Kerala is a
land of colourful festivals, which have a long history and tradition behind them.
Onam is the most important national festival
of Kerala, falls in the month of Chingam (August-September). It is the harvest festival of Kerala. There are several legends
regarding its origin. The most popular legend is that Mahabali, the legendary king who ruled over Kerala in an age of plenty
and was pushed down to the infernal regions by Lord Vishnu in the form of Vamana, returns to see his people once a year.
of Onam as a national festival was taken up on Government initiative in Kerala in 1961.The celebrations start formally on
the day of Atham asterism. Onam has certain social aspects. It provides an occasion for the family get-together for the Keralites.
The head of the family presents clothes as gift (Onapudava) to the junior members, servants and tenants.
Apart from these
social aspects of Onam, there are certain recreational and other aspects associates with the festival. Karadikali, pulikali,
Kuttiyum kolum are some of the major recreational events performed by the people on the Onam occasion. There are some games
peculiars to the womenfolk, such as Thiruvathirakali, Kummi, Mudiyattom Kali, Oonjal Swinging etc. The non-Hindus of the State
also celebrating Onam with all the Carnival spirit and therefore it a perfect example for the religious harmony of the state.
The Vishu festival falls on the first day of Medam (April-May), the astronomical New Year day and Hindus all over the
State celebrate it. It is the common belief that the fortunes of the coming year depend on the first object they see on the
Vishu day. So the important ceremony connected with Vishu is the Kani Kanal, which literary means the first sight.
This kani includes cadjan leaf book, gold ornaments, fresh and white cloth, a measure of rice or paddy, bell metal
mirror, flowers of the Konna tree (Cussia fistula), halved jack fruits, halved coconuts, yellow cucumber, and two standing
oil lamps emitting sparkling light. An indispensable item connected with Vishu is the Vishu Kaineettam, which means
the gift of money to the children and to the poor people by the elder members of the family.
Thiruvathira falls on the month of Dhanu
(December-January) and is a womens festival. It commemorates the death of Kamadeva, the cupid of Hindu mythology. The
aim of the celebration is conjugal harmony and happiness. The dance form Thiruvathirakkali is associated with this celebration.
The Navarathri festival is called
Desara in Karnataka and Kali Puja in Bengal is celebrated by the Hindus of Kerala.The festival is dedicated
to Devi, the Divine mother and is celebrated in the month of Kanni (September- October). The Hindus of Kerala
celebrate these days primarily as Saraswathi Pooja. Saraswathi is worshipped as the goddess of Learning. On
the Durgashtami day the Puja veppu ceremony is performed. In the Hindu homes, books and grandhas are arranged
tastefully in a decorated room and all sorts of study and work are given up. The whole Mahanavamy day is devoted to
worship of Saraswathi. The Vijaya Dasami day is observed as the day for the break up of the Puja and the initiation
of children into the study of the alphabet (Vidyarambham) and work and study are resumed.
is celebrated by the Hindus in Kumbham (February-March). It is supposed to commemorate the day on which Lord Siva
consumed the deadly poison (Kalakutavisham) to save the world from destruction. The annual Sivarathri festival held on the
banks of Periyar at Alwaye is one of the most colourful local festivals of Kerala. The pilgrims keep awake the whole night
and return home next morning after performing bali.
An important festivity associated with temple festivals in the Kollam and Alappuzha districts is the Kettukazcha
or Kutirakettu. The main feature of the festival is that people from different Karas adjoining the temple concerned
bring huge rathams or cars varying in height. The images of Hindu gods and Goddesses and effigies of Puranic figures
like Bhima, Panchali, Hanuman etc., are kept in the ratham.
Among the typical festivals of Kerala
the Vallomkali or boat regatta has a place of honour. The most important of the boat regattas are held during the Onam season
in Chingam (August-September) in the Alappuzha and Kottayam districts. Aranmula is the venue of the famous sake boat
regatta held on the Uthrittathi day in connection with the Onam festival.
which falls on The 25th of December, commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. It is jovial and spectacular celebration with
many customs and conventions associated with it. The Christmas tree will be arranged and the appearance of Santa Claus (the
Christmas father) and the distribution of presents follow this. There is a feast in every Christian home on Christmas day
with meat as a special item. The Christmas cake has now become very popular even in Villages. All the Keralites with out any
difference celebrate Christmas.
Easter, though not a spectacular as Christmas, is the
older of the two festivals. It commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and falls in the Month of April. The Holy week
of Easter is preceded by 40 days of fast and Prayer (Lent). The week begins with Sunday and special prayers are offered during
this week. The whole Easter celebration has its accent on spirituality rather than festivity.
The Bakrid commemorates Ibrahims (Abhraham) offering
of his only son as a sacrifice in obedience to Gods command. The Muslims enjoy hearty feasts on Bakrid day. The rich may sacrifice
a he goat or a bullock and distribute it among friends, relatives and the poor. The famous Haj is performed after the celebration
of Idul Azha.
Idul Fitr is celebrated after the conclusion of the Ramzan
fast when Muslims give up all kind of food and drink during the day and spend the major part of the night prayer.
Miladi Sharif, celebrated on a large scale in April,
Commemorates the birth of the prophet. This celebration has acquired its present dimensions only in recent times. Previously
the day was observed by the Muslims by reading what is commonly known as Maulud which is a short treatise in Arabic celebrating
the birth, life, work and sayings of the prophet or some saint.
Muharram is another festival celebrated by Muslims on
the 10th day of Muharram the forbidden month, which marks the beginning of the Hijra year.