Aanayottam Arat Arattupuzha Pooram
Ashatamirohini Athachamayam Attukal Pongala
Cherathala Pooram Deepavali Garudan Thookam
Ilaneerattom Karthika Kettukazcha
Kodungallur Thalapoli Konganpada Machattu Mamangom
Mannarassala Ayilyam Navarathri Nenmara-Vallangi Vela
Nira Ochirakkali Onam
Orkkatteri Thalappoli Pongal Shivarathry
Thalappoli Thiruvathira Thrissur Pooram
Thypooyam Uthradakazhcha Uthraseeveli
Vaikkathashtami Vidyarambhom Vishu

Aanayottam (Elephant Race)

Aanayottam (racing of elephants) is held at Guruvayoor and Thiruvarpu temples to mark the beginning of festival.  Aanayottam at Guruvayoor is conducted during the month of Kumbham. The race starts from Manjulal at the east gate of Guruvayoor to the main entrance of the temple.  Later the elephants are taken inside of the temple. After racing three rounds, the elephant that touches the kodimaram (flag post) will be declared as the winner.  In Thruvarpu temple, Aanayottam was conducted in the month of Medam.


Arat at Guruvayoor

Arat procession starts from
Padmanabha Swami temple at Thiruvananthapuram

Arat procession at Thiruvananthapuram

Travancore Maharaja (middle)
participating in arat procession

Arat is the closing ceremony of temple festival.  The idol of the god is taken in festive procession and dipped in the nearby river, pond or sea.  The priests and followers take part in the function also dip themselves with the idol.     In most temples of Kerala, Arat is performed at the end of the temple festival.  Arats at Guruvayoor Sri Krishna Temple and Sri Padmanabha Swami Temple at Thiruvananthapuram are very famous. At the Sri Padmanabha Swami Temple, there will be two Arat festivals are there in a year.  They are Alpasi celebrations in the month of Thulam (October-November) and Painkuni celebrations in Meenam (March-April).  Arat is performed in a great festive mood on both the occasions.  When the Arat of other temples were conducted in rivers or ponds, arat of Sri Padmanabha Swami temple is conducted in the Arabian Sea at Shanghumughom.

Arattupuzha Pooram

Arattupuzha pooram
Arattupuzha Pooram is known as the pooram of poorams.  It is the festival of Gods in central Kerala.    Arattupuzha pooram began 1400 years ago in AD 583.    The famous Thrissur Pooram began only 200 years ago.

Ashatamirohini (birth day of Lord Krishna)

The day in the month of Chingam (August-September) when ‘Ashtami’ and ‘Rohini’ comes together is known as Ashtamirohini.  This is birthday of Lord Krishna.  It is also known as ‘Janmashtami’.  Special poojas, functions were conducted in the temples of Lord Krishna.


       Athachamaya procession held at Thrikkakkara

This festival was initially organised by the Kochi Raja and Zamorines of Kozikode in connection with the Onam celebrations during the month of Chingam.  When Onam festival celebrated under the auspicious of the Government during 1961, the Athachamayam festival of Kochi Maharaja came to an end.    The scholars have different views about the origin of Athachamayam.  In the past there was a festival lasting for 28 days starting from the Thiruvonam day of Karkidakom (July-August) to the Thiruvonam day of Chingam (August-September) was conducted at Trikkakkara temple.  The last ten days of this festival beginning from Atham to Thiruvonam was a grand mela.  During these 10 days, the Chera Emperor and his dependant kings and landlords came to Trikkakkara temple and took part in the festival.  Another story is that Mahabali, a benevolent king was the king of Kerala in the ancient days. His capital was Thrikkakkara.  To respect him, the Rajas of Kerala came to Trikkakkara and celebrated Onam.  Their journey to Trikkakkara came to be known as Athachamayam. A third version is that this is a festival organised to welcome Mahabali, the former king of kerala and sent to hell by Vamana with a blessing to visit Kerala once in a year. Later this festival is known as Onam. Athachamayam is celebrated in memory of this event.

