10 Famous Festivals of Kerala that Highlights its Rich Culture

Kerala is known for its rich cultural legacy. Its varied culture is shaped by the three prominent religions of Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. Attractive statuettes, melodious compositions, and wonderful dance forms can be seen in the momentous development of Kerala’s cultural ethnicities. Festivals of Kerala are equally playing an important role in making Kerala a world-famous and most loved tourist destination.

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In Kerala, people celebrate all festivals with lots of Joy and enthusiasm. Be it Onam or Snake Boat Race; Kerala celebrates its festivals with devotion. Let’s take a look at various festivals and boat races in Kerala that are celebrated throughout the year.

Most Famous Cultural Festivals of Kerala

Kerala is rich in culture and locals and tourists enjoy the cultural events and traditional festivals in Kerala. We mention detailed information about the cultural festivals in Kerala.

1. Thiruvathira Festival – Women-Centric Hindu Festival of Kerala: 

Thiruvathira Festival
Image Source: Wikipedia
  • About Thiruvathira Festival-

Thiruvathira Festival is a women-centric festival in Kerala. This festival is celebrated to pay a tribute to the Lord Shiva. who killed  God of Love, Kamadeva. Thiruvathira festival is also known as Thiruvathirai or Arudra Darisanam. It comes in the Malayalam month of Dhanu (December- January). Thiruvathira festival is celebrated for 7 days. On this day, women get up early in the morning and worship Lord Shiva by flowers, fruits, and garlands. Throughout the festival, women perform on folk dances and Thiruvathira songs.

  • Time of Celebration – Malayalam month of Dhanu (December-January)
  • Main Attraction – Thiruvathirakali or Kaikottikali dance, Thiruvathira kali songs, Thiruvathira songs

2. Makara Jyothi – Festival of Religious Procession:

Makara Jyothi - Religious festival of Kerala
Image Source: Wikimedia
  • About Makara Jyothi Festival-

Makara Jyothi is a traditional and annual festival of Kerala. This festival is celebrated in Sabarimala temple with lots of Joy and enthusiasm. Makara Jyothi is also known as Makaravillaku and on this day, Kerala people worship Lord Ayyappa. Makarvillaku refers to the end of the Sabarimala pilgrimage which started in November month.

  • Time of Celebration – On Makar Sankranti in January month
  • Main Attraction – Thiruvabharanam procession, Lighting of the Lamp in Ponnambalamedu

3. Attukal Pongala – Harvest Festival of Kerala:

Attukal Pongala - Harvest Festival of Kerala
Image Source: Wikipedia
  • About Attukal Pongala Festival- 

“Pongala” is among the important festivals of Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. The festival begins with the harmonious interpretation of the story of the Goddess (Kannaki Charitam) in the “Kappukettu ceremony”. The story raises the existence of Kodungallur Bhagavathy and the assassination of the Pandyan King. The song will carry on for all 9 days preceding Ponkala. This festival memorializes the triumph of Good over Evil.

  • Time of Celebration – The 10 days’ long festivity begins in the Malayalam month of Makaram-Kumbham i.e. February – March on the Karthika star.
  • Main Attractions – Convoys of multi-colored hovers of the god from all around carried with splendor and religious zeal by the disciples assembling in the temple buildings offers a pleasing experience.

4. Gramam – Kerala Village Fair in Kovalam: 

  • About Gramam Festival- 

An emblematic Kerala village –“gramam” is re-fabricated completely with the traditional Nalukettu houses, “chayakkada” local tearooms, etc. This fair signifies the wistful regeneration of past periods of rural ease and folkloric appeal. Soothsayers, craftsperson, and even magicians offer the tourist sight of Kerala’s opulent past. Expensive furniture in Teak, Mahogany, and Sandalwood, amiable knick-knacks like Ornaments Boxes, Spice Cutleries, Traditional Trinkets, Delicate Portraits as well as Shields and Rapiers Exercised by men of yore are on display. Tuneful Instruments, Palmyra Fans, regal Wooden Four Poster Beds, household kits recap one of departed time.

