Festival Calendar

Temple festivals are integral part of Kerala culture, which are celebrated with much fervour. In the past, temples were not mere centres of worship, they also promoted art and culture. Various art forms like dance and music were part of temple festivals. The architecture excellence of these temples still stands out. The State houses a large number of temples – from those dedicated to Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Siva to those without an idol, dedicated to the Universal Consciousness. Some of the famous festivals that you can be part of are:-

 
Attukal Pongala
Venue: Attukal Bhagavathi Temple
Location: East Fort – about 15 kilometeres from Indimasi
District: Thiruvananthapuram
Date: February

The Attukal Pongala held in Attukal Temple, Thiruvananthapuram is the largest congregation of women for a festival in the world. Pongala, which means ‘to boil over’, is the ritual in which women prepare sweet payasam (a pudding made from rice, jaggery, coconut and plantains cooked together) and offer it to the Goddess or ‘Bhagavathy’. The ritual can only be performed by women and the streets of the city are known to be jam-packed with faithful devotees during the time of the festival. The Goddess-fondly referred to as ‘Attukalamma’ is said to be appeased by this ritual. The entire Thiruvananthapuram city lights up in festive fervour and the number of devotees has increased to the point that it has been recorded in the Guinness World Book of Records. It is an experience that is extremely unique and must be soaked in first-hand to understand its magnificence.

Painkuni Festival
Venue: Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple
Location: East Fort – about 15 kilometeres from Indimasi
District: Thiruvananthapuram
Date: April

Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple has got its own significance when it comes to the history of Travancore (erstwhile princely state in south Kerala). Closely associated with the Royal Family of Travancore, the history of the temple dates back to centuries.

One of the main annual festivals of Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple is the Painkuni Festival. It starts with kodiyettu – the hoisting of the ceremonial flag. The festival is celebrated in the months of March/April. During the Painkuni Festival, huge fibre glass figures of the Pandavas (the five sons of Pandu in the Indian epic Mahabharata) will be placed at the eastern entrance to the temple. As per belief, the figures are put up to propitiate Indra, the Rain God.

Painkuni is a ten-day festival in which special rituals are offered every day. On the ninth day, the head of the Travancore Royal Family performs the pallivetta (royal hunt) ritual, near the Vettakorumakan Temple in the Fort area. The festival ends with the aarattu procession to the Shanghumugham Beach for the ritual immersion of the idols in the sea. The male members of Royal Family of Travancore, including the king, will escort the deities in the procession.

Alpasi Festival
Venue: Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple
Location: East Fort – about 15 kilometeres from Indimasi
District: Thiruvananthapuram
Date: 27 October to November 4, 2019

Apart from the countless riches in its now renowned hidden vaults to the sheer genius and magnificence of both its interiors and exterior, there are myriad other reasons why people throng in great numbers to the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram. One such great event is the Alpasi Festival, which usually falls in either October or November each year.

Its magnificent Aarattu ceremony, the holy bath in the sea for the deities, is the primary attraction. A large procession starts from the temple and proceeds to the Shanghumugham Beach, with the head of the Travancore Royal Family leading the procession, sword in hand. One gets to see caparisoned elephants, mounted police and columns of armed police as thousands of faithful devotees flock the streets to view this unique and historic sight.

 
Malanada Kettukazcha
Venue: Poruvazhi Malanada Temple
District: Kollam – about 90 kilometeres from Indimasi
Date: March

Most say history favours the victor at all times, but at the Poruvazhi Malanada Temple in Adoor, one sees the absolute opposite come to life and the antagonist is revered. Duryodhana, considered a villain in the Indian epic Mahabharata, is the mythical figure worshipped in this Temple, which also stands out for the absence of an idol or a sanctum sanctorum.

In March, the Temple premises come to life during its vibrant temple festival, the highlight of which is the spectacular Malanada Kettukazcha event. Also known by the name Poruvizhi Peruviruthi Malanada Malakkuda Utsavam, up to 70 to 80 ft. tall and exquisitely designed structures called Edupu Kala and Edupu Kuthira are seen leading massive processions, with traditional percussion instruments providing the perfect accompanying orchestra. Large crowds gather to either carry the structures on their shoulders or see them placed on gigantic chariots, in a show revelry that matches just about any across God’s Own Country. Cultural programs run throughout the night, with Kathakali based on the story ‘Nizhalkuthu’ being among the highlights of the entire event.

Kottankulangara Chamayavilakku
Venue: Kottankulangara Devi Temple
Location: Kollam – about 85 kilometres from Indimasi
District: Kollam
Date: March

Have you ever imagined changing your gender by putting on attires to look like a beautiful lady? It is not as easy as you may think. Here is a unique festival where masculine dons the feminine. If you are yet to witness such a festival occasion, then come to Kottankulangara Devi temple to partake in the Kottankulangara Chamayavilakku festival.

