Kerala is well known for its rich cultural heritage and tradition. Kerala is the land of many festivals. Diverse forms of performing arts and culture are part of these festivals.
Some of the important festivals are
Onam is the state festival of Kerala. Every one celebrates Onam irrespective of their caste or religion. The legend of Onam is that the great king Mahabali visits his subjects every year. During his regime, people lived happily with love, harmony, and prosperity.
Onam, the harvest festival is celebrated for 10 days. Atham is marked as the beginning of Onam festivities at Vamanamoorthy Temple, Thrikkakkara in Kochi. Laying of Athapookalam with colorful flowers is an artwork made by girls and women. The Onam festival gives great enjoyment to the people.
Thiruvonam is the most important day in the ten days of Onam festival. Family members meet together and exchange gifts. Thiruvona Sadhya a delicious feast is the specialty of Thiruvonam. Thumbi Thullal, Kaikottikali, sporting events, boat races, songs related to Onam are some of the celebrations. Folk arts like Pulikali in Thrissur – the theme of tiger hunting and Onapottan in Northern Malabar gives entertainment to the people.
It is celebrated between August and September.
Vishu is considered as the festival of prosperity and wealth. According to the Keralites, Vishu is said to be the beginning of a New Year. This auspicious day is also considered as the beginning of the spring season. Many agricultural activities are begun during this period.
There are many festivities and ceremonies associated with Vishu. Vishukani and Vishu Kaineettam are the major rituals associated with Vishu. Konnapoovu a golden colored flower is a major attraction in the Vishukani. Vishu Kani is a beautiful sight. It is believed that in the morning people should see the Vishukani as the first sight of the New Year, to have a peaceful and prosperous year ahead. Delicious Midday feast is prepared in every house and the children enjoy the fireworks.
It is celebrated on the first day of the Malayalam month Medam.
Christmas is one of the most celebrated festivals in Kerala. Christmas is celebrated as the birthday of Jesus Christ. Christmas is a religious and cultural festival.
Christmas celebrations begin from Christmas eve. There is a lot of celebrations along with Christmas. Festive activities include exchanging gifts and singing Christmas carols. Red dressed Santa Claus is a major attraction in the Christmas celebrations. Christmas gives great enjoyment to children, they will get gifts and Christmas greeting cards. Relatives and friends gather together and enjoy.
Houses and churches in Kerala are decorated with Christmas stars, ornamental lighting and Christmas trees. Traditional Christmas cakes with wide variety are other attractions of Christmas. It is celebrated on 25 th December.
Easter has great religious significance among the people. Easter celebrates the belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The week before Easter is very special to the people. During these days they take fasting, prayers, and sacrifices. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are important days in this holy week.
Easter eggs are a cultural symbol that denotes new life and rebirth.
Easter always falls on a Sunday between March 22nd and April 25th.
Ramadan is a celebration of Muslims all over the world. Ramadan is the ninth month of Islamic calendar. During these days they spend more time to prayer and they have done more charity activities. In this holy month, they take fasting from dawn to sunset. It improves their self-control, spirituality and it makes them self-disciplined. They believe that God forgives the past sins of those who observe the holy month with fasting and prayer.
Eid- al- Adha is an important festival and it is also called the festival of sacrifice. It honors the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God’s command.
7. Theyyam Festival
Theyyam is a fascinating art form found in Northern Malabar. It is a dance festival. Theyyams play a very important role in the cultural history of Kerala. Theyyam is 800 years old. The dancers cover themselves with colors, flowers, and masks. It gives fun and a new level of pleasure to the people. The performer undergoes self- torture and dances to the rhythms in front of shrines.
There are more than 400 varieties of Theyyam performances to pick from, of which the best ones are Kari Chamundi, Raktha Chamundi, Muchilottu Bhagavathi, and Wayanad Kulaven.
Theyyam falls in the period between April to December.
