The diverse south Indian state of Kerala can also be called a 'land of festivals', because of long list of fairs and festivals that are celebrated here all round the year. However, the dates of the festivals change every year as per the Malayalam calendar. Every festival has its own importance and is celebrated with great zeal by the people of all the castes and religions. During the celebrations, the classical music, dance and other traditional rituals comes alive. People clean and decorate their homes, exchange gifts, wear new clothes, relish elaborate meals along with the loved ones, offer prayers to their deities and partake in processions, which are great shows of rhythm and culture. Elephants are also an important part of Kerala's festivities. Following are the main festivals in Kerala:
Kerala's most important and the yearly harvest festival, Onam, is a 10-day event that starts on Attam and is concluded on Thiruvonam. This festival is rejoiced to welcome the spirit of King Mahabali from external world who visits Kerala to see that his people are happy. The ruler was very fond of his subjects and so it is believed that he visits them, once in a year during Onam. He is welcomed in every house, which is brightly lit and is decorated beautifully. A rangoli of flowers and colors is prepared outside the house and a lighted oil lamp stand is kept in its middle. People wear saffron color clothes and the woman of the house prepares Sadya, a special feast. People visit each other's house and exchange greetings. For the promotion of Onam and the culture of the state, Tourism Week is celebrated mainly in Trivandrum, during which several cultural programs etc are organized at the Kanakkunu Palace and similar other places. This colorful carnival also includes of the very well-known Snake Boat Race and special classical and folk performances.
Celebrated in April-May, in the month of Madom, Thrissur Pooram is a major festival held in Thrissur. The rulers of erstwhile Kochi state, Sakthan Thampuran founded this festival. As April arrives, the search for the best of elephants in the state is started. When this search comes to an end, these elephants are decorated and are sent to Thrissur in a procession. The highlight of this festival is its procession that consists of 101 bedecked elephants, which first assemble for the festivals in the Vadakumnatha temple. Along with the group of elephants, the procession includes spectacular fireworks and the Panchavadyam, 5 musical instruments, when played together, create soothing music.
A 10- day festival, Pongala is organized at Attukal Bhagavathy temple, around 2 km from Trivandrum. The festival is attended by thousands of female devotees but men are not allowed in the vicinity of the temple. On this day, Pongala, a kind of sweet porridge, is offered to the goddess. This dish is prepared in a clay pot on open fire.
Celebrated in the month of Kanni (September-October), Navarathri is one of the most prominent Hindu festivals. During the festival, the 9 incarnations of Goddess Durga are worshipped. Puja Veppu ceremony is performed on the day of Durgashtami. All kinds of study and work are given-up on this day and books are worshipped. On the day of Mahanavami, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped. On the day of Vijaya Dashami, it is break-up time for the Pooja and work and study are again restarted.
Celebreated in January, Makaravillakku is held at Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta. This festival is attended by thousands of devotees from all over South India. Lord Ayyappa, also called Dharma Sastha, the worshipped deity in Sabarimala is offered prayers during the festivals. He is seen as a representation of unison between the Vaishnavites and the Saivites.
Celebrated in the month of January, the Kerala Village fair or Gramam, is organized on the well-known Kovalam beach. During this 10-day festival, a scene of a village is recreated. Nalukettu, quadrangular in shape, is a recreation of traditional house of Kerala is the main attraction. This structure consists of an open central courtyard, massive pillars, corridors and huge windows. The fair includes several stalls, selling interesting stuff like coconut shell items, bell metal mirrors, woven clothes, handicrafts, spinning wheels and handloom for making Khadi and more. In the evening, there are dance, music and martial art performances in the open air auditorium.
Celebrated in February-March, in the Hindu month of Kumbha, Aluva Sivarathri is held on the banks of Periyar River in Aluva, which is around 16 km from Ernakulam. This day is celebrated to remember the occasion when Lord Shiva had consumed poison to save the destruction of the world. On the day of the festivals, the devotees stay awake for the night and read holy scriptures, puranas etc. After returning to their homes during dawn, they perform Bali, a ritual. Several cultural programs and a trade fair are also a part of this festival.
Celebrated on the first day of the month of Medam (April-May), Vishu festival is celebration of the astronomical New Year day by the Hindus in Kerala. There is a common belief that the first object seen on this day has a great influence on the fortunes of the subsequent year. The important ceremony of Kani Kanal includes things like new white cloth, gold ornaments, cadjan leaf book, flowers of the Konna tree, some rice, halved coconut, halved jack fruit, yellow cucumber and 2 standing lighted oil lamps. Vishu Kaineettam is another important ritual wherein the elders in the family offer gifts to children and poor people. People visit temples and burst crackers on this day.
Celebrated in the month of April by Christians all around Kerala, arrives soon after the Good Friday. The day is the celebration of the rebirth of Christ, the victory of good over evil. This festival is celebrated with a lot faith and fun and the Christians offer special prayer services in the church. 40 days before the Holy week of Easter, fasting and prayers are organized.
Celebrated in the Dhanu month (December-January), at Thiruvathira, the Thiruvathira festival is women's festivals. On the day of the festival, people visit temples of Lord Shiva. There are several legends behind the origin of the festival. The main aim of this festival is promotion of happiness and harmony. The dance form of Thiruvathirkkali is also related to this festival.
Chandanakudam Mahotsavam is a colorful Muslim festival, organized in the remembrance of Bee Umma, a saintly lady whose tomb is placed in Beemapally, near Trivandrum. On this day, the devotees bring money in earthen pots that are decorated with flowers, sandalwood paste and incense sticks, in the form of an offering.
Organized at Nishagandhi Open Air Theatre, Kanakkunu Palace grounds in Trivandrum, Nishagandhi Dance and Music Festival is a celebration of Indian classical dance and music. There are various kinds of performances during the festival including a Jugalbandi, Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudim Odissi, Manipuri, Mohiniattam, and more.