Attukal Pongala


                                                          Attukal Pongala

Attukal Pongala is an offering made at Attukal Bhagavathy Temple of Thiruvananthapuram as a part of temple festival. The most auspicious pongala is performed on the ninth day of the festival conducted during the month Kumbhom (February-March). Rice, jaggery, coconut are hannded over to the temple priest who will prepare a special recipe out these materials and perform pongala. This is the procedure in ordinary days. During the festival day, women can themselves prepare and offer the pongala. For this, they should take special vratha (penance) and cook the pongala in the temple premises itself.  The pongala function starts from early morning itself.  After taking bath they undertake the cooking of pongala with their minds. At about 10 AM the fire will be lit in the temple kitchen.  Thereafter women devotees can start preparing the pongala.  At about four O’ clock the temple priest brings the holy water and by using the areca nut inflorescence the holy water sprays in all pongala.  When the holy water is sprayed, this will become a part of the offering made to Attukal Devi (Goddess). After this function, they can carry the pongala to their homes. It is believed that Attukal was the resting place of Kannaki, the great heroine of Chilapathykaram.  After punishing the Pandya Rajah, who killed her husband, Kannaki proceeded to Kodungallor.  On the way she halted at Attukal for a while.  Knowing the arrival of Kannaki, the people of Attukal welcomed her by offering pongala. The famous ‘Attukal Pongala’ is celebrated in memory of Kannaki’s visit to Attukal.

Cherathala Pooram

The festival of Cherthala Devi temple is known as Cherthala Pooram.  This begins on the Makahyiram day of the month Meenom (March-April) and concludes on the Uthram day.  It is also known as Poorolsavam. In reality, the pooram is celebrated only one day ie on the pooram asterik day. But the whole festival days are known as pooram.

Chinakathur Pooram

This is the pooram festival of Chinakathurkavu of Palappuram near Ottappalam. The speciality of the pooram is that all types of Hindus irrespecptive of caste and creed attend the pooram and make it grand. The Pulaya community perform Kalakali, the Panar perform Vellattu, Mannan presents Poothanthira, Parayar brings Kuthira and Komaram, Mudaliyar community perform Therkali, Thandan presents Thattikoothu etc. This festival is a typical example of communal harmony prevailing in Kerala.


In Kerala Deepavali is celebrated in memory of the killing of Narakasura by Lord Sri Krishna.  It is celebrated in the month of Thulam (October-November).  The oil bath of early morning, preparation of different types of sweets, fire works are some of the special features of Deepavali.

Garudan Thookam

Garudan Thookam is a celebrative offering made in the Bhagavathy temples of central Kerala.  A person dressed as Garudan (kite) tied on a hanging rope and people take him around the temple in a procession.

Ilaneerattom (consecration of tender coconut)

Ilaneerattom is an offering of Thiyya community during the festival of Kottiyoor Siva temple in Kannur district. There are two temples at Kottiyur known as Akkarakottiyoor and Ikkarakottiyoor.  Both these temples are located in dense forest. The festival starts on the Chothi day of Edava (May-June) month with Neyyattam. The festival lasts for 28 days. The temple opens only during this month and all the remaining months it is kept closed. People after taking penance for 41 days reaches the temple with tender coconuts. The priest cut the coconuts and consecrates the sweet water to the Shivalinga idol. It takes almost two days to complete the consecration.

Kalapathy Ratholsavam

Kalpathy Ratholsavam is a spectacular festival held at the Sree Viswanatha Temple, which established 700 years ago. The temple is situated in Palakkad District. Procession of beautifully decorated temple chariots drawn through the streets by thousands of devotees during the last three days of annual festival is the major attraction of the festival.


A festival organised in the Thrikkarthika day during Vrichikam (October-November) in some parts of Kerala. It is the birthday of Lord Subramonya.  Special offerings and celebrations will be held on the day in the temples of Lord Subramonya.  On the day several lights are used to lit in small earthen vessels known as chirathu during dusk in temples and houses.  The sight of lights from these small vessels is really a fascinating scene. In South Kerala, torches made of coconut leaves are lit and planted in paddy fields on this day.


