Kerala traditional festivals
Some of the most important traditional festivals of Kerala will be introduced here with short descriptions and a YouTube video for you to actually see what a Kerala festival is all about. The Thrissur Pooram elephant festival in Kerala is one of the most anticipated festival in India and is unique in having the largest assembly of tame elephants in procession with huge crowuds of people. Other very famous festival is the Alleppey Nehru Trophy Vallam Kali or Snake boat race.
Kathakali Dance of Kerala is the traditional folk dance drama of Kerala with very colorful characters depicting a story with Kathak hand gestures. 'Kathakali' literally translates into "Story Play" and is one of the world's most famous form of dancing in which a story is being told in the form of a dance.............More
Kalari is the first known form martial art in the world, with a history which goes back much before other world famous martial arts like Karate and Judo started. Kerala's form of Martial Art 'Kalaripayattu' or 'Kalari' is the root from which other forms of martial art like Judo, Karate, etc. owe their origin................More
The Thrissur Pooram festival is famous for having the largest number of elephants being assembled for a parade. It is a harvest festival with hundreds of Kerala's traditional trumpets, drums and fireworks and the largest assembly in the world of tame, decorated elephants on a parade.A not to be missed event in Kerala's calender............More
The long snake like rowing boats with over a 100 rowers taking part in these unique boat race, which is a fascinating sight. The Nehru Trophey Alappuzha Vallamkali or Alleppey Snake Boat Race is the most famous of these Kerala snake boat races..........More
The Trichur Pooram Festival or Thrissur Pooram
Pooram is the annual temple harvest festival of Kerala. Many temples in Kerala celebrate the Pooram festival, but the Pooram of Trichur or Thrissur known as the Thrissur Pooram is recognized as the biggest and is often called 'the Pooram of all Poorams' (the festival of all festivals).
The Thrissur Pooram Elephants are very famous for having many tame elephants lined up with nettipattams or golden crowns, with people with decorative umbrellas standing on the elephants. These Thrissur Pooram Elephants decorated with nettipattams and together with the accompanying Panchavadyam music band and a large crowd of people in a procession is a sight worth seeing. The video on the left has been selected from hundreds to give a fair presentation of what happens during the Thrissur Pooram.
If you ever wanted to know 'how to climb on top of an elephant', then just watch this video. You will see how the tame and trained elephants help people to mount on their backs by raising its rear legs and positioning their tails to create stepping places for people to climb on to the elephant's back. You will be amazed to see 30 elephants line up and parade in the midst of a huge crowd of people. You will feel yourself being in the midst of Pooram with the sound of the Panchavadyam, a combination of five percussion and wind instruments including Kerala drums and Kerala long horn trumpets. The Panchavadyam MP3 download can be obtained from many websites.
The highlights of the Thrissur Pooram are the Thrissur Pooram Elephants decorated with their nettipattam (golden elephant crown), decorative bells and ornaments. The ear shattering but rhythmic music known as the panchavadyam and the Thrissur Pooram Fireworks display in the night.
The Thrissur Pooram is actually a competition between two temple groups, the Western group known as Thiruvambady and the Eastern group called as Paramekkavu. The pooram is held on the grounds of the Vadakkunnathan temple (Thekkinkadu maidan) in the center of the city. The celebrations last for almost 3 days and the highlight is the exchange and display of huge decorative Umbrellas while sitting on the parading elephants and the huge Thrissur Pooram Fireworks.
Other festival celebrations in Kerala includes showcasing traditional and cultural programmes like Kavadiyattam, Chendamela, Panchavadyam, Pandimelam, Vallamkali boat races and others.
Kerala Vallam Kali
Vallom Kali is a boat race of Chundan Vallams or snake boats. It must have got the name 'snake boats' due to their resemblance to a snake gliding through water. Watch the video here to know what it is all about.
