Trivandrum celebrates a plethora of festivals almost all through the year with color, vigor, pomp and grandeu. Each and every community and religion celebrate festivals throughout the year and all the festivals occur in a quick succession . The city celebrates major festivals like Onam, Bakrid ,Arat, and Attukal Pongala with enthusiasm. Similarly, Christmas, Easter, Good Friday are celebrated with much fanfare by the Christian community.
Trivandrum has become a hub of free cultural events staged in open-air theatre including concerts by foreign musical groups.The international film festival takes place in March and cultural festival such as classical dances and music takes place regularly in the different venues . Apart from these, the city annually hosts several events like the Flower & Aquariam show, Air Show and shopping fests, which are welcomed by the city dwellers with zest.
Onam is the biggest and most important festival of the year in Kerala celebrated in the months of August-September. It is a harvest festival that also marks the start of the Malayalam New Year Chingam. It is welcomed by all Keralites regardless of their caste and religion.
Onam is a colourful festival where human and nature joins together to celebrate the return of the legendary King Mahabali who once ruled the land.
It is the festival of flowers, colors, feasts, dances, games and moreover of togetherness and all-round merriment. Onam begins with stunning traditional ‘pookulams’ or floral arrangements laid out on the ground. Onam is celebrated for 10 days starting from the Atham day to the Thiruvonam Day and is marked by various events such as Athapoo (flower) contests in schools and colleges. In keeping with modern times, celebrations also include a few shopping extravaganzas for some new clothes.
People decorate their homes with fresh flower mats known as Pookalam to welcome King Mahabali. They wear new dresses, go to temples to worship God and perform puja. Swings or Oonjal are put up and the swinging ceremony is another important part of Onam festivities.
Onam is also a family event- it is a time for family reunion . Family members who live overseas or outside Kerala join the rest of the family during Onam season. Another tradition is a grand lunch called Sadya on Thiruonam day which is a vegetarian feast or banquet. The multi course meal is served traditionally in banana leaves. A typical Onam sadya consist of 24-28 dishes and includes 3 varieties of paysam as desert. Traditionally, all the dishes for the sadya are made at home because the women in the family found it the best way to spend some good time together. Nowadays many families go out to restaurants to have onam sadya. Most restaurants prepare onam sadya and also deliver the meals to ones homes.
The best time to visit Trivandrum is during the Onam festival when the city is illuminated, wears a festive look and the people are in a jovial mood. A huge week-long Onam celebration takes place at around 20 venues in Trivandrum. The festivities include stage shows (drama and classical dance), folk art, food stalls, and handicrafts. The main venue for cultural events are free of vehicular traffic in the evening hours so that people can walk freely and enjoy the sights, sounds and sample varieties of food.
Onam festivities culminates in a grand parade on the last day, complete with floats and processions of decorated elephants and fireworks.
The festival of Vishu is the astronomical New Year day that falls on the first day of Malayalam month Medam (April). There are certain rituals associated with Vishu, which is followed religiously by devout Hindu families. The Vishukani ritual is observed with the belief that, as it is the beginning of a new year, the fortunes for the year depends upon the first object one sees in the morning of Vishu Day. This first sight is called the “Vishukani which is prepared the previous night of Vishu in their homes by the oldest member of the family. The family members are supposed to view it only after midnight. The flowers of the golden shower tree konna(Cassia fistula ) are used for the kanni and the dominant color of the festival is yellow. Konna is the state flower of Kerala and Konna tree was depicted on a 20-rupees stamp. The konna tree blooms in the roads and many courtyards of homes around this time, which is a pretty sight. Vishukani is arranged inside the sanctum of all shrines in the Temple complex and people visit the temples on this occasion.
The Festival of Id-ul-Zuha or Bakrid is celebrated with great enthusiasm among Muslims . Special prayers and exchange of greetings and gifts mark the Id-ul-Zuha (Bakrid). This is a festival of sacrifice,celebrated with traditional fervour and gaiety throughout India. In Trivandrum, there is a large gathering in the Juma Masjid Mosque in the center of the city . The day normally starts with men and women dressed in the best outfits , visiting the mosque to pray. The large gathering extends to the nearby stadium After the prayer is over, the people greet one another and visit their friends and relatives. Special dinner and delicacies are prepared and served among family and friends on this occasion.