‘Kettukazcha’ is also known as ‘Kuthirakettu’.  It is a major celebration in the temple festivals of Chettikulangara, Nilamperoor, Oachira, Pandalam and Mavelikkara of erstwhile Travancore.  The effigy of chariot, horse, swan, bull, ‘Pancha Pandavas’, ‘Hanuman’ etc. are brought as ‘Kettulkazcha’ Chettikulangara Kettukazcha is a festival conducted in Chettikulangara Devi Temple at Onattukara near Kayamkulam on the day of Bharani in Kumbhom (February-March). Kuthiyottam is another important offering of the temple.

Kodungallur Thalapoli & Bharani

The Thalapoli festival is celebrated at the Kodungallur Bhagavathy temple from 1st to 4th   Makaram (January-February).  Kodungallur Bharani is celebrated in the month of Meenom (March-April).  The festival period is from the Bharani asterik day in Kumbham to Aswathy asterk day in Meenom.  Devotees from far off places throng the temple in large numbers during the festival days. 


Konganpada is a celebration in Chittoor of Palakkad District every year in memory of the victory of the Nairs over the conquerors of Chittoor who came from Kongunadu (Salem-Coimbatore area east to Chittoor) with the help of Goddess Bhagavathy. The battle was held on a Monday after the new moon day and ended within 24 hours. The incidence that happened within 24 hours are now presented in 24 days.

Machattu Mamangom

Annual festival of Machattu Thiruvanikkavu in the Thrissur district is known as Machattu Mamangom. It is celebrated in the month of Kumbham (February-March). People from each village around Machad reach to the temple with Mamangakuthira (dummy horses) and perform kuthirakali (horse play). A

Mannarassala Ayilyam

Mannarassala Ayilyam is a famous festival of Mannarasala Nagaraja Temple near Harippad in Alappuzha District. It is conducted on the Ayilyam day of the month of Kanni (September-October).  Mannarassala is famous for snake worship.  Ayilyam is the day of Sarpas (snakes).  The main priestess of the temple is the Valiyamma (brahmachari grand mother) who will be on vrutha for poojas.  The procession with Nagaraja (king of snakes) idol from Valiya Ara (big room) to the temple and back is main function of the celebrations


Navarathri is celebrated for nine days in the month of Kanni (September-October) every year when sun reaches very near to the equator. Kaali (Durga) is worshipped for the first three days, Lakshmi for the next three days and Saraswathy for the last three days.  The last three days are known as Durgashtami, Mahanavami and Vijayadashami days. On Durgashtami day, books and tools are kept in front of Saraswathy, the patron Goddess of the art and learning, and worshipped. Ayudhapooja (Worship of tools) is also a function organized during Navarathri.  The poojas start on the day of Durgashtami and ends on Vijayadashami day.  Vijayadashami is also famous for the initiation of children to study of alphabets (vidyarambhom). Akshara (words or letters) pooja is a function performed on Vijayadashami day.  On that day every member of the family write Harisree Ganapathaye Namaha; Aviknamasthu followed by vowels and consonants in the sand .  After writing, the sand is removed and placed on housetop.  Instead of sand, the practice of using rice in silver vessels is also prevalent. The custom of writing letters on paper and tearing of it and placing on housetop is also there.

Nenmara-Vallangi Vela

The annual festival held at Nellikulangara temple at Nenmara (Palakkad District) during the month of Meenam (March-April) is the famous Nenmara-Vallangi Vela. The festival starts from the 1st to 20th Meenam. Koorayidal, erection of flag mast, Kummatty, Karivela, Andivela, and Vela are the functions of the festival. The festival is in memory of the killing of Darika by Kali (Durga). People from Nenmara village perform Andivela and Vallangi village people present Thalapoli before the deity. Displays of fireworks, Panchavadyam, procession are other attractions of the festival. The pyrotechnics is very famous and consider equal to that of Thrissur Pooram.


An agricultural festival celebrated in Karkidakom (July-August) after the harvest of Virippu. It is also known as Illamnira, Nirapooja etc. Illamnira at Guruvayur temple is famous.