  • Time of Celebration – Mid-January every year.
  • Main Attractions – At ‘Kamalagramam’, the artistes’ enclave, are stands selling handcrafted articles.

5. Onam – State festival in Kerala:

Onam - State festivals in Kerala
  • About Onam Festival- 

Onam is the most popular festival of Kerala marking their visiting the mythological King Mahabali. The celebration of Onam continues for 10 days and takes out the finest of Kerala art, music, and literature with ritual. It is said that in the supremacy of the mighty Asura King, Mahabali, Kerala saw its unique time. Everybody in the state was contented and well-to-do. But, Mahabali had one shortcoming. He was egoistic. This flaw in Mahabali’s character was used by God to bring an end to his supremacy as they felt defied by Mahabali’s growing fame. Though, for the entire good endeavor done by Mahabali, God granted him a blessing that he could yearly visit his people with whom he was so close.

  • Time of Celebration – In the Malayali month of Chingam i.e. August – September
  • Main Attractions – Convolutedly adorned Pookalam, ambrosial Onasadya, spectacular Snake Boat Race, and interesting Kaikottikali dance are a few of the most extraordinary features of Onam.

6. Theyyam – Popular Ritual form of Worship in Kerala:

Theyyam - Popular Ritual form of Worship in Kerala
  • About Theyyam Festival- 

It is also identified as Kaliyattam. It is a ceremonious dance popular in north Kerala. Theyyam includes dance, mime, and music in addition to preserving the fundamentals of antique ethnic philosophies which dedicated great significance to the devotion of brave man and the spirits of descendants. Of the over 400 Theyyams executed, the most remarkable ones are those of Raktha ChamundiKari Chamundi, Muchilottu Bhagavathi, Wayanadu Kulaven, Gulikan, and Pottan. These are executed in front of reliquaries, sans stage or draperies, by persons belonging to the Vannan, Malayan, and other associated classes.

  • Time of Celebration – Theyyams are executed yearly from December to April.
  • Main Attractions – The headdress and other ornamental adornments are remarkable in utter size and look.

7. Thrissur Pooram – One of the Colorful Temple Festivals in Kerala:

Image Source: Wikimedia
  • About Thrissur Festival-

Thrissur Pooram festival is also known as the Kerala elephant festival. It is reflected to be the Mother of all Poorams, a cultural highlight that keeps above all other festivals. It is not a simple temple festival in its severe sense but simultaneously it is the festival of Kerala. It is a magnificent get-together of Gods and Goddesses in and around Thrissur; who make their visit to the Vadakumnathan Temple premises on caparisoned elephants along with grand troupes of Chenda Melam and Pancha Vadyam. There are ten participants in Pooram.

  • Time of Celebration – It is celebrated in the Malayalam month of Medom i.e. April-May.
  • Main Attractions – The pageants and ceremonies of each of these divinities follow a very firm travel plan, planned in such a way that the rhythm of the Pooram celebrations must be kept maintained for 36 hours.

8. Vishu – New Year Festival in Kerala: 

Vishu - New Year Festival in Kerala
  • About Vishu Festival – 

The beginning of the Zodiac New Year; when the sun comes into Sidereal Aries, Ashwini Nakshatra—is renowned as Vishu. It is believed, what one sees after opening eyes on the morning of Vishu is a sign of what one can presume in the year to come. Therefore on Vishu, the effort is made to convince one opens one’s eyes before a fortunate image—the Vishukkani.

  • Time of Celebration – On the first day in the Malayalam month of Medam i.e. April-May.
  • Main Attractions – Vishu is considered to be a day of eating, where the foods comprise roughly equal parts of salt and sweet, sour, and bitter stuff. Meal items consist of Veppampoorasam (a bitter preparation of neem) as well as Mampazhapachadi (a sour mango soup).