8. Thrissur Pooram
Thrissur Pooram is one of the most famous and colorful temple festivals in Kerala. It is celebrated at the Vadakkunnathan temple in Thrissur, the cultural district of Kerala. Ten temples around Thrissur are participating in this festival. Two main participants of this festival are Paramekkavu Bhagavathi Temple and Thiruvambady Sree Krishna temple. It is believed that God and Goddesses meet each other annually on this occasion. Thrissur pooram is the Festivals of Festival, the biggest and most colorful festival. It is happening in between April and May. In this pooram festival the temples nearby the main temple participating with pooram and there is a competition between the temples. There are nearly 50 decorated Elephants and more than 100 musicians make a huge temple orchestration. The fireworks of Thrissur Pooramis most wonderful and colorful, it famous all over India, one of the miracle in the fireworks is, all light, colors, and sounds are hand made creations, no electronics or other technologies.
It is a festival of nine nights and ten days during which the nine forms of Devi (goddess) are worshipped. It represents the triumph of good over evil. During these nine days, there is special worship of female deities –Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. The final three days of Navarathri – Durgashtami, Mahanavami, and Vijayadashami are important for the worship of Goddess Saraswati – the Goddess of wisdom and learning. A Puja is performed to Saraswati during which fruits, beaten rice, roasted paddy (malar), jaggery, etc, are offered to her.
Ayudha Pooja: During this ‘Poojavaypu‘ day, devotees keep their work tools in temples and houses for pooja. Students also keep their books and other study materials in the pooja room and temples for worship.
Mahanavami: It is totally devoted to the worship of Saraswati and pooja is performed both in the morning and in the evening.
Vijayadasami: During this day after pooja in the morning, the books and implements are removed from the room and this ceremony is called `Pooja Eduppu’.
Vidyarambham: This is considered to be an auspicious event for initiating the learning process, especially in young children. Children are introduced to the world of knowledge, music, dance and some forms of folk arts.
Special music programs mainly classical music festivals are conducted along with this festival. All the celebrations include feasting on mouthwatering sweets and crunchy savory snacks.
It falls in the month of September/ October.
It is celebrated by Hindus all over India as the festival of lights. God Krishna’s triumph over the demon Narakasura is the story behind Deepavali celebration.
Wearing festive garments, distributing special sweets, bursting firecrackers and watching the colorful fireworks are the main Deepavali celebrations. Homes are lit up with clay oil lamps and the sparkling lights are the major attraction of this festival.
According to Hindu mythology, it was on Shivarathri that Lord Siva performed the Tandava Nritya.
During this day devotees recite the Panchaksharaimantra “Om Namah Shivaya”. They take fasting and keep awake all night. The crux of the Sivarathri celebration is at the Siva Temple at Aluva, on the banks of the Periyar river. There is a Siva Lingam (idol) that emerges out of the sand on the river bank that attracts thousands of pilgrims.
It is in the month of February-March.
Makaravilakku is an annual festival that is celebrated in Sabrimala temple on Makar Sakranti. The festival includes the Thiruvabharanam(sacred ornaments of Lord Ayyappan) procession. The journey advents two days prior to Makara Jyothi Day from Pandalam. The Jyothi is a star that appears on the skies on the Makarasamkrama day above the Ponnambalamedu towards the eastern direction of Sabarimala. The lamp lighted during the time of Deeparadhana (arati) in the temple is known as Makara Vilakku.
13. Chembai Sangeetholsavams
Chembai Sangeetholsavam is an annual Carnatic music festival held in Guruvayur as part of the Ekadasi day, by the Guruvayur Devaswom in memory of Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, one of the titans of Carnatic classical music and an ardent devotee of Lord Guruvayurappan.
14. Kalpathi Ratholsavam
This festival is in the Kalpathy village of Palakkad district in Kerala. It is one of the most remarkable festivals of Kerala. The ten-day chariot festival conducted here during the month of November. Vedic recitals and cultural programs are held in the temple during the first four days of the festival. This is believed to be over 700 years old. In the last three days, thousands of devotees gather together to draw decorated temple chariots through the streets.
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