in their hand and will be approaching the temple, with the playing of traditional percussion instruments in the background. In this unique ritual done at Kottankulangara Devi Temple, in the Kollam district, people from all walks of life in this region would gather at this pious place and even a large of tourists. If you are holidaying around its nearby places by including them in your Kerala tours and packages, you too may visit them.