India is a land of fairs and festivals and Kerala is no exception to this. Let it be temple festivals, carnivals of churches or any other ceremonial occasion - every festive occasion in Kerala is celebrated with much pomp and gaiety. Besides the major festivals that are celebrated across India, there are numerous local festivals that are highly observed in Kerala. Most of the festivals of Kerala are connected with local traditions and religions, and are crucial to the social and cultural structure. There are certain festivities like the boat races, which originated to commemorate religious events but subsequently turned out to be events of social importance.
Vishu: Vishu is a very popular festival among Hindus and is celebrated all over India with different names. According to the old traditional Malayalam calendar, it is the 1st day of the New Year. The main event of the Vishu celebration is the 'Kani- Kanal'. Coconuts, fruits, cereals, and Konna flowers are kept in big pots to prepare Kani. Behind this pot, a mirror and a garlanded statue of Krishna are placed. Early morning on the Vishu day, the master of the house views the Kani, followed by the rest of the family. Children are brought blindfolded to see the Kani. The elders in the family hand over money to the youngsters and bless them. According to the local beliefs, if you see Kani, good luck will stay with you till the year end.
Onam: Onam one of the most important and popular festival of the state, celebrated annually in the month of Chingam (August-September), Onam is a harvest festival. All Malayalis, irrespective of their religion, celebrate Onam. According to legends, Onam is celebrated to commemorate the home coming of Mahabali, the king who ruled over Kerala in the age of plenty and was pushed down to the Patala by Lord Vishnu in the form of Vamana. The image of Thrikkakara Appan (Vishnu in the form of Vamana) is established in every Hindu home during the Onam celebration. On this occasion people decorate their houses. One can see intricate floral Rangoli called Pookkalam laid at the verandah of every household, during the festival. It is a perfect occasion in Kerala for families to get back to their dear ones.
Asthami Rohini: Asthami Rohini also known as Janmashtami festival commemorates the birth of Lord Krishna. It is celebrated in the month of Chingam, which falls in Aug- Sep. On this day, devotees visit temples and offer prayers. The occasion is marked by organizing many cultural programs across the state of Kerala.
Navratri: The Navratri celebration, that runs over 9 days, is known by different names in different parts of India. It is celebrated for nine days in the month of October. During Navarathri in Kerala, people perform Saraswati Pooja and Ayudha Pooja. The last three days of navratri, known as Durga Ashtami, Mahanavami, and Vijaya Dasami are the most important which involves decorating a room superbly, illuminating it with many lights and arranging on a platform, raised in the middle of the room - essential for performing Saraswati Puja and all sorts of learning and business come to a standstill.
Maha Shivratri: Maha Shivratri is an important festival of Hindus and is celebrated in Kumbam (Feb-March). This festival commemorates the day on which Lord Shiva consumed the deadly poison (Kalakuda visham) to save the world from destruction. On this day devotees gather at Shiva temples across the state and offer special Pooja and Abhishekham.
Christmas: Christmas is an important festival of Kerala. Christians and people belonging to other religions, all over Kerala, celebrate Christmas on 25th December. Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. During Christmas, the holy Mass is held in all churches of Kerala. Singing of Christmas carols, Christmas tree decoration and exchange gifts & greetings. Churches also hold annual feasts on this occasion.
Easter: Easter is another important festival of Christians, which commemorates the resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ. It holds a special place in festivals of Christian communities. Churches in Kerala hold midnight masses on this occasion.
Bakrid: Bakrid commemorates the sacrifice of Ibrahim in obedience to God's command and is considered an important festival of Kerala. Bali Perunnal or Valiya Perunnal in Malayalam is an important festival for Muslims. Muslims enjoy hearty feasts on Bakrid day. During this festival, Muslims in Kerala offer prayers and sacrifice goats and distribute it.
Eid ul-Fitr: Eid ul-Fitr, or Eid, also known as Cheriya Perunnal in Malayalam, is one of the most important festivals for Muslims. It celebrates the culmination of the holy month of Ramzan, when Muslims indulge themselves into stringent fasts (Roza). Since Kerala has a substantial population of Muslims, Eid ul-Fitr forms one of the most important festivals of Kerala.
Muharram: Muharram is another festival celebrated by Muslims of Kerala on the 10th day of Muharram, the forbidden month, which marks the beginning of the Hijra year.