FESTIVALS OF KERALA
With the scenic beauty and the rich and vibrant culture, Kerala celebrates various forms of festivals. These festivals are related to religion, temples, social and community rituals and traditions.
All seasons have festivals, and each one a celebration. The spirit of these celebrations reflects the beliefs, customs, practices and traditions of the people of Kerla, and the harmony among diverse faith in the state.
Most of the festivals in Kerala are Hindu festivals, but people from other communities also take part in these celebrations. The important festivals of Kerala includes:-
ONAM - The Harvest Festival and the Festival of Flowers
Onam is the state festival of Kerala. It falls in the Malayalam month Chingam (August-September). The legend behind Onam is related to a period of peace and prosperity, when the Asura King ‘Mahabali’, often called ‘Maveli’, ruled Kerala.
All the people were considered equal, no dishonesty or betrayal or any instance of false sayings – in the reign of King Mahabali. The jealous ‘Devas’, with the help of Vamana - the dwarf incarnation of Lord Maha Vishnu, expelled Mahabali from his throne. But, Mahabali was granted a permission to visit his ‘prejas’(people) once in an year. This annual visit is celebrated as Onam.
Onam is a season of plenty and prosperity – celebrated in ten days from ‘Atham’ to ‘Thiruvonam’. The traditional ‘Pookalam’ (flower decoration in a arcular form), with an idol of Thrikkakkara Appan made of clay in the centre, can be seen in front of the houses from the day Atham onwards. Thiruvonam is the most important day of the festival. ‘Onasadhya’ – feast of vegetarian meal served in banana leaf is an inevitable element of Thiruvonam.
Oonjalaattam, Thumbithullal, Thiruvathirakali, Kaikottikkali, Pulikali, Onathallu and other folk games add charm to the season. The fascinating water sports – the Boat races (Regatta) – is conducted in the Onam season, and it attracts a large number of inland and foreign tourists.
The Government of Kerala, under the auspices of the Kerala Tourism Department, celebrates Onam as the ‘Tourism Week Festival’ to promote tourism in Kerala.
VISHU – The Agriculture Festivals
Vishu is the New Year according to the Malayalam calendar ‘Panjangam’. The first day of ‘Medam’ (April) is celebrated as Vishu.
It is believed that the fortune of a year depends on the nature of the object first seen on the Vishu day – the ‘Vishukkani’.
For this, in Hindu families, ‘Kani’ is prepared in the previous night. In a bronze vessel called ‘uruli’, a new white cloth is spread, and on that cloth, some raw rice, a golden colour cucumber, betel leaves, betel nuts, a metal mirror, yellow flowers of Konna tree (Cassia Fistula), a Holy Grandha and a few coins are arranged in the Pooja Room, in front of the idol of Lord Krishna. The family members open their eyes only in front of the ‘Kani’ in the Vishu morning.
The practice of handsel (Kaineettam) is a part of the Vishu day celebration. The older members of the family give coins (Silver or gold coins in older days) to the younger members. This tradition is followed through the generations.
KARTHIKA VILAKKU (THRIKKARTHIKA) – The Festival of Lamps
Thrikkarthika, the full moonday in the Malayalam month Vrischikam (November – December) is the most auspicious day of the Godess Bhagavathi. It is cllebrated in Kerala by decorating oil-lit clay lamps called ‘Manchirathu’ in temples, in front of houses and in streets, in the evening. All electric lights will be switched off, and the glow of the oil lamps in the dark is a treat to the eyes.
Thrikkarthika is clelbrated as a ten days festival in the famous Kumaranalloor Devi Temple near Kottayam.
THIRUVATHIRA – The Birthday of Lord Shiva
Thiruvathira is celebrated in Kerala in the Malayalam month Dhanu (December – January), as the birthday of Lord Shiva. Another legend regarding Thiruvathira is connected with the death of Kamadeva – the mythological God of Love, from the angry look of Lord Shiva from his third eye – ‘Thrikkannu’.
Thiruvathira is an important festival celebrated by women of Nampoothiri and Nair community in Kerala. Thiruvathirakali or Kaikottikkali performance by women standing in a circle, with a lighted lamp in the centre, is the main attraction of Thiruvathira festival. ‘Pathirapoochoodal’ – wearing flowers at midnight is also a custom for women in Thiruvathira.
Apart from these indigenous festivals of Kerala, other festivals like NAVARATHRI – a dedication to Devi, the Divine Mother, DEEPAVALI- the Festival of Lights, MAHA SHIVARATHRI – the great Night of Lord Shiva are also celebrated.
‘Perunnals’ of Christian and Muslim communities also have a place in the festive calendar of Kerala. CHRISTMAS and EASTER of the Christians, and MILAD-I-SHERIF, MUHARRAM, BAKRID, RAMADAN and CHANDANAKKUDAM of the Muslims are also a part of the festivals of Kerala.