Shimmering beaches lined with sprawling coconut trees, silent backwaters that usher in tranquillity, the cheering crowd during a snake boat race or the enigmatic Kathakali performance! You’ve certainly guessed that we’re talking about none other than God’s Own Country – Kerala.
Owing to its enchanting and magical beauty, Kerala entices a large number of visitors every year. More than its bountiful beauty, it is the indigenous culture, the warm lifestyle and the colourful festivals of Kerala that attract these visitors. Irrespective of caste, creed and colour, this Indian state celebrates all the festivals with equal vigour, energy and cheerfulness!
Let’s embark on a colourful journey and explore some of the must see Kerala festivals and curate some festive moments during your Kerala trip:
- Onam – Echoing the Rich Malayalam Tradition
Among the most renowned Kerala religious festivals, Onam is a 10-day festival celebrated by people of almost all sects. History holds that this festival is celebrated to mark the homecoming of King Mahabali, the ruler of ancient Kerala.
One of the zestful events among Keralites, the onset of Onam is marked by organising boat races, indoor and outdoor games, Kathakali dance performances and serving a traditional meal called Sadya.
Celebration Time: Onam is usually celebrated between the months of August and September.
What to Expect: Traditional Tiger Play, Flower Rangoli, ThumbiThullal and Onasadya.
- The Snake Boat Festival in Alappuzha – A Thirst for Victory
While the silent backwaters of Alleppey or Alappuzha offer relaxing moments to visitors, for the locals, they are something far beyond. If you happen to visit Kerala during the months of July to September, you will get to witness how the backwaters turn into a battle ground for snake-boats racers!
Among the rest of the festivals in Kerala, Allappuzzha Boat Racing is one of the most popular and famous festivals in the world. Locals participate in this race with equal energy and passion to win. More than a celebration, it is considered a gala time for the locals. The Nehru Trophy Boat Race in Alleppey, ChampakulamMoolam Boat Race at Alappuzha, Vallam Kali at Punnamada Lake and PayippadJalotsavam at Payippad Lake are some of the popular boat racing events in Kerala.
Celebration Time: This heart-racing Kerala festival is usually held between July to September.
What to Expect: Owing to its popularity, recent years have seen international teams representing their country in this race. Additionally, while most often the boat race is held to compliment Onam festivals, sometimes, this festival in Kerala is a mere means of celebration.
- Theyyam – When the God’s Dances
Let’s take a few steps back and delve deep into the history of Kerala. Among all the festivals in Kerala, you will find this particular festival called Theyyam that is more than 800 years old and is still celebrated with equal devotion and sanctity.
One of the most authentic Kerala religious festivals, one can visualize as many as 400 different types of cultural dance performance by the local people dressed as deities. To perform these dances, a performer has to undergo a rigorous training schedule in three stages of learning. The first one involves decorating themselves with props like colours, flowers and a mask; the second stage involves self-torture and the third stage is all about losing inhibitions and dancing to a rhythm.
Celebration Time: This festival is usually celebrated from December to April.
What to Expect: Get ready to enlighten yourself with mythological stories being enacted through the artists by the medium of the Dance of Gods.
- Thrissur Pooram – Festival of Faith
Thrissur Pooram is one of the most famous and widely celebrated Kerala religious festivals. A tradition that has been active for 200 years, this festival is celebrated annually at the Vadakkunnathan Temple in Thrissur and is marked with a traditional puja that takes around 36 hours and is concluded with extreme fireworks.
The festival is celebrated to honour Lord Shiva and involves wide use of colour, music and religion. One of the most striking features that makes this festival worth visiting is the beautiful alignment of elephants decorated with jewels, guarding the gates of the temple.
Celebration Time: This Kerala festival is celebrated in April.
What to Expect: If you are looking forward to witness the festive spirit of this place then avail any of the Kerala tour packages. Get ready to visualize around fifty elephants walking through the streets of Thrissur to the sound of beating drums.
