Kerala, God’s own country, has myriad shades when it comes to it’s culture and traditions. The festivals celebrated here are reflections of the richness in cultural heritage that the place holds.
Festivals in Kerala are all about auspiciousness and unity among people. Vishu and Onam are the two official state festivals while there are a number of religious and temple festivals that are celebrated in different regions. Although each festival has it’s own set of rituals to be followed and few essentials that symbolize it, here is a list of articles or symbols in general to sport during a Kerala festival that will make you look well in sync with the region’s culture.
1. Traditional Kerala Dress
The traditional Kasavu sari in Kerala is a symbol of auspiciousness and beauty. The designs adorned in trending prints, thread work and much more make the settu sari a favorite among the locals who wear it to temples and traditional festivals as well as weddings. With a variety of designs in blouses and the sari, the Kerala Kasavu sari has become all the more versatile as it is being worn in the work places on official ethnic days. If you are in for a Malayali festival or community program, this one sari is a must-have in your wardrobe. It imparts the typical Malayali essence to your look.
For the men, it’s the golden/silver border plain white mundu that’s the best match for all festive occasions.
The Malayali household has a nilavilakku which is a symbol of prosperity and divinity in the Hindu culture. The brass article is an art in itself with the lamps that stand for the presence of the God himself. You would see the nilavillakku during the Onam and Vishu festivals near the puja in the Malayali families. At times, it is also an article in the showcase.
3. Sri Krishna
Though the Malayali people worship a number of deities, the motifs of Lord Sri Krishna are common in the culture and especially during festivals like Onam and Vishu. For Vishu, which is the commencement of the new year, people adorn the Krishna idol and alongside it are placed fruits, veggies, golden ornaments and coins that symbolize happiness and prosperity.
4. The Sumptuous Food
The Sadhya, which is the traditional food platter of the malayalis is a sumptuous serving of veggies prepared with the season’s best harvest. It is served on a banana leaf. It is a food platter served during Onam and Vishu and also in Hindu weddings. The main serving in the Sadhya is the rice with Sambar and/or Rasam along with mixed vegs like Aveyil and other preparations like the thoran. The payasam, the sweet dish, is served in the end.
Nowadays, the sadhya, when served in the household, disposable banana leaves are used. In addition to this, other changes in the sadhya can be seen in modern nuclear families. However, the essence of such a meal, which is people gathering together to have food and share happiness is constant in all the festivities.
5. Ornaments and adornments
Keralites are fond of ornaments especially gold and the same reflects in the festivals and celebrations. The Malayali women love to accessorize themselves with traditional ornaments and what better occasion you would find than the festive celebrations? The most popular ornaments are the centuries-old variety of necklaces like the Palakka and Kaashmala. However, modern designs are also preferred. Ornaments are no longer restricted to gold or silver. There are oxidized and metallic designs that are exquisite and popular among younger women. Celebrations in Kerala festivals are all about adorning not just the deities but also oneself.
6. The Kalam
The Kalam, which in other words is known as the Rangoli made of flowers, is all about auspiciousness and beauty. This flower pattern depicting symbols from the cultural heritage of the land is usually done around the festivals of Onam and Vishu. It is done during community celebrations and functions in offices and educational institutes. A monochromatic Kalam, which is said to have divine symbolism, is drawn during temple festivals. So when a major Kerala festival is round the corner, you will see plenty of the beautiful Kalam in your vicinity.
7. Traditional Music and dances
Thanks to the rich mass of music and dances that the culture owns, the traces of these are seen in varying degrees in all major celebrations. There is a different kind of music attached to different deities and festivities. Even the traditional dances like the Thiruvathira have their own place in the scheme of celebrations. The cultural programs during festivals are mostly an occasion for music, dance and other art forms to come together.
8. The Flowers
Mogra or the Jasmine flower is the most delectable for Malayali. You will find it in the Kalam, in the temple rituals, and in the weddings. The Malayali woman loves to adorn her hair with the garlands of the Jasmine. The deities especially Sri Krishna is adorned with the flower. The marigold also a place in the festivities while the region’s Konna, a seasonal flower blooming during Vishu, is an endearing one as well.
9. Community Gatherings
All festivals are basically about people coming together and sharing food, happiness and much more. Malayali festivals are not different in that regard. Community gatherings are an essential part of the celebrations wherein you find cultural programs loaded with music, dances, and food altogether. These gatherings are usually associated with temples or institutions. While in institutions, these gatherings are for state festivals, in temples they are held for the special days associated with the deity.
10. Smiles and Happiness
One of the essentials without which no celebration will be complete is happy faces. No matter whether you fulfill the material requirements or not, happiness is a prerequisite in celebrations throughout the year and in all the regions. Festivals in Kerala are all about enthusiasm and reveling in music and happiness. It is also one’s chance to get closer to the culture and tradition of the region that is steeped in richness.