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kerala festivals

Kerala has a colorful list of festivals throughout the year!  Observed with enthusiasm and gaiety, it adds spice to the life of Keralites.  During these festivals family, friends and neighbours get together, decorate houses, buy new clothes and exchange gifts.   


Onam is the harvest festival of Kerala and is celebrated for 10 days during Aug/Sep every year.  

 The mother of all festivals in Kerala, it’s in memory of King Mahabali, the benevolent King whose spirit is said to visit the state once in every year at the time of Onam. Rituals, new clothes, dance and music, feast and festivities  peak in Kerala during the Onam celebrations! It begins with the Athachamayam celebrations in Tripunithura on the first of Chingam in the Malayalam calendar year. 


Vishu is another festival that is cherished by Keralites. Vishu is the New Year’s Day in the Malayalam calendar. The first day of Medom (March-April) is propitious day and family members gather together to make it the best day in that year. It is said that view good things on the morning of this day brings good luck to the person who views it. So family members are taken blindfolded to view the Vishu Kani early in the morning. The Vishu Kani is made from a large dish made of bell-metal (uruli), arrange in it a grantha (palm-leaf manuscript), a gold ornament, a new cloth, some flowers from the konna tree (Cassia fistula), some coins in a silver cup, a split coconut, a cucumber, some mangoes, and a jack-fruit. Later, a sumptuous feast is held. 


The Mahasivarathri is essentially a religious festival unlike the Onam and Thiruvathira. The word means 'the great night of Siva'. According to the Sivapurana, it falls on the Krishna Chathurdasi day which is on the fourteenth day during the waning of the moon in the month of Megha (February-March). The festival is said to commemorate the day on which Siva protected the world from a total annihilation either by drinking the deadly Kaalakoodum poison which was help up in his neck, or by effecting a healthy compromise between Brahma, the Creator and Vishnu, the Protector. In many respects the Sivarathri festival in Kerala can be considered a miniature Ardha Kumbha Mela held at Thriveni, the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga-Yamuna, and the invisible Saraswathi


The Navarathri dedicated to Devi, the 'Divine Mother' is celebrated all over India. In some places it is called Dussehra, in some other places 'Kalipuja' or 'Saraswathi Puja' and in still others, 'Ayudha Puja'. During Navarthri days the Divine Mother is worshipped in one or the other of her different manifestations namely Durga, Saraswathi, Kali, etc. The puja in connection with Navarathri is known as Bhuvaneswari Puja which means, the worship of 'Universal Mother'. 
The festival is celebrated during the first nine days in the bright half of Aswina namely September-October. The last three days of the Navarathri are called Durgashtami, Mahanavami and Vijayadasami, and they are considered more sacred that the other days of Devi worship. It is believed that by offering prayers to Devi during these three days one can attain the full benefits of observing the Navarathri rites 


The most colourful temple festival of Kerala, Thrissur Pooram, attracts large masses of devotees and spectators from all parts of the world. Celebrated in April-May consists of processions of 30 richly caparisoned elephants from various neighboring temples to the Vadakunnatha temple, Thrissur. The most impressive processions are those from the Krishna temple at Thiruvambadi and the Devi temple at Paramekkavu. Each group is allowed to display a maximum of fifteen elephants and all efforts are made by each party to secure the best elephants in South India and the most artistic parasols is done in the utmost secrecy by each party to excel the other. This festival was introduced by Sakthan Thampuran, the Maharaja of erstwhile Kochi state. The Pooram festival is also well-known for the magnificent display of fireworks. Commencing in the early hours of the morning, the celebrations last till the break of dawn, the next day. 


for the whole period.

Deepavali, the festival of lights, is held throughout India. It falls on the preceding day of the New Moon

(October-November). It is celebrated in commemoration of the destruction of the demon called Narakasura by Lord Krishna. As Lord Krishna killed Narakasura on the Chaturdasi day (the fourteenth lunar day) it is also known as Narakachaturdasi. Before sunrise, all in the house have their oil bath and put on new cloths. Sweets are then served followed by bursting of crackers.


Onam, the national festival of Kerala marks its beginning with Athachamayam celebration in Tripunithura. It starts from the first of Chingam and ends in ten days. Chingam, the month of celebrations in Kerala is also the beginning of Malayalam calendar year. The festival starts with Athachamayam falls during the English month between August and September.

08Origin of Athachamayam Festival

The History of Athachamayam festival dates back to the regime of the Raja of Cochin in memory of his glorious victory. He started to celebrate with a procession from Tripunithura to Thrikkakara Vamanaswamy Temple on Athachamayam day. In every year, the people of Tripunithura celebrate the festival to memorise the victory even though the Kingship had ended.


The Athachamayam festival is marked by its magnificient procession that includes diverse cultural art forms of Kerala like Theyyam, Kathakali, Bharathanaatyam, Kaavadi, Mohiniyaattam . The parade is vivid with traditional displays like Pamba Melam, Pulikali, Karakaattam, with band sets and ornamented elephants.