- Vishu – Welcome the New Beginning
If you are done celebrating New Years in Goa, grab the best deal with Kerala tour packages and prepare to welcome the New Year with the Vishu festival in God’s Own Country! Considered one of the most important festivals of Kerala, Vishu is said to be the New Year for the Malayali people and is based on the astrological Malayalam Calendar.
Celebration Time: This festival is celebrated in month of April.
What to Expect: The local folks begin this day by looking to Kani-Kanal which is prepared the previous night and offered as a token of love to the deity Krishna. Prepare to witness some amazing fire crackers, mouth-watering payassam and Vishu Kanji.
- AttukalPongala – One Love, One Faith
It might be surprising for you, but this next Kerala festival holds a ‘Guinness Book of World Records’ for hosting the largest female crowd every year! AttukalPongala, a fiesta that is celebrated by almost everyone in Kerala or by the people from all sects and religion, holds this unique record.
During this religious festival in Kerala, women offer ‘Pongala’ to Attukal Devi, a deity who is believed to be the incarnation of Parvathi Goddess. The celebration is usually held in the Attukal Temple located in proximity to Thiruvananthapuram City.
Celebration Time: This festival is celebrated during the month of February/March.
What to Expect: There is no denying that the best place to celebrate AttukalPongala is Trivandrum. Within this 10-day festival, you can witness huge crowds working together to honour their faith.
- The Festivals of Temples – to Feel the Sanctity of Kerala
Apart from the backwaters, God’s Own Country is also widely appreciated for being the home to some of the most beautiful temples across the nation. While all travellers have their own reasons for visiting this scenic land, for some of them it is their belief, faith and devotion for these stunning temples that draws them to Kerala.
These temples of Kerala have their own significance since ancient times and almost all of these holy centres annually come together to celebrate their age old devotion to the almighty.
Celebration Time: This temple festival is mostly held from February and continues to April/May.
What to Expect: Festooned elephants, drummers playing music and thrilling fireworks. Take a moment off your itinerary while visiting Kerala and enjoy the classical music and dance performances by artists during these religious festivals of Kerala.
- Makaravilakku– the Men’s Festival
One of the most significant festivals in Kerala, Makaravilakku is usually celebrated only by men. Sprawling across 7 days, this festival is held on the auspicious day of ‘Makara Sankranthi’ and is solemnised by men who gather to worship Lord Ayyappa in Sabrimala’s pious Ayyappa Temple.
Celebration Time: It is usually celebrated on the 14th of January. However, it solely depends on the astrological date of Makar Sankranthi.
What to Expect: The Divya Jyothi, which is specifically worshipped during this religious festival of Kerala can be viewed from 9 different places while you are in Sannidhanam.
- Eid-al-Fitr – Surrendering the Soul to Allah
Come the holy month of Ramadan, you must visit Kerala to witness the peace and sanctity that fills its every corner. Though one of the holiest festivals among the Muslims, it is equally celebrated by almost everyone in Kerala.
After fasting for the entire holy month of Ramadan, Muslims across Kerala celebrates this festival with all their cheerfulness. During the celebration, they offer their ‘Salat’ (or Namaz) and rejoice. They spend the rest of the day feasting on sweets and other delicious foods. Be it the Hindus, Christians or Muslims, everyone in Kerala revels in this pious festival that creates a sense of peace and brotherhood.
Celebration Time: Eid-al-Fitr is usually celebrated on the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal, which is decided according to the moon’s position by the local religious body.
What to Expect: Muslims in various parts of Kerala, in their religious attire assembling at a ground or nearby mosque and offering their Salat. After this, it is all about delicacies and gastronomic delights.
- Christmas – Santa is in Town
As seen across the rest of the world, Christmas is also celebrated in high-spirits throughout Kerala. As compared to the rest of the festivals in Kerala, Christmas is one festival that is celebrated by not only Christians but also by people belonging to all sects, religion and castes.
Celebration Time: 25th December
What to Expect: Christmas mass, Kerala sweets further make Christmas worth celebrating in Kerala.
Home to people of all religions, God’s Own Country gives the freedom to almost everyone to celebrate their own festival with great vivacity! If you want to witness how religion and religious celebrations bond society you must visit this paradise called Kerala today.