Ochira temple gate

  Ochira padanilam


Ochira is a place in the Karunagapplly Taluk of Kollam Distict.  In the Parabrahma Temple of Ochira every year during the month of Edvavam-Mithunam (May-June to June-July) a festival is conducted for 28 days.  Ochirakkali is a physical exercise conducted on the 1st and 2nd of Midhunam to mark the close of the temple festival. Ochira Panthrandu Vilakku is also famous. It is conducted for 12 days from the first of Vrichikom (November-December) every year.  This is also a festival like Ochirakali.  Many devotees assemble in front of the temple.


Onam is the national festival of Kerala.  This festival is celebrated on the Thiruvonam day in Chingam, the first month of Malayalam Era. Onam is a harvest festival as well as a festival of flowers.  The festival for 10 days beginning from ‘Atham’ day to ‘Thiruvonam’ day extend further to culminates with the Aranmula Uthrattathi Vallamkali.  According to the legend Mahabali, a great emperor in olden days, ruled Kerala.  During his regime there was peace and prosperity everywhere.  It is believed that Mahabali visits his old subjects during Thiruvonam day after being sent to the ‘Pathala’ (hell or purgatory) by Vamana. The idol of Thrikkakkara temple is that of Vamana.  Thrikkakkara Appan’s idol is placed in front of houses during Onam days in a beautifully decorated floral carpet.  Whatever be the legend, Onam is an excellent imagination of a golden era that lost forever or a sweet dream of a model world yet to emerge. There are differences of opinion among historians about the date of start of Onam festival.  William Logon opined that Onam is celebrated since 825 AD.  Attur Krishna Pisharody says that Onam celebration commenced between 620 and 670 AD.  There are mentions about Onam festival in Unnuneeli Sandesham, which is believed to have written in 14th century.  Extreme happiness and joy can be observed everywhere during the onam days. Making beautiful pookalams (floral carpets) in front of houses, placing of Thrikkakara Appan, and serving feast are done every day.  On the day of Thiruvonam the festival reaches its zenith.  The eldest member of the family presents Onappudava (new cloths) to the members. Ladies and children used to swing in oonjals. Boys worship Onathappam (Thrikkaka Appan).  Those who reside outside country used to reach their homes on onam days.    Even the poor people will have their Onam meals on Thiruvonam day.  After having feast people perform various plays.  Women play ‘kaikottikkali’.  Children play with ‘Onavillu’. Boys play ‘Thalappanth’ using balls.  Elders play ‘Kambithayam’ and card games etc. ‘Onathallu’ (a play of two teams by beating each other with hand) is common in Palakkad and Valluvanad areas.  Pulikali and Kummatty are also performed during Onam days. Plays like ‘Thali-peeli’, ‘Kannanamunnikkali’, ‘Thumbithullal’ are meant for girls. The most colorful event during Onam holidays is ‘Vallamkali’ (boat race).

Orkkatteri Thalappoli

There are two temples at Orkkatteri near Vadakara. The idol of the first temple is that of Kottiyoorappan and the other is that of Kodungalluramma. The festival of these two temples are conducted together which is known as Orkkatteri Thalappoli. It starts from 12 of Makaram (December-January) and lasts for four days. People belonging to all castes and communities participate in the festival.


Pongal is a harvest festival. It falls on the Makara Sankranthy day on which the sun transfers from Dhanu rashi to Makaram rashi (from one house of zodiac to another).

The communities of Tamil and Telugu origin residing in Kerala celebrate Pongal. They observe two types of Pongals - Thaipongal and Mattupongal. Thaipongal is the harvest festival.  It is celebrated in Makaram (January-February).  It is famous in the areas adjacent to Tamil Nadu. On Thaipongal, they prepare a special recipe out of new rice, milk and sugar in new pots and offer to their deities. The animals adorned with flowers and colours are taken on a procession to the streets on the Mattupongal day. On both days, sweets are prepared and exchanged.


