Kerala is also known as God’s own country. It is also known as the land of festivals. The major festivals celebrated include:
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Popular Festivals of Kerala
Onam is the most popular festival in Kerala. The festival falls in the month of either August or September and is celebrated in honour of Lord Mahabali’s homecoming. Legend has it king Mahabali who was very popular among the public. There were no problems for the public in his reign which made the ‘Divas’ very jealous of him. The ‘Divas’ asked for help from Lord Vishnu who transformed into a dwarf and asked King Mahabali to give three foot of land. After agreeing to the deal, Lord Vishnu transformed into his original form and took a big step from which the first covered the earth, next step which covered heaven and for the last step, Mahabali offered his head. Seeing this act of kindness, before sending him to Pathalam, Lord Vishnu granted Mahabali a permit to visit the people once a year. The day of the visit is celebrated as the festival of Onam in Kerala. Onam is a very popular festival in Kerala and is celebrated with great fervour by the locals.
Vishu is the second most important festival in Kerala. It marks the beginning of a new year in Kerala and the festival usually falls on 14th, 15th or 16th April. As per beliefs, the festival of Vishu determines as to how the year will turn out for the locals. The locals believe that the first thing that will be seen in the morning will decide the things that will happen to them during the year. People shop during the day and fireworks are burst during the night.
Thrissur Pooram is one of the most famous temple festivals in Kerala. The festival is celebrated in the Vandakkunnathan temple in Kerala. One of the main attractions of the festival includes people sitting on elephants that are decorated for the day. The poojas related to the festival go on for a period of 36 hours in three days. Lord Shiva is worshipped during the festival with the festival being attended by almost 300,000 people.
The festival of Thiruvathira celebrated in the month of January or February. Lord Shiva is worshipped during the festival with the eve of the festival being considered very auspicious to do that. Another myth that surrounds the celebration of the festival is that it is celebrated to commemorate the demise of Lord Kamadeva who is the god of love. On the day of the festival, women get up in the early hours of the morning in order to get ready and then sing songs in praise of Lord Kamadeva.
The festival of Theyyam is over 800 years old with people from all over the country coming to perform as deities. In the festival of Theyyam, people dress up using painted and masked faces. The three main stages of the performers include:
a. The dancers cover themselves with colours, flowers and masks.
b. Dancers torture themselves.
c. This is the important part of being a performer which includes dancing on a rhythm.
The festival of Attukal Pongala falls on the 9th day of the 10 days of Pongala festival. The festival of Pongala is either celebrated in February or March. Only women are allowed to participate in the festival. The food is offered to the gods in the afternoon. The ingredients of the food include boiled rice, jaggery and coconut. The food is then served to Attakula Devi which is blessed by the holy priest. The festival is celebrated by all the residents irrespective of their caste, creed, religion or colour. Attukal Pongala is the festival which holds the Guinness book of world records for the largest female crowd ever gathered in February 1997.
With the huge Christmas population in Kerala, Christmas is celebrated with great fervour. Churches are lit with bright lights across the street and celebrations start on the night before Christmas.
The festival of Makaravilaku is celebrated in the temple of Sabarimala. It is celebrated on the eve of Makar Sankranti on the 14th of January. On the eve of the festival, a procession of people is carried out who are dressed traditionally and carry with them the ornaments of Lord Ayappan which is known as Thiruvabharanam.
The festival of Arattu
The festival of Arattu (known as the holy bath) is held in the Padmanabaswamy temple during the Panikuni festival. One of the unique rituals of the festival includes the Royal family of Travancore escorting the idols in traditional attire to Shanghumugham beach. In the procession, the idols of Sree Krishna, Sree Narsimha and Sree Padmanabhaswamy is carried for a distance of three miles to the Arabian sea where they are given baths.
The festival of Ambalapuzha Arattu
The festival of Ambalapuzha Arattu is celebrated at the Sreekrishnaswamy temple in Alappuzha. The festival goes on for a period of 10 days and Ambalapuzha is celebrated on the 10th day. The festival on the `10th day is known as Thiruvonam Nakshotram. The Krishnaswamy temple was built in between the 15th and 17th century Chembakasserry Pooradam Thirunal-Devanarayanan Thampuran. The festival of Velakali is performed from the first day untill the final day.
The festival of Aranmula Uthrattahi
The festival of Aranmula Uthrattahi is a boat race that with great enthusiasm across the state. The boat race takes place on the banks of the river Pampa. Legend has it that the boats were attacked by enemies which resulted in neighbouring people sending their boats to protect against the attack.
The festival of Adoor Gajamela
The festival of Aadoor Gajamela gets its name from the Sanskrit words Gaja and mela which mean elephant and fair respectively. The attraction of the festival includes beautifully decorated elephants. Adoor Gajmela is dedicated to Lord Krishna and includes the ritual of Ashtamirohini – the birthday anniversary of Lord Krishna, Parichamuttukali – a martial art, Velakali – a dance form of ancient warfare, Mayooranritham – a form of peacock dance and other cultural events.
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