Kerala has its own festivals and festivities which invest the state with a unique atmosphere of gaiety and charm. And Kerala has so many of them that no one can probably have a better festive calendar than Kerala. Some of Kerala’s innumerable festivals, however stand out because of their uniqueness.
Onam the most typical Kerala Festival, which coincides with the month of harvest season is an occasion for spontaneous revelry. It falls in the month of Chingam (August-September). It celebrates the home coming of Mahabali, the legendary king who ruled over Kerala in an age of plenty and was pushed down to the infernalregions (Patala) by Vishnu in the form of Vamana.Onam is being celebrated as a National Festival under Government auspices. It synchronises with the tourist week celebrations in the State. The Onam celebration starts formally on the day of Atham asterism. The image of Thrikkakara Appan (Vishnu in the form of Vamana) is installed in every Hindu home during the Onam season. Children go around collecting flowers for the decoration of the front portion of their house in different designs and forms which change from day to day. The most important days of the Onam festival are Uthradom and Thiruvonam days. On the latter, a grand feast is held in every home. Onam also provides an occasion for family get-togethers for the Keralites.
Hindu religious festivals
Navarathri festival which is called Dasara in Karnataka and Kali Pooja in Bengal is celebrated as Saraswathy Pooja in the State. Saraswathy is worshipped as Goddess of Learning. On the Durgastami Day, the Pooja Veppu is performed when all sorts of study and work are put aside. The Vijayadasami Day is observed as the day for the break up of the Pooja and the initiation of children into the study of the alphabet. Work and study are then resumed.Mahasivarathri, the great night of Siva, is celebrated in Kumbam (February-March). It commemorates the day on which Lord Siva consumed the deadly poison Kalakuda Visham to save the world from destruction. The day is celebrated by the offering of special poojas and abhishekhams and the presentation of cultural programmes in all the Siva Temples. The Annual Sivarathri Festival held on the banks of Periyar at Alwaye is one of the most spectacular local festivals of Kerala which attracts thousands of pilgrims from all over the State. It has been compared to the Kumbamela at Prayag.Ashtami Rohini, the brith day of Sri Krishna is of great importance. It is celebrated in the month of Chingam (August-September). Devotees visit the Krishna or Vishnu temples where special pooja and cultural programmes are held.Thrikarthika is another festival which is celebrated in the month of Vrichikom (November-December). Display of lights in the evening is an important part of the festival. Deepavali, the festival of light is celebrated by the display of fire works and bursting of crackers.
The 41 day Mandalam season beginning with the first day of the month of Vrischikom (November-December) is sacred to the Hindus. The 41st day which coincides with the Makaravilakku in Sabrimala is the concluding day of the festival. The observance of certain vrathams of fasts is resorted to which the Hindu consider sacred to certain deities. The most important of these is Ekadasi considered sacred to Vishnu. At the Sri Krishna Temple, Guruvayoor, the Great Eakadasi festival is held annually for five days in the month of Vrischikom (November-December). Sashti the sixth day is sacred to Subramanya and Pradosham the thirteenth day to Shiva. Devotees spend these days in fasting and devotional excercises. Full moon is also observed as a day of fast. The New Moon days in Makaram (January-February) and Karkatakam (July-August) are particularly important for the performance of Sradha. Karkataka Rim is almost like a festival day in Trivandrum. The Vallamkali or boat regatta is typical of Kerala. It is held in August in the Punnamada Kayal which commemorates the visit of Prime Minister Nehru to Alleppey. Similar boat-races are also being held at Aranmula and Champakulam which have a religious significance. The latter commem morates an episode involving the idol of Sri Krishna which was lifted from Kurichi by the Chempakasseri Raja’s men for consecration in the Ambalapuzha Temple. The idol had to rest in the house of a Syrian Christian at Champakulam. Even today the flag and coir rope required for the Champakulam boat race are supplied from the local Kallurkad chruch.There are also other temple festivals which have local importance. The Sree Padmanabha Temple has two Arattu Festivals, one in Thulam (October-November) and the other in Meenam (March-April) lasting for ten days. The festival ends with the Arattu Procession of the deity with the Maharaja of Travancore at its head.Attukal in Trivandrum City is famous for its nine day Pongal festival in the month of Kumbham. The highlight of the festival is on the 9th day when several thousand women assemble in the temple premises and cook the Pongala as an offering to Bhagavathy.
Christian religious festivals
Christmas and Easter are the main festivals of Christains. Christmas falls on December 25th and commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. Holy Mass is held in all churches in the State. The Christmas Tree is decorated in chruches and homes. The appearance of Santa Claus and the distribution of presents are highlights of the celebration. There is a feast in every Christian Home with meat as a special item. Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It falls in the month of April. The Maramon Convention held every year in March on the river bed at Maramon under the auspices of the Marthoma Church is the biggest gathering of the Christians in Asia and the second biggest in the World.
Muslim religious festivals
Bakrid (Idul Azha) and Ramzan (Idul Fitr) are the major muslim festivals. Muslims enjoy a hearty feast on Bakrid Day. The famous Haj is performed after Idul Azha. Id-ul-Fittr is celebrated after the conclusion of Ramzan fast when muslims give up all kinds of food and drink during day and spend major part of the night in prayer. Miladi Sherif (Nabi Dinam) in April commemorates the birth of the Prophet. Muharam is another festival celebrated on the 10th day of the month of Muharam-the forbidden month which marks the beginning of the Hijira Year.
The Chandanakudam at Beemapally near Trivandrum is one of the most colourful of muslim festivals in Kerala. It is said to be the death anniversary of Beema Beevi, a devout pilgrim lady who came to Kerala from Mecca. The festival begins on the 1st of Jamadul Akhar of the Hijira Era (October) and lasts ten days. Carrying earthern pots smeared with sandal wood paste and the mouth of the pot lightly closed with a jasmine garland around the edges, thousands of pilgrims go around the mosque and the hallowed tomb of the devout lady in procession, the earthern pot with money is placed at the tomb as an offering.