Devotees at Sivarathri festival at the bank of
Aluva Periyar River
Shivarathri festival is celebrated during the month of Kumbam (January-February).  In Aluva it is celebrated in great splendor at the sandy banks of Periyar River. The festival at Gokarnam, Aluva, Vaikom, Ettumanoor and Thali are very famous. This is the day when Lord Siva drank Kalakooda, the poison, to protect the whole world from disaster.   On Shivaratri, Shiva, Parvati, and Ganesha are worshipped between midnight and sunrise. Sivarathri is also celebrated with great religious fervors at Thripangot, Kallkulangara, Thrissur, Thrikandiyur, Vaikom, Thirunakkara and Attappady Malleswaran Temples.


A festival conducted in Bhagavathy temples once in a year.  Spinsters walk round the temple with a vessel containing the areca nut flower bunch, a portion of coconut and lit wick in their hands.  The aim of Thalappoli is to gain a good husband.


Various forms of Thiruvathira dance

Pathirapoochoodal – a ritual connected with thiruvathira

The Thiruvathira festival falls on the asterism day of Thiruvathira in the Malayalam month of Dhanu (December-January). The origin of the festival is obscure. It is believed that Thiruvathira is the birthday of God Siva. Women observe this festival for a long and prosperous married life. They get up early in the morning and take bath known as thudichukuli (taking bath in a pond or river by splashing water at each other and singing songs) and worship Lord Siva. Thiruvathira is a day of fasting and women avoid rice meal on that day, but take only preparations of kuva (arrowroot) or chama (Panicum milicceum) or wheat. Other items of their food include plantain fruits, tender coconuts, etc. An image of Siva is placed at the central courtyard of the houses to worship. Another customary offering to the Lord Siva is the Ettangadi Nivedyam. Oonjalattom (swinging on swing) is one of the items of amusement. At night the women perform folk dance known as Thiruvathirakkali or Kaikottikkali. They stand in a circle around Nilavilakku (lighted bell metal lamp) and dance according to the rhythm of the songs with clapping of their hands. The songs are known as Thiruvathirakali pattukal that including the works of Irayimman Thampi, Kunjukutty Thankacy etc. There is a custom called Pathirappoochoodal. It is an important function connected with Thiruvathira. At Thiruvathira midnight, after taking bath, women used to wear ‘dashapushpam’ (a flower). The first Thiruvathira coming after the marriage of a girl is known as Puthen Thiruvathira or Poothiruvathira and it is celebrated on a grand scale. Consequent on the elimination of matrilineal system, Thiruvathira festival and related customs are vanishing gradually.

Thrissur Pooram

Thrissur Pooram is known as the Mamangam (great festival) of middle Kerala.  It is celebrated in the premises of Sri Vadkkunatha Temple of Thrissur.  This is the most famous temple festival of Kerala.  Pooram comes every year in the month of Medom (April-May).  It is a colourful ceremony accompanied by the grand Kudamattom and Ilanhithara Melam.  Lakhs and lakhs of people throng the Thekkinkadu Maidan (ground around the Vadakkunatha Temple) to witness the famous Thrissur Pooram.  Though the pooram festival lasts for 36 hours only (pooram asterik day and up to next day noon), it is the fulfillment of the efforts of people for one year. Thrissur Pooram is a conclave of Bhagavathys (Goddesses) from the temples of Ayyanthole, Chembukkavu, Kuttoor, Neythalakkavu, Choorakkottukavu, Karamukku, Lalur,Thiruvambady, Paramekkavu and the Sastha (God) of Kanimangalam. Among them, Thiruvambady and Paramekkavu Bhagavathys have prominence.  Madathil Varavu (the procession of Thiruvambady Bhagavathy) and Purappad (the procession of Paramekkavu Bhagavathy), Ilanjithara Melam (panchavadyam- percussion of drums and wind musical instruments) and Vedikettu (fire works) are the four important functions of Thrissur Pooram.


Thaipooyam is celebrated on the pooyam asterik day of Makaram (January-February).  It is the birthday of Lord Subramanya.  It is very important in the temples of Lord Subramanya.Kavadiyattom and other celebrations are arranged in the temples.


