Onam is a National festival of Kerala celebrated by all communities irrespective of religion, cast and creed. There are several legends regarding its origin. The most popular legend is that Mahabali returns to see his people once a year. Lord Vishnu in the form of Vamana pushed the legendary King Mahabali, who ruled over Kerala in an age of plenty, down to the infernal regions. It is also treated as harvest festival of Kerala.
Intricately decorated Pookalam, ambrosial Onasadya, breathtaking Snake Boat Race and exotic Kaikottikali dance are some of the most remarkable features of Onam. Onam festival starts from the day of Atham in Malayalam month of Chingam and the celebration is for 10 days with floral decorations and family get together. The main auspicious day is on Thiruvonam day. On this day all members of the family gather together, usually at the ancestral home, for Sadya (traditional feast) served on plantain leaves. Each region has its own variation of art and recreation associated with Onam festival. Onathappan, Pulikali, Karadikali, Kuttiyum Kolum are famous among them. Kaikottikali when performed by ladies in their traditional attire is pleasing to eyes.
There is a popular saying on Onam Sadhya 'Kanam vittum Onam Unnanam" it means you should have feast on Onam day even if it means having to sell all one's material belongings
Vishu is also known as Malayalam New Year day. Similarly the day is celebrated in almost all places in India by the Hindus albeit by different names. In Assam this day is called Bihu, in Punjab Baisakhi and in Tamil Nadu Puthandu.
The festival is marked with offerings to the divine called Vishukkani. The offerings consist of a ritual arrangement in the puja room of auspicious articles like raw rice, fresh linen, golden cucumber, betel leaves, areca-nut, metal mirror, the yellow flowers Konna (cluster of yellow flowers seen in Vishu season - Cassia fistula), and a holy text and coins, in a bell metal vessel called uruli. A lighted bell metal lamp called nilavilakku is also placed alongside. Women complete this arrangement the previous night. On the day of Vishu, the custom is to wake up at dawn and go to the puja room with the eyes closed so that the Vishukkani is the first thing one sees. The elders in the family give Vishu Kaineettam (Monetory tokens) to children, youngsters and servants.
Fireworks are part of the celebration of Vishu.
Thrissur Pooram is the most colourful temple festival of Kerala. It attracts large masses of devotees and spectators from all parts of the State and even outside. Celebrated in Medom (April-May) it consists of processions of richly caparisoned elephants from various neighbouring temples to the Vadakumnathan temple, Thrissur. The Pooram function lasts for continuous 36 hours. Two rival groups representing the two divisions of Thrissur Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi vying with each other in making the display of fireworks grander and more colourful celebrate the Pooram Festival. Each group is allowed to display a maximum of fifteen elephants and all efforts are made by each party to secure the best elephants in South India and the most artistic parasols, several kinds of which are raised on the elephants during the display. Commencing in the early hours of the morning, the celebrations last till the break of dawn, the next day. Pancharimelam, Pandimelam and Panchavadyam the traditional percussion ensembles provide a supremely apt accompaniment to the visual treats. It is heartening to see Muslims and Christians also participating enthusiastically in the festivities.
Makara Vilakku festival of Sabarimala Ayyappa temple, one of the most remote shrines in Kerala, draws three to four million pilgrims each year. Lord Ayyappa is the presiding deity of Sabarimala temple. Before beginning the multi-day walk through the mountain jungles to get to Sabarimala, the pilgrims prepare themselves with a minimum of 41 days of rigorous fasting, celibacy, meditation and prayer.
The yearly festival starts on first day of the Malayalam month Vrischikam (Mostly on 16-17th November) and lasts for two months. The finale of the festival is on 14th January every year. In connection with this festival the Thiruvabharanam (Ornaments for God Ayyappa) that starts from Pandalam (Pandalam is the palace of Lord Ayyappa during his incarnation) on 28th Dhanu (Malayalam month), reaches Saramkuthi on the third day evening (1st Makaram) and is ceremonially escorted to the sanctum sanctorum. Krishnaparunthu (white neck eagle) accompanies the procession from Pandalam to Sabarimala all through which is a surprising scene.
When the Sreekovil (sanctum sanctorum) opens for 'Deeparadhana' (offering with lights), the Lord is seen in his entire divine splendor, adorned with the jeweled gold ornaments. At the distant eastern hilly horizon, the light of 'jyothi' appears to the immense satisfaction of the thousands of devotees who have thronged to the temple to pay obeisance to the Lord. The occasion is also marked by the divine appearance of the 'star' in the eastern sky and the hovering 'Krishnapparunthu' far above the temple. This marks the grand finale of the two-month period to the Sabarimala pilgrimage.
Attukal Pongala is the most important festival of Attukal Bhagavathy temple situated in Attukal near Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala. The festival is celebrated for 10 days during February- March every year. On the ninth day of the festival, essentially the women's festival, Attukal Pongala takes place. A large number of women from Kerala and neighbouring states make offering to Goddess (considered as the incarnation of Kannaki) by cooking Pongala in the temple area. Pongala is sweet porridge of rice with jaggery, coconut gratings and other raisins. Thousands of women participate in this offering and believe it is very auspicious.
Mahasivarathri is celebrated by the Hindus in Kumbham (February-March). It is supposed to commemorate the day on which Lord Siva (God of Destruction in Supreme triad- three superior Gods) consumed the deadly poison (Kalakutavisham) to save the world from destruction. Siva was in pain and agony. The whole night, water, milk and other cooling material are poured on the Siva lingam to relieve Siva of the heat. The annual Sivarathri festival held on the banks of Periyar at Alwaye is one of the most colourful local festivals of Kerala. The pilgrims keep awake the whole night and return home next morning after performing rituals.
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