Kerala has a great wealth of festivals that are celebrated with much pomp and grandeur. A perfect mix of century-old traditions, admiring culture, rare rituals, lively music, and jovial colours, the Festivals of Kerala are unique, vibrant and extraordinary. Through its colourful Festivals, Kerala celebrates the irreplaceable traditions passed down by its ancestors. To discover the best of Kerala’s rich culture and tradition, one should be a part of these incredible festivals and have an experience of a lifetime.
In this blog, we like to share with you Top Festivals of Kerala 2020:
Please do bear in mind that “the festival dates in Kerala are decided with respect to the Malayalam Calendar and also as per the local traditions and customs. Hence, these dates are counted only as approximate dates and need to be confirmed with the local authorities”.
Date: 25th December 2019 – 1st January 2020.
Venue: Fort Kochi.
God’s Own Country welcomes New Year with the grand fiesta, the Cochin Carnival. It is the biggest festival of Fort Kochi, in Kerala offering a spellbinding combination of Christmas and New Year celebrations. Marked by an array of events and activities like cultural shows, fairs, food festivals, bike and cycle races, rallies, beach football, arts and games, Cochin Carnival steals the hearts of everyone who attend the gala.
Reflecting vibrant customs and traditions, Cochin Carnival makes for an amazing way to kick start New Year. Burning the effigy of Pappanhi, or an old man at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s eve is the much-awaited moment of Cochin Carnival and is Fort Kochi’s way of welcoming New Year.
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Date: 15th January 2020.
Venue: Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple, Pathanamthitta.
Makaravilakku festival is the most sacred festival of the world-renowned shrine, Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple in Kerala. The festival begins on the day of Makar Sankranti and concludes on the seventh day with the lighting of the lamp thrice at Ponnambalamedu, a divine place in the mountain ranges of Western Ghats.
Another highlight of the Makaravilakku festival is the grand Thiruvabharanam procession carrying the sacred ornaments of Lord Ayyappa from the Valiya Koyikkal Sastha Temple in Pandalam to the Sabarimala Temple. Millions of devotees visit Sabarimala Temple during this festival to view the auspicious ‘Makaravilakku’, also known as ‘Makara Jyothi’ and to seek the blessings of Lord Ayyappa.
Date: 14th February 2020 – 20th February 2020.
Venue: North Malabar regions of Kerala.
The most unique and vibrant festival which is the pride of Kerala is the Theyyam Festival. It is popular mostly in North Malabar regions of Kerala like Kannur, Kasaragod, etc. This extraordinary festival is almost 800 years old which combines folk dance, music and mime along with elaborate rites and rituals.
Theyyam Festival is a true delight to watch where the Theyyam represents a divine, mythological, or heroic character, wearing exotic makeup and colourful costumes with large headgear. There are more than 400 different kinds of Theyyam performances like Rektha Chamundi, Muchilot Bhagavathi, Kari Chamundi, etc in which each one has its unique aspects.
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Date: 29th February 2020.
Venue: Chettikulangara Bhagavathy Temple, Mavelikara, Alleppey.
Celebrated with much divinity and grandeur, the Chettikulangara Bharani is one of the popular and colorful religious festivals of Kerala. It is held every year at the famous Chettikulangara Bhagavathy Temple in Alleppey district on the Bharani asterism in the month of Kumbham as per the Malayalam calendar.
The star attraction of Chettikulangara Bharani is the majestic parade of the colorful and brightly decorated structures where the taller and bigger ones assumed as horses and smaller ones as chariots and are locally known as Kettukazcha. The main ritual performed during this festival is Kuthiyottam.
Date: 9th March 2020.
Venue: Attukal Bhagavathi Temple, East Fort, Thiruvananthapuram.
Known exclusively for women, the Attukal Pongala is a renowned festival of Kerala which noted for being the largest single gathering of women for a religious activity. And this unique festival has also received a Guinness World Record for the same.
The festival starts from the Bharani day of the Malayalam month of Makaram-Kumbham and continues for ten days. The most remarkable feature of Attukal Pongala is that lakhs of women line up on either side of the roads around the Attukal Temple in Thiruvananthapuram district, making offerings of Pongala to appease the Goddess Attukalamma, regardless of the scorching sun.
Date: 14th April 2020.
Venue: All over Kerala.
Another most auspicious festival of Kerala, the Vishu Festival marks the astrological New Year day of Keralites. It is often observed on the first day of the Medam month as per Malayalam Calendar.
The beautiful Golden Shower Tree or the Kani Konna Flowers has special significance as it declares the arrival of the Vishu Festival in Kerala as well as it is an inevitable part of the Vishu Kani ritual. The other highlights of the Vishu Festival are Vishu Kodi, Vishu Kaineetam, Vishu Sadya and Vishu Kali. With great joy and fervor, Keralites celebrate Vishu Festival.
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Date: 2nd May 2020.
Venue: Vadakkunnathan Temple, Thrissur.
Thrissur Pooram is the most revered temple festival of Kerala. Held annually at the famous Vadakkunnathan Temple in Thrissur, the vibrant Trissur Pooram festival attracts millions of tourists all across the world with its uniqueness and grandeur.
Thrissur Pooram is mainly celebrated to worship Lord Shiva who is the presiding deity of Vadakkunnathan Temple. Offering a splendid display of caparisoned elephants, dazzling parasols, percussion music and spectacular fireworks, Thrissur Pooram is a feast for the senses and is worth to be considered as the Mother of all Poorams.
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Date: 4th July 2020 – 1st November 2020.
