Festivals in Kerala
Few places on the world lavish as much time and creative energy on their festivals as Kerala. Every temple, mosque and church in the state stages its own annual celebration, featuring parades of elephants in gleaming golden headpieces, fireworks, feasting and performances of traditional arts such mohiniyattam dance and kathakali ritual drama.
Events vary in scale, but are always attended by huge crowds of locals, who respond to old art forms with as much enthusiasm as their ancestors.
Hundreds of thousands of turn out for the largest events, like Thrissur Pooram, the mother of the state's Hindu temple festivals, and famous snake boat races, held each monsoon in the backwaters, in which teams of over one hundred rowers and singers ride exquisite wooden longboats along palm fringed canals.
The year is also marked by more intimate, family-oriented rituals in the home, the best-loved of them Onam, the annual harvest festival, when relatives gather from far and wide for elaborate sadya feasts.
Features of Kerala Festivals
One of the most striking features of religious festivals in Kerala, both large and small, is the extent to which Hindu, Muslim and Christian celebrations resemble each other.
Elephants handled by Hindu mahouts, dressed in traditional gold head ornaments (called nettipattom in Malayalam), feature both in Islamic celebrations and Hindu temples festivals (or utsavam), when the deities appear in processions outside the shrines, regaled by mass ranks of chenda melam drummers and trumpeters.
Even some Syrian-Christian feast days feature elephant parades and chenda drums; almost every festival culminates in a massive, raucous firework display.
Finding Fairs and Festivals in Kerala
Finding festivals is often a matter of chance. You might follow the sound of drumming through the palm grove behind your hotel to discover a temple ritual in full swing, complete with dancers and a crowd of rapt onlookers, or pass a poster advertising a thirty-elephant parade happening that night near where you're staying.
Wherever you are, check at local tourist offices to find out what's on and when. In Ernakulam, the Tourist Desk at the Main Boat Jetty hands out monthly events programmes and is a particularly good source of advice on festivals staged in more off-track areas.
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