Christmas is the most important festival for the Christian community in Kerala which constitute about 23 per cent of Kerala’s population . Christmas is the festival of universal love and is celebrated in honour of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God which falls on the 25th of December. Christmas is a joyous season and is celebrated in Kerala, in more or less the same way as it is celebrated in other parts of the world, with Christmas stars, cribs, carols, concerts, greeting cards and family reunions. The Christmas tree, the Christmas cake, presents, and Christmas Father is the star attraction for children.
Christmas is celebrated well in all its glory and cultural forms. At Christmas time, Christian homes are decorated with a Christmas star in order to denote the pointer star that revealed the birth of Jesus and pointed the way to the three wise kings (Magi). In Christian tradition, the Star of Bethlehem, also called the Christmas Star, which revealed the birth of Jesus to the Biblical Magi, later led them to Bethlehem. Christmas star is very symbolic and indicates peace and happiness. Stars are also used to decorate the home, Christmas tree and crib.
On the day of Christmas a grand feast is prepared and the main dish is usually meat. Another main item is the Christmas cake. Families get together for family reunion. An important symbol for Christmas is the Christmas tree. You will find interesting decorated Christmas tree in the houses during Christmas season, churches and hotels. The crib decoration depicting the Nativity scene is very speical. This scene represents a miniature stable where Jesus was born. Figures of infant Jesus, Mother Mary, Joseph, angels, sheep, shepherds and three kings are all arranged in the crib. A holiday wreathe is another decorative item which is hung in front of the main door of the house. It serves as a warm welcome to the guests and create a Christmas atmosphere. On Christmas Eve as well as on Christmas morning, special prayers are conducted in churches across the city Carol service from various churches visit homes during the Christmas week. Christmas pageants and concerts are held in many churches in the city.
Though the Christmas tree is a comparatively new addition to Christmas celebrations in Kerala. it is the twinkling Christmas star and balloons put up at Christian homes or shops which sets the tone for a season of cheerfulness and joy.
Children in the Trivandrum adoption center also get a chance to celebrate Christmas and receive goodies and gifts from Santa Claus. Celebrites join in to bring Christmas cheer to the children.
Some Church members visit the old age homes in the city to spread the Christmas message, sing carols and present gifts. These days, Christmas lunch/dinner including goodies associated with Christmas are readily available in local hotels and restaurants. Keeping in line with the secular tradition of Kerala, many non-Christians also participate in some of the Christmas celebrations. Christmas festivities continues with fervor during the week and beyond leading to New Year.
New Years Celebration
The New-year eve is always celebrated with great vigour and energy in the city . The city gets into a celebratory mood with prominent hotels throwing grand parties to make December 31st a truly memorable night. Various cultural programs are also arranged in different parts of the city during the New year’s Eve. Almost all churches hold midnight services and members greet each other after the service. The city together invites the New year at midnight with sound of fire crackers and the church bells herald the arrival of New Year. Police personnel takes extra precaution to ensure security and safety for the church and party goers. Kovalam beach is the place where most foreigners and younger generation flock to celebrate New Year.
World’s Largest Ginger Bread Village, Kovalam
The “World’s Largest Ginger Bread Village” was created and open to the public last December 2014 by Uday Samudra Leisure Beach Hotel & Spa located in Kovalam. It was an innovative and attractive way of celebrating the last festival of the year. Spread over an area of 504 square feet and having a weight of 2.28 tons, this spectacular village was created to coincide with Christmas and New Year celebrations. A complete village was made up of Gingerbread representing residences, forests, mountains, waterfalls, railway stations, places of worship, schools, hospitals, commercial and government buildings. It was very detailed oriented and included clock tower, hanging bridge, flora & fauna, as well as bicycles, cars, well-lit streets, banks and ATMs. This exciting project was conceived and created by Pastry Chef Mr.Kishore with the support of Chief Chef Rhynold, and team. In making their very own gingerbread village their aim was to break the world record set in the USA in 2013. This stunning Gingerbread village drew a large crowd and positive response from visitors around the globe. A repeat of the Gingerbread village is likely in 2015.