The practice of presenting banana bunches to Lord Krishna at the Guruvayur Temple on the Thiruvonam day of Chingam (August-September) is the Uthradakazhcha.  The Melsanthi (Main Priest) place the first bunch in a plantain leaf to the Lord.  After that rite, devotees are permitted to place their offerings as Uthradakazcha.


Uthraseeveli is a festival of Thiruvalla Sreevallabha Temple conducted on the Uthram asterism day of Meenam (March-April). The Bhagavathies from the near temples proceed to the Thiruvalla Sreevallabha Temple on the eighth day of the festival falling on Uthram day.  It is believed that these Bhagavathies were the sisters of Sreevallabhan. Their entry to the Sreevallabha Temple is through the north gate which is opened only for this purpose.  The gate will be closed immediately on their retreat.  It is believed that all the sins will disappear on witnessing on Uthraseeveli. It is also believed that the thirty-three crores of Devas (Gods) will array in the sky to witness the festival.


At the Siva temple at Vaikom, two ashtami festivals are celebrated. The first is in the month of Vrichikom (November-December) and the second in Kumbhom (February-March). It is celebrated for 12 days. Kharan consecrated three Sivalingas and one of them was at Vaikom, in Ernakulam District.  The deity is known as ‘Vaikathappan’.  The other two deities are consecrated at Kaduthuruthi and Ettumanoor.  A sanyasi (hermit) known as Vyakarapadamuni worshipped Vaikathappan and plunged into deep meditation.  He got the divine vision of Lord Shiva on the Astami day of the month Vrichikom (November-December) and assured that he would give darshan (appearance) to the devotees on that particular day.  In course of time the place where the sanyasi sat in deep meditation came to be known as Vaikom amd the Ashtami day of Vrichikom came to be known as ‘Vaikathashtami’. 



Thunchan Parambu at Thirur

Vidyarambhom is considered as Akshara pooja (words or letters), when children are expected to start formal education by writing letters. Akshara pooja is performed on Vijayadashami day. Heavy rush is experienced for Vidyarambhom function at Thunchan Parambu at Thirur, Chittoor Thunchan Madam (the samadhi place of Thunchathu Ezhuthachan), Sree Mookambika Temple at Kollur (Near Mangalore), Thiruvallakkavu near Thrissur, Sarawathy Temple, Panachikkad near Kottyam. Not only Hindus, but people belonging to other religions also observe Viyarambhom. Christians used to write Daivom Thunakkuka (God help us) instead of Hari Sri Ganapathaye Namaha; Aviknamasthu. Muslims write verses from Qu’ran on the right hand palm with black ink on a day before Bakrid festival.



Kanikonna  (Cassiafistula)


Vishu is an important festival of Kerala celebrated in the month of Medam (April), just before the onset of south-west monsoon.  This is also a festival related to agriculture.  It denotes the inseparable relationship between man and soil.  Astrologically, the Vishu day has much importance. It is on this day that the sun rises right in the east.  Hours of day and night are equal (exactly 12 hours) on Vishu day. It is believed that the vishu day is the New Year day of ‘Kalivarsha’. The agricultural operations start with Vishu day onwards. The first auspicious day to plough soil in paddy land is decided on Vishu day. The ‘Vishu’ celebrations of Vishu start with ‘kani’, which will be arranged in every home to be seen by all members of family in the early morning. ‘Vishukani’ is a small exhibition of natural resources of Kerala.  The items of Vishukani are rice, cotton cloth, metals like gold and silver, cucumber, mango, jackfruit, banana, tailed mirror, flowers of ‘Kanikonna’, Indian Laburnum (Cassia fistula). These are arranged in an Uruli (a flat brass vessel) in front of Lord Krishna and Nilavilakku (lighted bell metal lamp). After seeing ‘Vishukkani’, the elder member of the family gives ‘Vishukaineetam’ (giving coins as prize) to children.  Grand feast at noon and cracking of fire works at night are certain indispensable parts of Vishu celebration.