As soon as you step into the premises of the temple you will be welcomed by a group of beautiful young ladies. Do not be allured by their looks. Have a close watch and you will be surprised to know that these beautiful ladies are actually men dressed up in women’s attire as part of a special temple ritual during the festival.

The highlight of the festival is that during the festival night, these men turned women holding traditional lamps, walk in procession to the temple to the accompaniment of traditional orchestras.

Ochira Kali
Venue: Ochira Parabrahma Temple
Location: Ochira – about 100 kilometeres from Indimasi
District: Kollam
Date: June

A temple without a definite layout or idol of worship, the Ochira Temple situated near the National Highway connecting Kollam and Alappuzha districts is well renowned for its festival – the Ochira Kali. Here, the whole concept of worship revolves around the Parabrahma or the universal consciousness. It is this uniqueness that makes this temple stand apart from the rest.

The highlight of the festival, at this temple, is the mock battle between two groups, to the sound of drums, in a waterlogged field called padanilam. This battle commemorates the historic battle, fought between the erstwhile Kayamkulam and Ambalapuzha kingdoms. The event features boys and men, split in two groups, who jump into the field, to engage in a mock battle. In this mock battle, sticks replace swords and the participants splash muddy water at each other.

Nishagandhi Dance Festival
Venue: Nishagandhi Auditorium
Location: Museum Junction – roughly 11 kilometres from Indimasi
District: Thiruvananthapuram

The Nishagandhi festival, conducted by Kerala is a seven-day cultural fiesta is held in the Nishagandhi Auditorium, in the majestic premises of the lush green Kanakakkunnu Palace in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram. Seven fascinating evenings, marked by different genres of dance is destined to have the audience captivated.

The Nishagandhi festival is a grand occasion for art lovers in Kerala to get familiar with some of the best and upcoming talents in India and also to enjoy the magical performances of masters. Odissi, Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Manipuri, Mohiniyattam, Chhau, and Kuchipudi are some of the dance forms staged regularly as part of the festival. Besides, a Kathakali fest will also be conducted inside the Palace.

Navarathri Music Festival
September 29-to October 08, 2019
Venue: Navarathri Mandapam – about 16 kilometres from Indimasi
Location: East Fort
District: Thiruvananthapuram

 

As the shores of God’s Own Country prepare to greet the auspicious period of Navarathri, it is at the historic Navarathri Mandapam at the Fort Palace complex in Thiruvananthapuram where the lights shine brightest. Annually, it hosts the prestigious Navarathri Music Festival, a nine-day music fiesta where fans get to view some of the giants of the classical music industry. The main features are the exquisite kritis (compositions) of Swathi Thirunal, legendary composer and the former ruler of Travancore. The acoustics at the venue also garner a lot of attention. Earthen pots, of varying shapes and sizes, are held up on the ceiling using specialized coir ropes. Their mouths facing the ground, these acts as the perfect sound reflectors that ensure the overall audio quality is not ruined by echoes. Oil lamps adorn the stage and highlight the performances in a blaze of splendour.

Swathi Music Festival
Venue: Kuthiramalika Palace – 16 kilometres from Indimasi
Location: East Fort
District: Thiruvananthapuram
Date: January 04-13, 2020

Gigantic pillars emanating with the thumping beats of a King’s own compositions are unheard of these days. Annually, the Kuthiramalika Palace in the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram pulsates with music by Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma, the former Maharaja of Travancore. The Swathi Sangeetholsavam or Swathi Music Festival is a special extravaganza that takes over the city every January.

Swathi Thirunal was a beloved patron of the arts and an accomplished musician himself, with more than 400 compositions in Carnatic music as well as Hindustani music to his credit. Today, concerts are held at the palace which the public can attend for free. Musicians from across the State attend this great festival to witness the finest musical spectacle in all of God’s Own Country.

Flower Show
Venue: Kanakakkunnu Palace
Location: Museum Junction – about 11 kilometres from Indimasi
District: Thiruvananthapuram
Date: January 11 -20

Vasantholsavam, a visual bonanza, is being organised at Kanakakkunnu Palace under the auspices of Kerala Tourism from 11th to 20th January each year for tourists and local residents. Flower shows, exhibition cum sale of agricultural produces, an exhibition of rare herbs and medicinal plants, food festivals, direct experiences of tribal lifestyle, artforms etc., will be organised as part of the festival. Vasantholsavam will be staged in and around Kanakakkunnu Palace and the Nishagandhi and Sooryakanthi auditoriums.

*Source: Kerala Tourism Department