Onam is the biggest festival in the Indian state of Kerala. Onam Festival falls during the Malayali month of Chingam (Aug - Sep) and marks the homecoming of legendary King Mahabali. Carnival of Onam lasts for ten days and brings out the best of Kerala culture and tradition. Intricately decorated Pookalam, ambrosial Onasadya, breathtaking Snake Boat Race and exotic Kaikottikali dance are some of the most remarkable features of Onam - the harvest festival in Kerala.
Considered to be the mother of all poorams, is a cultural highlight par excellence, celebrated in theMalayalam month Medam (April/May). The two century old festival of spectacular procession of caparisoned elephants and enthralling percussion performances in a never ending succession is an 36 hours marathon event of incredible beauty, a feast for the eye and the ear, unfolding between 6 am to 12 noon the otherday. Different from the usual temple festival, Thrissur Pooram is participated and conducted by people across all barriers of religion and caste. This is explained with the genesis of the festival
Before the advent of Thrissur Pooram, the largest temple festival duringsummerin central Kerala was the one-day festival held at Aarattupuzha, 12 km south of thetown. Temples in and around Thrissur were regular participants of thisreligious exercise until they were once denied entry bythe responsible chief of the Peruvanam area of Cherpu, known for its Namboodiri supremacy.
As an act of reprisal and also in a bid to assuage their wounded feelings, Prince Rama Varma (1751- 1805), also known as Sakthan Thampuran and enthroned as the ruler of the erstwhile Cochin state invited all these temples to bring their deities to Thrissur where they could pay obeisance to Lord (Sri) Vakunnathan, the deity of the Vadakunnathan temple. Further he directed the main temples of Thrissur, Thruvambadi and Pamamekkavu, to extend all help and support to these temples. It is this historicalbackground that determines the course of the Pooram program and it is specifically the ruler's antipathy to the brahmin aristocracy to open Thrissur pooram for the common man.
The new year in Kerala is celebrated on the first day of the Malayalam month Medam – the day sun crosses the equator. Vishu is considered to be an auspicious day for new beginnings. Vishu Kani - the auspicious object one first sees after waking up on the vishu day. Vishu Kaineettam – Handsel, usually a silver coin, given to all the younger members and dependents of the family by the elders.
The Mahasivarathri is essentially a religious festival unlike the Onam and Thiruvathira. The word means 'the great night of Siva'. According to the Sivapurana, it falls on the Krishna Chathurdasi day which is on the fourteenth day during the waning of the moon in the month of Megha (February- March). The festival is said to commemorate the day on which Siva protected the world from a total annihilation either by drinking the deadly Kaalakoodum poison which was help up in his neck, or by effecting a healthy compromise between Brahma, the Creator and Vishnu, the Protector. In many respects the Sivarathri festival in Kerala can be considered a miniature Ardha Kumbha Mela held at Thriveni, the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga-Yamuna, and the invisible Saraswathi
BOAT RACES IN KERALA
Boat races in kerala are centuries old customs and traditions. Powered by 125 oarsmen, fuelled by the boat-songs of 25 others, cheered on by hundreds of thousands of ecstatic spectators is one of the largest team sport in the world.
1.CHAMPAKULAM MOOLAM BOAT RACE, Harippad, Alappuzha
This is one of the oldest and most popular boat races of Kerala. The race is held on the Champakulam Lake on the Moolam day of the Malayalam month Midhunam. Dates: 10th July 2006, 30th June 2007, 19th June 2008, 6th July 2009
2.NEHRU TROPHY BOAT RACE
This is the greatest event on the backwaters of Kerala, which take place at Punnamada Kayal at Alappuzha on 2nd Saturday of every year. Magnificent snakeboats compete for the prized trophy, which was instituted by Jawaharlal Nehru, the 1st prime minister of India. Different types of boats take part in this competition.
3.PAYIPPAD JALOTSAVAM, Alapuzha
The three days annual fiesta take place at Payippad Lake, 35 kms from Alappuzha. Besides the boat race, spectacular water pageants are organized.
4. ARANMULA BOAT RACE, Pamba River, Pathanamthitta
The two day Aranmula Boat Race conducted during Onam is more of a water fiesta than a competition, which is to commemorate the crossing of the river by Lord Krishna on that day. The deity is supposed to be in all the boats that take part in the carnival and all of them are expected to arrive at their destination simultaneously. There is thus no element of competition in the Aranmula Boat Race. The crew regard the occasion as one for rejoicing and merry-making and cheerfully row up and down the river to the tune of songs.