Easter is a spring festival held sometime between March and April. Easter is celebrated as the religious holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Thousands of Christians congregate for prayers in churches of various denominations across the state, where priests give out the message of hope and revival as symbolized by the occasion. The day also marks the end of the Holy Week of prayers and penitence recalling the final phase of Christ’s life from his arrest and crucifixion, followed by resurrection. Breaking the 40-day season of Lent when believers shun worldly pleasures, sumptuous traditional feasts are arranged in most Christian homes. Eggs have been a symbol of spring since ancient times and of Easter. An egg also is a symbol of the rock tomb out of which Christ emerged when he arose again. The hatching of a chick from the egg, symbolizes new life or re-birth.
THE VETTA AND ARATTU
Arattu occur twice a year and the processions are held from Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple to Shangumugam Beach. The idols from the Temple are taken to the sea for a holy dip.
The head of the Travancore royal family leads the procession with the royal sword in hand, who is escorted by members of the Royal family, decorated elephants, armed guards, temple authorities, mounted police, police band and officers. On the Arattu day, images of three deities are taken in procession to the Arabian sea at Shanghumugham beach. After the ceremonial bath in Shanghumugham, the images are taken back in procession which marks the conclusion of the festival. Cultural performances including the Kathakali are part of the celebrations in certain locations.
An interesting aspect of the Arat procession is that it winds its way from the temple to the seashore by taking the most direct route, which involves passing through the city’s airport. Even today, the Trivandrum airport’s flight operations are paused while the Arat procession passes through the airport. The procession moves along the 3,398-metre runway under the watchful eyes of the Aviation Security Group personnel. Flight operations from the airport resume after the idols are moved along the runway back to the temple. On its return from the beach, the only difference is that the procession moves with the way lit by traditional torches. The runway has remained closed during the festival for decades since the reign of Sree Chitra Tirunal Balarama Varma and after Independence. This tradition continues with the full cooperation of the authorities.
This festival is celebrated around February, every year, at Attukal Bhagavati Temple in the city. The uniqueness of this festival is that it is that only women are allowed to do the offering on that day. The long line of women absorbed in devotion and also preparing this ritual offering can be seen all the way till the East Fort and farther. As it is a ‘Ladies Special’ festival, men are not supposed be in the proximity.
On the 9th day of the festival , thousands of women devotees from many parts of the state gather near the templed beyond to prepare pongala, They prepare pongala by cooking jaggery, coconut and banana in certain proportions and offer to the goddess. ‘Pongala’, is considered to be the Goddess’s favourite. It is a kind of sweet porridge. The ritual starts early morning and ends by afternoon. Elaborate arrangements are made for the safety and security of the devotees. The Attukal festival has gained world wide attention and women from foreign countries are sometimes seen participating in this festival.
The rich culture and uniqueness of Kerala is well reflected in the Kovalam Festivals and fairs held here. The main festivals here start in January and ends in March. The The festivals held here echoes a lot about the tradition and also the friendliness of people of Kerala . The best thing about the festival is that there are several elements in a festival which pleases everyone.
Village fair of Kovalam
It represents the rural village. Known as the “Gramam”- an entire village of the bygone days of Kerala is recreated with artisans, Nalukettu (traditional house), temple, astrologer etc., so that the visitors will be able to see and visualize how people of rural Kerala lived in those days. The festival lasts for a week from 3rd January. The village is set near Kovalam with displays of cultural performances like kathakali, koodiyattam, kalaripayattu, theyyam an d handicrafts shops . Events are also held at Vellar Tourist Village (the Kovalam Tourist Village), on the outskirts of Trivandrum near the Kovalam junction.
The Fandango or Food Festival is another popular event in Kovalam. It is also a three-day festival organized in January. The festival has many stalls of different varieties of foods. You can taste Kerala shrimp dishes, Ethnic Kerala, Tandoor, Seafood, Pastry, Sweets, Biryani etc. Some cultural programs are also staged here which brings additional excitement to the festival.
The Elephant Festival
This is an annual three-day festival starting on 9th January. The objective of the festival is to gain the blessings of elephants. Elephants look majestic with their adornment and they move around the whole area of the festival accompanied by chenda melam (traditional instrumental music of Kerala).
If you are an elephant lover, it is a great opportunity to see these massive mammals at close quarters.