Kerala celebrates traditional, religious, state and national festivals. These festivals are full of messages depicting one or more aspects of human life, relationships or ancient traditions. Some of the popular festivals are briefed below.
The Village Fair
An entire village of the bygone days of rural Kerala is recreated with artisans, Nalukettu (traditional house), temple, astrologer etc., so that the visitors will be able to see and visualize how people of Kerala in those days went about their lives. The festival lasts for a week from 3rd January. The village is set near Kovalam with displays of cultural performances like kathakali, koodiyattam, kalaripayattu, theyyam etc.
Nishagandhi Dance Festival
The Tourism Development Corporation organises the dance festival. Leading artists of Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam, Kathak, Odissi, modern ballet and other folk form will perform at the open-air theatre of Nishagandhi in the Kanakakunnu Palace compound at Thiruvananthapuram. Admission is free and the festival usually is accompanied with music.
The festival is conducted at Thiruvananthapuram during the 2nd week of February. Specialized chefs man stalls for each state. Spread through seven evenings, one can taste almost all types of delicacies of Indian cuisine from various regions of India those are prepared and sold. It will be worthwhile to have a go at the dishes from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
Onam is a harvest festival celebrated throughout Kerala in August-September to welcome the yearly homecoming of the legendary King 'Mahabali' who was generous, just and kind. People decorate their homes, wear new cloths and hold special games and competitions.
Onam being the state festival, the tourism week is also celebrated with it. The streets of the capital are illuminated. Various cultural and traditional programs are staged at Kanakakunnu Palace and selected premises of the city. The tourism week concludes with a grand and colourful procession where floats and folk performances from every part of Kerala are presented.
Vetta & Arattu
This festival is celebrated twice in a year, once in Oct.-Nov. and other in March-April. Vetta represents Lord Vishnu hunting down the demon of evil in the forest. Late afternoon in the next day the Arattu procession begins. Images of Lord Padmanabha, Lord Krishna and Lord Narasimha are carried to the Arabian Sea at Sangumugham beach (Thiruvananthapuram), escorted by the members of the Royal Family. At sunset the images are ritually bathed in the sea. Returning the images in a procession back to the Padmanabhaswamy temple concludes the event. Several cultural programs including all-night Kathakali are performed during the festival.
Thrissur Pooram is the most colourful temple festival of Kerala. The festival attracts large masses of devotees and tourists from all parts of Kerala. Celebrated in the Malayalam month of Medom (April-May) caparisoned elephant processions from neighbouring Krishna and Devi temples proceed to the Vadakunathan Temple. Saktan Tampuran, the ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Kochi introduced this festival. Though held in the premises of Vadakkunathan temple, Vadakkunathan is a mere spectator of the event. The best of the elephants will be displayed with panchavadyam (music by five percussion and wind musical instruments) followed by magnificent display of fireworks.
Nehru Trophy Boat Race
One of the most popular tourist attraction in Kerala is the Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race that began in 1952 when the erstwhile Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, visited Alappuzha. The race is held every year on the second Saturday of August. Many gigantic snake boats with 100 rowers in each representing different villages take part in the race. Another Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held in mid-January to promote tourism
It is a spectacular procession accompanied by caparisoned elephants and floats making the beginning of Onam Festival. Conducted at Thripunithura and Piravam, it displays folk and temple arts of Kerala.
Celebrated in Kochi, The origin of the carnival is traced to the New Year celebration of the Portuguese during the colonial days. Noted for the unique games and competitions, the feast is observed during the last week of December with a grand procession on the New Year day.
Indira Gandhi Boat race
The race is conducted in the Vembanad Lake (Kochi) during the last week of December to coincide with the tourism fair. Several snake boats representing different villages participate in this race.