Kerala during the festival season is at its peak! The state simply lights up due to the beautiful decorations all around, as well as the fanfare of the enthusiastic residents who gather together to celebrate the renowned festivals of the state. Being there to witness the magnificent festivals of God’s Own Country is truly a privilege, for this wholesome experience is one that will be etched onto your hearts and souls forever. However, for now, it seems you might have to live vicariously through words that truly aren’t enough to describe the ineffable splendor of these festivals.
Let us commence this vibrant journey with Kerala’s very own: Onam. This is a ten-day festival from Atham (the first day) to Thiruvonam (the last and holiest day). Onam is celebrated throughout Kerala with devotees offering their prayers, dressed in traditional clothing, especially women who look elegant in the white and gold saree referred to as Kasavu. At the doorstep of every household, you can observe a beautiful rangoli made entirely from flowers or pookkalam. Additionally, a customary 9-course meal, consisting of 36 dishes called ‘Sadya’ is cooked for this auspicious occasion and is served on banana leaves. This festival also observes the masses participating in boat races, dances, and martial arts. This festival is celebrated to mark the return of Mahabali, a generous and fair ruler of Kerala. Under his reign, Kerala was nothing less than a utopia and his popularity rose which meant a decline for the Devas who were annoyed by the same. To respond to their complaint, Vishnu went on Earth in the form of a dwarf: Vamana, and requested three steps of land from Mahabali who granted his wish. Vishnu then exponentially grew in size and took the steps. The first one over Earth, second over the heavens, and with no space left, Mahabali offered his head as the third step. Vishnu, touched by his act, allowed him to go back and visit his subjects once a year on the day that is now celebrated as Onam.
2. Kerala Boat Race Festivals
Kerala is a state that is renowned throughout the globe for its backwaters. One of the major attractions to visit them has to be without a doubt, the enthralling boat festivals. Whether you are participating or merely witnessing, you are surely in for quite a ride. These races are simply captivating with the surrounding fanfare and the constant wonder as to who will win with boats overtaking each other from time to time making it a very close call. The snake boats referred to as ‘Chundan Vallams’ also serve as another charm of this festival. Some boat races that are a must-visit are the Vallam Kali and the Nehru Trophy Boat Race.
3. Maha Shivratri
The religious festival of Maha Shivratri is zealously rejoiced throughout the state of Kerala. As per legend, the day marks the night when Lord Shiva performed the infamous Tandava Nritya which is said to have saved the entire world from its doom. Falling between February and March, per the Hindu Lunar Calendar, Maha Shivratri, as denoted by its very name, is a night in the remembrance and commemoration of Shiva. Devotees in large numbers attend the event at the Aluva Mahadeva Temple, in its namesake city, near the banks of River Periyar.
Another well-known festival in Kerala is Vishu. Celebrated on the first day of the Malayalam month of Medam, it marks the astronomical new year, and people throughout the state dynamically commemorate the same. It is also considered to be the day when demon Narakasura was defeated by Lord Krishna. An interesting aspect of this festival has to be ‘Vishnukkani’. Kani is a Malayalam word that refers to what is first seen and therefore the object that you first set your eyes upon during the morning of Vishu serves as a determinant of your luck throughout the year. It is because of this the Vishukkani is previously prepared by the women of the family and it consists of lemon, an oil lamp, mirror, Lord Vishnu’s image, and other such items. The family members are blindfolded by traditionally the eldest member and then guided towards the Vishukkani to bring upon good luck. The arguably best part of the festival for any foodie like me is the truly mouth-watering delicacies prepared such as Veppampoorasam (a sour mango soup) as well as Sadya. Apart from this, children also burst firecrackers at night, adding to the joyous day.
5. Attukal Pongala
The enthralling festival of Attukal Pongala is one endemic to Kerala and is celebrated every year, generally in the Malayalam month of Kumbham, at the Attukal temple, situated in Thiruvananthapuram, the state’s very own capital devoted to its namesake, the Attukal Devi. The temple is filled with hundreds of thousands of devotees and the majority of them are women who revere Devi Attukal and offer her sweets in clay pots including payasam, one of Kerala’s specialties. A special is also executed on this occasion by a crowd of women which is considered to gratify the Devi. An interesting fact about this festival is that it made the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest female gathering with the number going up to 25 lakhs in the year 2009. This festival is truly mesmerizing due to the way the city of Thiruvananthapuram simply glows as well as the celebration of the power of women brought upon by this festival.
Apart from these, there are various other religious and temple festivals celebrated in the lively state that is Kerala. Right now, anyone would be enticed to buy a ticket to Kerala and celebrate with the welcoming locals their various breath-taking festivals and eat some delicious South-Indian food too. These festivals bring us closer to our culture and roots which we sometimes forget about owing to the hectic nature of everyday life. So, let’s do our best to remember and take in our marvelous heritage. Also, do let us know in the comments section below about your favorite festival in Kerala.