KERALA INFO: Fairs and Festivals of Kerala

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Fairs and Festivals of Kerala

by by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)  (Feedback)


Onam is the national festival of Kerala which is celebrated in the malayalam month of Chingham. Onam marks the month of harvest suggesting prosperity and happiness all around. There are many myths about this festival. The most important is that Onam is celebrated as the return of the legendary king Mahabali who ruled over a golden age. Another myth attributes to the Cheraman Perumal who accepted the Muslim faith. Onam is a ten-day long festival, starting from the day of Atham. People decorate their yards with floral carpets during these days. All the members of the family dressed in new clothes assemble for the traditional Onam meal. The vegetarian meal eaten on a banana leaf contains traditional dishes, pappad and payasam (sweet). The meal is followed by other activities like dance, games and boat race. The ladies perform the Kaikkottikkali dance. Onathallu or Kayyangali, Thallu and Onappada, which are martial arts for entertainment, are performed as a part of the Onam celebrations.

Kavanattinkara and Kumarakom boat races

Every year during Onam season, Kavanattinkara and Kumarakom Boat Races are conducted at Kavanar and Kottathodu rivers respectively. Around 50 boats including a few snake boats participate in these races. 


Athachamayam, is a colourful festival in connection with Onam celeberations. Earlier it was conducted by the Kochi Maharaja (King of Kochi) and Zamorins (Rulers of Calicut) on the day of Atham in the Malayalam month of Chingam. Since 1960, the Government has taken over the celebrations and the festival is organised by governmental bodies as part of the Onam festival. There is a colourful procession conducted on the day of Atham which marks the beginning of Onam celebrations for ten days and it concludes on the day of Thiruvonam. The festival is popular and celebrated at Thripunithura in Ernakulam district. 

Petta Thullal

The ‘Petta Thullal’ at Erumeli, in Kottayam District is a prominent religious festival. Every year multitudes of Hindu pilgrims before trekking to Sabarimala perform Pettathullal.

Thrissur Pooram

Pooram is a colourful festival of festivals in Kerala. It is held at the great Vadakkunnatha temple of Thrissur. The Vadakkunnatha temple, which resembles a Japanese Shrine, is built in the ancient Kerala style with sanded courts, stone sculptures, a traditional auditorium and multi level roofs. On the evening of Pooram day, two lines of 13 elephants face each other, on the ground south to the temple. Each Pachyderm bears an umbrella holder, a peacock fan carrier and a yak-tail fly whisk wielder. Between the two lines of elephants stand percussion and wind orchestras. As each orchestra reaches a crescendo, a new display of brilliant ceremonial umbrellas blossoms over the elephants and the supporting crowd applauds. This continues till sunset when the elephants depart and late at night, the darkness explodes with a magnificent fireworks display.

Nehru trophy boat race

Nehru Trophy Boat Race, the annual water carnival at Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha is considered as the biggest snake boat race in the world. The colourful boat pageantry, which precedes the boat race, is a marvelous treat to the onlookers. The snake boats with 100 to 120 oarsmen plough the waters to the tune of the legendary songs. Jawaharlal Nehru who was enthralled by the charm and gaiety of the water carnival instituted the Nehru Trophy.

Kondotty Nercha

Malappuram district is famous for the Kondotty Nercha, a 7 days festival held during March conducted in Pazhayangadi mosque of Kondotty. The tomb of Mohamed Shah, the Sufi exponent, is close to the mosque.

The Great Elephant March

This is a ceremonial show of caparisoned elephants. The elephant march traces its origin to temple festivals where the trained elephants in their traditional grandeur offer a majestic and glittering show of colour and pageantry. The elephants in their ceremonial outfit are paraded at a ground accompanied by the temple music. Elephant marches are organised in different towns and cities.

Aranmula Boat Pageant

Aranmula Uthrittathi Vallomkali is conducted in the Pamba River in front of Sri Parthasarathi Temple. Though, large snake boats take part in this festival they do not race with each other. Instead, they row in union, to the accompaniment of songs and reach their destination together because Lord Krishna is believed to be present in each boat. Since 1971 this procession has taken the present form of a race and it is conducted by the Palliyoda Seva Sangh. 

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