Venue: Different venues across Kerala.
Reflecting the rich culture and traditions of the state, the Boat Festivals are the most consequential part of Kerala and is so popular worldwide. The serene backwaters of Kerala turn lively and energetic during the Boat Festival and the vibrancy of the festival must be experienced by yourself as no words can explain the enthusiasm and excitement you feel when you are there.
The energetic boat song and the cheer and applause that reverberates around creates an aura of thrill which is worth experiencing. The Boat Festival in Kerala starts with the famous Champakkulam Boat Race and ends with the President’s Trophy Boat Race. And the most famous of all the Boat Festivals is the world-renowned Nehru Trophy Boat Race.
Date: 22nd August 2020.
Venue: Thripunithura, Ernakulam.
Athachamayam heralds the beginning of the ten-day Onam festival in Kerala which is celebrated with great enthusiasm and happiness. The major feature of Athachamayam is that one can witness almost all the folk art forms of Kerala during this vibrant festivity.
It is held every year on the Atham star of the Malayalam month Chingam as a commemoration of the triumphant march of the King of Kochi from Tripunithura to the Vamana Temple at Thrikkakara. Athachamayam reflects a majestic charm that is conducted in a very spectacular manner with a grand procession of caparisoned elephants, varieties of folk art forms, floats, and musical ensembles.
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Thiruvonam or Onam Festival:
Date: 31st August 2020.
Venue: All over Kerala.
Celebrating the homecoming of the beloved King Mahabali, Thiruvonam is regarded as the most significant festival of Kerala which is also regarded as the harvest festival of the state.
This vibrant festival portrays the rich tradition and diverse culture of Kerala as well as symbolizes prosperity, harmony, and peace. Observed on the Malayalam month of Chingam, Thiruvonam is a ten-day festival which is celebrated by every Keralites irrespective of any caste and religion with great enthusiasm. The festival is marked by various exciting events and activities like thrilling Snake Boat Race, exotic Kaikottikali, Pookalam decorations, delicious Onasadya with Payasam, etc.
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Date: 3rd September 2020.
Venue: Swaraj Round, Thrissur.
Pulikali, also known as Kaduvaakali which is believed to have originated 200 years ago, forms the key element of Onam celebrations in Kerala as well as an Internationally renowned festival of Kerala.
As the word Pulikali means the “play of the tigers”, it is a colourful folk art form of Kerala which involves dance movements that mimic the action of tigers. Tiger hunting is the main theme of Pulikali. It is performed by the trained artists who paint themselves with tiger stripes of yellow, red and black, and dance to the rhythm of traditional percussion instruments such as chenda, thakil, and udukku.
Date: 17th October 2020 – 26th October 2020.
Venue: All over Kerala.
Navarathri is an important festival of Hindus which is traditionally regarded as an auspicious time for starting new ventures. As the word Navarathri literally means “nine nights”, the festival is observed for nine days.
During Navarathri Festival, Goddess Durga, Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswathi are worshipped as three different manifestations of Shakthi or Cosmic energy. The final three days of Navarathri, namely – Durgashtami, Mahanavmi and Vijayadashami are considered very sacred by the Hindus to worship Goddess Saraswathi – the Goddess of wisdom and learning.
Mannarasala Ayilyam Festival:
Date: 8th November 2020.
Venue: Sree Nagaraja Temple, Mannarasala, Haripad, Alleppey.
The annual Mannarasala Ayilyam Festival is one of the most unique and awe-inspiring temple festivals of Kerala. It is held every year at the legendary Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple in Haripad. It is believed that the first priestess of Mannarasala temple gave birth to a five-headed snake on the Ayilyam day, which inhabited in the ancestral house to safeguard the family. Hence, the festival is celebrated with great ardour on the Ayilyam asterism in the Malayalam month of Thulam.
On the festival day, all the serpent idols in the grove and the Mannarasala Temple are taken in procession to the Illam (family connected with the temple) where the offerings of Nurum Palum (rice flour and milk), kuruthi (a red liquid made of turmeric and lime) and cooked rice are prepared.
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Date: 13th November 2020 – 15th November 2020.
Venue: Sree Viswanatha Swamy Temple, Kalpathi, Palakkad.
Kalpathy Ratholsavam held at Sree Viswanatha Swamy Temple at Kalpathi in Palakkad district marks the beginning of Chariot festivals in Kerala. The festival begins with the flag hoisting ceremony (Dwajarohanam) and culminates with a visual feast of the Devaratha Samgamam or the coming together of the chariots.
Though the festivity continues for ten days, the last three days are the most fascinating one when the chariots from the nearby temples blend in with the main procession while the first four days are marked by various rituals and rites. The entire Kalpathi will be teeming with devotees and visitors from near and far during the annual Kalpathi Ratholsavam.
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Date: 25th December 2020.
Venue: All over Kerala.
Kerala also celebrates Christmas with great zest and zeal, blending the culture of the state with the spirit of the festivity. The festival marks the birth of Lord Jesus Christ, which is observed with traditional church services, holy Christmas mass, beautiful Christmas carols, and elaborate nativity arrangements, sharing love and happiness with families and neighbors.
It’s a joyful time for shopping, decorating, parties, lights, stars, trees, cakes, wine, gifts, singing, dancing etc. Every street and house sparkle with lights and beautiful decorations during Christmas, making a delightful sight to watch.
The colourful and vibrant festivals of Kerala are an added delight amidst the matchless natural beauty of the state and to be a part of it is a lifetime experience.
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