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Fairs & Festivals in Kerala

Aaranmula Boat Race The Aaranmula Boat Race is staged each year in the scenic village of Aaranmula in August/ September. This river carnival is part of the Aaranmula Temple festival. Masses throng the shores of the River Pamba to watch an imposing cluster of snake boats called 'Palliyodams'. Each boat, nearly 100 feet long, is a remarkable feat of craftsmanship, with the stem curved to resemble the hood of a snake and a tampering bow. Festooned with silk and gold spangled umbrellas, the boats are manned by a crew of more than 100 men.

Cochin Carnival Cochin Carnival is a merry making feast observed during the last week of every year in Fort Kochi in Kerala. The carnival dates back to the Portuguese New Year revelry held here during the colonial days. It has evolved as an occasion for the youth to enjoy the party-like atmosphere. With unique games, competitions and illumination during these days, Fort Kochi puts on a festive look. The highlight of the Carnival is the massive procession on the New Year Day. The procession is led by a caparisoned elephant accompanied by drums and music, spectacular floats, different folk art forms, Panchavadyam etc. north indian dances also figure in the festivities.

Muharram Muharram is the opening month of the Hijra year. The 10th day of this month (May) is honoured by the Muslims of Kerala. As per belief, it was on this day that the Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed, and his men were slain at Karbala. It is to bemoan the martyrdom of the Imam that the Muslims observe Muharram. Fasting is an important ritual of this day.

Onam - The Harvest Festival - Onam, the harvest festival is the most popular festival of Kerala. A festival that celebrates a happy blend of myth and reality, Onam is part of the cultural repertoire of every Malayalee. It brings back nostalgic memories, carried on the wings of folklore, of a bygone Utopian era of prosperity, equality and righteousness, under the golden reign of Mahabali. Year after year, for centuries, the people of Kerala, irrespective of caste, creed or colour, join together to welcome back their vanquished king. The ten-day Onam festival falls in August-September, coinciding with the beginning of the harvest season.

Sabarimala Festival The Sabarimala Temple festival is celebrated in honour of Lord Ayyapa who is revered by all in India. Sabarimala is a renowned pilgrim centre atop the rugged hills of the Western Ghats. This holy shrine is dedicated to Lord Ayappa. The main pilgrimage is undertaken between November and January. There are two main rituals called the Mandal Puja and the Makara Sankranti Puja, which is celebrated from November to mid-January in Kerala during which time, the devotees perform austerities and penance.

Nehru Trophy Boat Race Nehru Trophy Boat Race is the most famous of the boat races of Kerala. This annual regatta is held on the Punnamada Backwaters of Alappuzha district on the second Saturday of August. The event is a commemoration of the visit to this place by the late Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1952. The spectacular races features magnificent snake boats or 'Chundans'. The boisterous and rhythmic boat songs or Vanchipattu work the spectators to a state of frenzy.

Malabar Mahotsavam Malabar Mahotsavam is a cultural extravaganza that showcases the centuries old rich cultural heritage of Kerala. The event is at Mananchira maidan (ground) in the heart of Kozhikode town from 13th to 16th January every year. The festival highlights musical concerts, performances of various classical dances like Kathakali, Mohiniyattom, Ottanthullal etc and ritual artforms like Koothu, Thewam, Thira etc. The festival is also an occasion to relish the native cuisines and enjoy mind blowing firework displays.

Swathi Festival Swathi festival is a gala event of music organised by the Government of Kerala every year in the last week of January. The venue is the famous Kuthiramalika Palace. Thiruvananthapuram, where once upon a time the great poet-king of Travancore, Sri Swathi Thirunal, composed many of his verses. An august gathering of great maestros from all over the country celebrate Indian classical music in all its variety and grandeur.

Aarattu Pallivetta (Royal Hunt) and Arattu (Holy Bath) are part of the rituals of the festivals of some of the major temples of Kerala. The speciality of the Arattu at the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram is that the head of the royal family of erstwhile Travancore still provides escort to the procession of idols. The two annual ten-day festivals of the temple fall in October- November and March- April.

Jagannatha Festival Jagannatha Festival is a colourful eight-day festival, which is held in the Malayalam month of Kumbham (February/ March) at the Jagannatha Temple at Madathiparambu, near Thalassery in Kannur. The idol of Lord Siva, the presiding deity was installed here by the famous social reformer and philosopher, Sree Narayana Guru on 13th February, 1908. The seventh day of the festival is the most auspicious. The event highlights religious conferences participated by eminent scholars and social reformers, elephant processions, fireworks display and cultural programmes.

Aattachamayam The festival of Attachamayam is held on the Atham day of the Malayalam month of Chingam (August/ September), at the historical town of Tripunithura, near Kochi. It is a celebration of a legendary victory of the Raja of Kochi. Pomp and colour mark the pageantry, which is replete with caparisoned elephants, varieties of folk art forms, floats and musical ensemble. This spectacular procession marks the beginning of the Onam Festival.

Indira Gandhi Boat Race Indira Gandhi Boat Race is a grand fest on the rolling backwaters of Kochi. Conducted in the last week of December, it is a fitting finale to the Tourism Fair, which attracts travellers from all parts of the globe. The sixteen majestic snake boats racing neck to neck in gaiety and competition to the sky-rending cheers of the multitudes, is a unique sight. The coveted trophy of the race was instituted in memory of Indira Gandhi, the late Prime Minister of India.

Thirunakara Festival The Thirunakara Temple situated in the heart of Kottayam and dedicated to Lord Siva is also famous for the grandeur of its traditional architecture. The annual festival of this temple falls in the months of March-April, when folk arts like "Mayilattam' and 'Velakali' are presented in the temple grounds during the evenings. The fair, held in connection with the festival, features exhibitions of industrial and agricultural products, besides the usual fair ground stalls.

Vettukadu Perunal The Madre De Teus Church, popularly known as Vettukadu church, is situated around 7 kms from Thiruvananthapuram. The annual festival of the church is celebrated over the ten days culminating in the last Sunday of the laturgical year. Various religious rites are carried out during the festival days. On the last Saturday, the image of Christ the king is taken out in a big colorful procession. A solemn High Mass, sermons, Eucharistic procession and benediction mark the final day.

Nisha Gandhi Dance Festival Every year, from February 21st to 27th renowned classical dancers perform at the Nisangandhi, an open air theatre in Thiruvananthapuram city. Classical dances of almost all the states of India are staged during the festival. Mohiniyattam (Kerala), Bharatha Natyam (Tamil Nadu), Kutchippudi (Andhra Pradesh), Odissi (Orissa), Manipuri (Manipur) and Kathak (a north Indian Classical Dance) are the major dances performed.

Oachirakkali The Oachira Temple is the venue of the famous Oachirakkali (Oachira dance) held in June, a sort of ancient choreographed mock battle. Unlike other temples, there is no shrine or idol at the oachira temple, located nearly 32 kms from Kollam. The principal deity is a concept called Parabrahmam (Cosmic Consciousness). Rows of men dressed up in ancient soldier's constumes wave wooden swords and shields and advance and retreat to the rhythm of traditional drums.

Easter Easter which falls in April is a major religious festival for the Christians in Kerala. This solemn celebration of the resurrection of Christ is undertaken with religious fervour by Christians of all sects. Unlike Christmas with its festive mood, Easter has a ritualistic sobriet. The abstinence period of 50 days preceding Easter known as 'Lent', the Pal Sunday celebrations, the Holy Week comprising Maundy Thursday, good Friday and Easter, are all part of the celebrations.

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