Known as `God’s own country’, Kerala is a land of piety and religious fervor and to enjoy the spirit of the land one should `feel’ its festivals. Expressive with music and color, festivals of the land would attract every onlooker who has a longing to experience the richness of life. While different communities in the state celebrate several national festivals, there are some festivals which are unique to the land. Let’s take a tour.
A traditional festival, Onam offers the traveler a peek into the mythical history of the state, which since olden times was one of the richest abode of nature and wealth. Primarily a harvest festival, Onam falls in the Malayalam month, Chingam (August to September) and is celebrated to remember the memorable utopian past of the state. Based on the legend, the festival was initially meant to celebrate the annual home coming of King Mahabali, the Asura king who and was forced by Lord Vishnu to inhabit Patala or inferno.
The festival which marks the prosperity of the land is pompous to the bit and starts formally on the day of Atham (ten days before the King’s homecoming day or Tiruvonam day). By practice in certain parts of the state, earthen mounds (to represent Vishnu) are placed before the entrance of the house. A flower carpet, colorful with different petals of yellow, red, orange, white and green leaves laid before every house during the ten day long festival offers the tourist a floral treat.
What one should not miss during the festival is the traditional meal which is served during the time. Served during Tiruvonam day, the meal which is offered to guests of the house would give the tourist the true taste of the land.
Vishu, traditionally the New Year day of the state, is one such festival which is known to bring prosperity and calm to your life. Vishu day which falls in the month of Medam (April to May) is considered to be the most auspicious day of the year.
The festivities of the day begin with Kani Kanal which literally means – seeing the first sight of the day. The Kani is usually of a symbolic representation of all the things that would represent prosperity to you including, gold ornaments, fresh cloths, a measure of rice, mirror, flowers of Cussia Fistula (Konna), fruits, coconut and yellow cucumber all spread out in a room. The sight of these would await you once you open your eyes to look at the neatly arranged Kani on Vishu morning. The golden glow of tall bronze lamps coupled with the scent of incense would leave a feel of richness that will remain with you through the coming year.
Vishu is also a time to rekindle the special bond between members of the family. On the day, the elders of the family hand out money to youngsters and bless them. The gesture is meant to wish the younger generation wealth and happiness in the coming year. An experience of Vishu day would give the traveller opportunity to begin afresh a new year and perhaps a new life.
A festival which is romantic and pious, Thiruvathira is meant to commemorate the demise of the mythical God, Kamadeva or Cupid. Reflecting the strong female centric tradition of the land, Thiruvathia, is celebrated only by women. The scenic splendor of the land matches with the beauty of women, who dance, sing and enjoy the Thiruvathira night without male company, dedicating their being to cupid.
The festival is marked by the famous dance, Thiruvathirakali, where women wearing simple white and red costumes dance around a tall wick lamp for blessings of Kamadeva. The festival is meant to bring marital happiness.
A festival of lights resembling Diwali of northern India, Thrikarthika is celebrated in the Malayalam month, Vrischikam (November to December). A tour through roads in the state on Thrikarthika night would be a feast to the eyes, with temples, houses and even streets emanating the silent glow of wick lamps. With the day usually falling on a full moon night what more could a traveler want than a roof top stay to look at the lasting light of the lamps, down below.
What would interest the seeker in you, is that the festival represents a tribute to mother Goddess, Sakthi who is popularly known as Bhagavathi in the state. Being a form of nature worship, the festival is simple yet charming to its core.
A tradition carnival which dates back to over 200 years, Thrissur Pooram is the most colorful, the most spectacular and the most lively festival of Kerala. Attracting over 30,000 people to Thrissur district annually, the festival has all that one needs to enjoy the exotic feel of this blessed land. August with elephant processions, fireworks, music from percussion instruments and traditional theater performance or Pulikkali, Pooram is that carnival which will remain a memory to all who experiences it.
While it is mainly a traditional Hindu festival held with the participation of three main Shiva temples of the district – Thrissur Pooram over the ages transcended religious barriers and is now known as the festival of the masses. For any onlooker the festival would be an excellent example of mass culture and popular expression of aesthetics.
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