Temple Festivals of Kerala:

Besides Kerala being lands of spices, coconuts, backwaters, and tea plantations also known as the land of festivals and fares. Here’s the list of few famous temples of Kerala where  festivals are  celebrated:

  • Ambalapuzha Arattu Temple, Alappuzha
  • Arattu at Sree Padhmanabha Swami Temple, Thiruvananthapuram
  • Ashtami at Vaikom, Kottayam
  • Chittur Kongan Pada, Palakkadu
  • Ettumanoor Festival, Kottayam
  • Lokanarkavu Utsavam, Kozhikode
  • Makaravilakku, Sabrimala
  • Vela, Vallanghy
  • Time of Celebration: Mostly from February to April/May.
  • Major Attractions: Festooned elephants, timpanists playing music, and firecrackers. Classical music and dance performances as well.

Best Boat Races of Kerala

1. Aranmula Snake Boat Race – The Most Ancient and Revered Boat Race of Kerala:

Image Source: Aranmula Snake Boat Race
  • About Aranmula Snake Boat Race-

It is the oldest river boat carnival in Kerala taking place at Aranmula, adjacent to a Hindu temple devoted to Lord Krishna and Arjuna. The Aranmula snake boats move in duos to the pace of full-throated singing and yelling viewed by an encouraging mob. They were added to the program of the festival in 1972. Many persons pleat on the banks of the river Pampa to have a look at these snake boat races. The golden lace at the dome of the boat, the banner, and the decorative umbrella in the middle make it a show of spectacle too.

  • Time of Celebration – During Onam i.e. from August to September.
  • Main Attractions – Palliyodams (snake boats) are Aranmula’s unique identity decorated with golden lace along with the men in white lungi and turban without shirt and footwear. Each boat has4 helmsmen, rowers, and singers.

2. Nehru Trophy Boat Race – Premier Snake Boat Race in Kerala:

Nehru Trophy Boat Race
Image Source: Nehru Trophy Boat Race
  • About Nehru Trophy Boat Race- 

Nehru Trophy Boat Race is baptized after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and is lead on the Punnamda Lake, near Alappuzha. Once Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru ventured a voyage from Kottayam to Alappuzha by boat, over waterlogged Kuttanad. The pageantry of boats escorted him on the trip. The first race was spontaneous once steered in 1952 in admiration of Panditji who visited Alappuzha. That race of snake boats was won by Nadubhagam Chundan. Excited Panditji jumped into the Nadubhagam Chundan, overlooking all security measures. In December 1952, Nehruji gave a Silver Trophy, an imitation of a snake boat placed on a wooden abacus. Since then, Alappuzha rejoices the Nehru Trophy Boat Race every year.

  • Time of Celebration – Organized on the 2nd Saturday of August every year.
  • Main Attractions – The racecourse of length about 1370 meters is alienated into numerous tracks for the happening of the race.

3. Champakulam Boat Race – Oldest Snake Boat Race of Kerala:

  • About Champakulam Boat Race- 

Season of boat races, in Keralabegins with the well-known Champakkulam Moolam Vallam Kali. Entitled after the peaceful village of Champakulam, which generally has a farming community, this race is taking place on the course of River Pamba. On the day of the race, local people and tourists from faraway drove the river bank to relish the race. Few people also climb the nearby trees to have a balcony view. The Champakulam snake boat race is a lot deliberated as the eventual test of the resolution, speediness, and cleverness in this county and oars persons numbering about 90 to 100 on each boat go through severe training for numerous days, before partaking in the race.

  • Time of Celebration – In the moolamasterism in the Malayalam month of mithunam i.e. roughly in June/July.
  • Main Attractions – Amongst the type of boats, the snake boats are the center of attraction for all eyes and therefore come to be the main attraction for the encouraging thousands, particularly during the final race.

There is no fixed time of the year to visit Kerala; you can plan anytime you are free. These celebrations and festivals will for sure re-energize you.

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