Kerala festivals are festivals of a lifetime. They are the heritage of an ancient tradition that exudes the essence of Kerala. Visiting Kerala or the land of God is a paradise for travelers. Enjoy the magical colors of Pooram, Vela, Thalappoli and Utsavam.
Pooram is a notable event when the gods and goddesses arrive in splendidly adorned tusks for a celebration. The party is a spectacle of magnificence and majesty. Ten to a hundred caparisoned tusks stand in front of the temple premises with mahouts aloft holding ornate silk parasols, white locks, and peacock feather fans, all swaying to the music.
Thrissur Pooram is the ceremonial procession of two devis (goddesses) on harnessed elephants to the Vadakunnathan Temple. Parasols held atop the elephants are changed in an exciting synchronized ritual, accompanied by chendamelan, an orchestra of percussion instruments. A fireworks display marks the climax.
The annual snake boat races are usually held during the second week of August. While these are a highly publicized event, there are other festivals where boats are used. In the second week of September, in Aranmula, 128 km from Thiruvananthapuram, a procession of boats and races is held as part of the Parthasarthy Temple Festival.
Normally, a snake boat is manned by four helmsmen, followed by twenty-five singers and more than a hundred oarsmen who row together to the fast rhythm of the vanchipattu. Thousands of people line the water’s edge to cheer on the huge black boats as they plow through the waters to a spectacular finish.
Vishu is the first day of the Malayali New Year. Gazing at a group of auspicious objects at sunrise is believed to ensure a year of peace and prosperity. Utsavam is the annual celebration or festival in a temple.
Vela is a ritual martial art performance performed by the local people to appease the other goddesses, also known as Durga or Kali. The ritual is performed at Devi temples and is a part of the other Pooram festivals.
Thalappoli is a beautiful parade of native girls and women in traditional attire with thalam in their hands. The thalam is a brass or silver plate containing rice, flowers, fruit, and a lighted lamp, symbolizing prosperity.
Onam is the most popular of Kerala’s festivals. Honor Mahabali, a selfish ruler whose subjects are so happy that envious gods tricked him into forfeiting his life and his kingdom. His dying wish was to visit his people once a year to make sure they were happy. During Onam, an aura of abundance is created to gladden Mahabali’s heart. Large banquets are prepared, new clothes are worn and the patios are decorated with floral motifs. At this time the famous Nehru Trophy boat race takes place.