The chundanvallams or snake boat measures about 50 meters or 150 feet and has over 100 rowers rowing in unison to the tune of the Vanchipattu (Snake boatmen's songs). During the race the boats glide through the Kerala backwaters to the frenzy of the watching crowd. Vallamkali or Snake boat race of Kerala takes place every year during the Onam holidays (August-September). The race owes its origins to Naval skirmishes between neighboring warlords of Alleppey or Alappuzha.
Four main snake boat races (and about 15 smaller races) are held each year in Kerala during the Onam season (August-September)
Nehru Trophy Vallam Kali: The best and the biggest snake boat race of Kerala is held in Alleppey and also known as Alappuzha Vallamkali or Snake Boat Race of Alleppey. It is held every year, on the second Saturday during the month of August, at Alleppey Punnamda Kayal or Backwater.
Champakkulam Snake boat race: is held on a river at Champakkulam about 24 kilometers (15 miles) from Alleppey.
The Payippad Jalotsavam (water festival): is held on Payippad Lake, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Alleppey.
The Aranmula Boat Race: is held on the Pampa River at Aranmula, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Alleppey.
Kerala dance Kathakali or Kathak
Kerala dance Kathakali or Kathak is the popular musical dance drama of Kerala. The history of kathakali is still disputed but Kathakali literally translates as "Story-Play". The Kathakali makeup and Kathakali costumes used by the actors are exaggerated beyond belief, but the audience simply love it. Several actors or dancers take part in Kathak or Kathakali and act in various usually based on themes from Hindu mythology - the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Every aspect of Kathakali like the Kathak costume, Kathakali makeup, Kathak dance steps, Kathak hand gestures and the kathakali dance steps have special meaning. The nature of the Kathakali Characters in a scene are symbolized by col ours according to their nature. Noble characters, like good kings, or divine hero Rama, are given the green color, but noble characters who are evil, like the demon king Ravana, are given a similar green make-up, but streaked with red marks on the face. Similarly Red color depicts evil, green good. Black represents native people and women are in bright yellow.
The actors use hand gesture to tell the story and are known as mudra. The costumes of Kathakali are big and exaggerated. Makeup is very heavy and takes hours to put on. The traditional names of costumes are Sathwika (for the hero), Kathi (for the villain), Minukku (for females), and Thatti. These costumes are familiar to the Kerala audiences. They recognize each character immediately just by their costume and make up.
The music of a Kathakali performance includes two singers together with drums (chenda and maddalam) and cymbals. The singing of Kathak is known as Sopaanam.
Kathakali performance normally starts in the evening and continues throughout the night till dawn.
Other traditional dances of Kerala are Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam or Bharatnatyam and Mohiniyattam. Festival celebrations in Kerala also includes showcasing traditional and cultural programmes like Kavadiyattam, Chendamela, Panchavadyam, Pandimelam, and others.
Kerala Martial Arts Kalaripayattu or Kalari
Kalari or Kalaripayattu is the ancient martial art of Kerala and considered as the most ancient of Martial arts. Kalari was said to be practiced in Kerala even before the time Jesus, more than 2000 years ago. Kalari Martial Art spread to other parts of the world where it is now known as Karate, Kung-Fu, etc. Below you can see what this special martial art of Kerala is like.
It may surprise many, but martial arts like Karate, Kung-fu, Shaolin, etc. had its roots in the Kerala martial art of Kalari or Kalaripayattu. The many Karate and Kung-fu movies made people believe that it originated in China or Japan, but the actual origin is in Kerala. The video on the right shows some Kalaripayattu mock fights in action.
Legend has it that in about 525 AD a Kerala Buddhist monk named Bodhidharama, who was an expert in Kalarippayattu, traveled to China and preached at the Shaolin temple. Bodhidharama taught his Chinese disciples the art of Kalaripayattu, from which evolved the Chinese Shaolin martial art. From China Kalari spread to Japan where it is known as Karate, Kung-Fu, etc.