Dancers participate in festivities marking the start of the annual harvest festival of Onam in Kerala

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The God’s Own Country has got it all – from backwaters to the most colorful festivals in India. Festivals in Kerala are celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm, as they speak volumes about the state’s history, culture and beliefs. There are dance performances, boat races, bejeweled elephants, colorful rangolis and everything that’s awesome. No wonder people from around the world head straight up to this enchanting state with the backwater. So, if the wanderlust wasn’t enough already, here is a dose to spark it further.

12 Festivals In Kerala

Go through this Kerala festival list of all the vibrant and colorful celebrations that take place in this state. Know everything you need to around the time your favorite festival takes place.

  • Kerala Boat Festival: Some Thrill In The Calm Backwaters
  • Theyyam Festival: Behold The Dance Of God
  • Onam: The State Festival Of Kerala
  • Temple Festivals: Witness The Grandeur Of Kerala
  • Vishu: Celebrating The First Day Of The Malayali Year
  • Attukal Pongala: The Largest Religious Gathering Of Women
  • Christmas: Comes, But Once A Year & It’s A Time To Cheer
  • Maha Shivarathri: All About Paying Homage To The Lord
  • Makaravilakku: Witness The Religious Processions
  • Thiruvathira: Known As Arudhra Darisanam
  • The Arattu Of Lord Padmanabhan: The Holy Bath
  • Ambalapuzha Arattu: The Grand Lord Krishna Festival

1. Kerala Boat Festival: Some Thrill In The Calm Backwaters

The popular snake boat race in Nehru Trophy

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Kerala is known around the world for its backwaters. And the Kerala Boat Festival elevates the charm of these glistening water canals. The race is all about enthusiasm and most importantly team spirit and sync between the members. Watching this race is one of the enthralling Kerala festivals that one shouldn’t miss while on a trip to Kerala.

What To Expect: A lot of action as the most popular races – Champakulam Moolam Boat Race (Alappuzha), Nehru Trophy Boat Race (Alleppey), Payippad Jalotsavam (Payippad Lake) and Vallam Kali (Punnamada Lake) – take place.

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2. Theyyam Festival: Behold The Dance Of God


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Theyyam is one of the most popular festivals celebrated in Kerala, and indeed the most-awaited. This 800-year-old festival flaunts folk dances and art. There are more than 400 varieties of Theyyam performances to pick from, of which the best ones are Kari Chamundi, Raktha Chamundi, Muchilottu Bhagavathi, and Wayanad Kulaven. This is one of the most famous festivals in Kerala. 

What To Expect: As mentioned above, mythological acts are the highlights of the Theyyam festival. People dress up and paint the performer, who belongs to an upper caste, and adorn him with flowers, mask and color. The performer then undergoes self torture and dances to the rhythms in front of shrines.


3. Onam: The State Festival Of Kerala

Dancers participate in festivities marking the start of the annual harvest festival of Onam in Kerala

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One of the most important festivals is the Onam festival in Kerala. It is a harvest festival of Kerala that falls in the Malayali month of Chingam. It is celebrated to commemorate the Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu and homecoming of King Mahabali.

Around Onam, the whole state gets drenched in the festive spirit, marked with delicious dishes, dance, music, rituals and boat races. For a culture-vulture, the best time to visit Kerala is during Onam celebration. It is also the national festival of Kerala. 

What To Expect: The 10-day celebrations are best experienced in Kochi where a royal parade ‘Athachamayam’ kick starts the grand celebrations. From a colorful extravaganza of tableaux on the roads the center shifts to the Thrikkakara temple. On the day of Onam, there are games, music, dance and fireworks in all parts of the state. Onam Sadhya is the customary feast comprising a vegetarian spread of 20-25 curries and a couple of desserts.

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4. Temple Festivals: Witness The Grandeur Of Kerala

Temple festival flaunts the grandeur of Kerala

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Now this is not a single festival, rather a string of festivals celebrated in almost all temples across Kerala. Mostly named after the temple they are celebrated in, temple festivals are grand and elaborate. They are annual extravaganzas that last for 9-10 days and can be attended through a period of 6 months as festival dates vary from temple to temple. One should definitely attend these celebrations of Kerala festivals 2023. 

What To Expect: Famous temples of Kerala host this festival and flaunt the grandeur with lavish decorations, adorned elephants, music, dance, fireworks and numerous religious traditions. The celebrations also feature hoisting of a holy flag, processions around the countryside, and offerings of rice and coconuts made to God as the procession moves ahead.

The whole celebration gives a glimpse of this unique festival celebrated in Kerala and is a must see for those who are fascinated by the pomp of Kerala’s religious traditions. Some of the best temple festivals of Kerala are held in the temples of Thrissur, Sabarimala, Attukal, Padmanabhaswamy, Vaikom and Chinakkathoor, among others. Of these, Thrissur Pooram is the most gala temple festival that promises a visual treat for spectators.


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5. Vishu: Celebrating The First Day Of The Malayali Year

The idol of Lord Krishna during the Vishu Puja

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Vishu marks the beginning of Malayali year and is one of the most important and famous festivals of Kerala. Mostly celebrated at home, a pooja with the family and the evening feast are the highlights of this Hindu festival.

What To Expect: A night before Vishu, a number of auspicious articles are collected and then arranged in a small vessel in a particular fashion. This vessel is kept in the prayer room. The morning starts with Kani Kanal – the first sight of Lord Vishu. Later, the whole family gathers to eat Sadya (mid-day feast), followed by fireworks in the evening.

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6. Attukal Pongala: The Largest Religious Gathering Of Women


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Another popular festival in Kerala, Attukal Pongala brings together women of all caste, religion, and color.This is one of the popular Kerala festivals, dedicated to Attukal Devi and celebrated at the Attukal Devi Temple in Trivandrum, Kerala. The festival has been appreciated in the Guinness Book of World Records, for hosting the largest gathering of women for the religious purpose. Interestingly, the number of ladies attending the festival increases every year dramatically. It also holds a record in Guinness Book of World Record for hosting the largest female crowd every year.

What To Expect: During this festival women wear their best dresses and gather to decorate deity with colorful bangles. The aura gets enlivening with folk musical concerts, bhajans, plays and parades. The deity is offered Ponkala (rice prepared with jaggery and other ingredients) as a gesture of praise by the ladies.


7. Christmas: Comes, But Once A Year & It’s A Time To Cheer

A shot of a decorated Christmas tree by the side of a fireplace in a house

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In the state of Kerala, where Christians account for over a quarter of the population, Christmas holds a strong position. With festivities ranging from shopping and tree decorations to carols and feast, Christmas is definitely one of the most celebrated festivals in Kerala. The festival marks the birth of Jesus Christ.

What To Expect: During the festival, Christians decorate their houses with lights and other decorations. Christmas trees are bought and decorated with gifts, lights, and other colorful items. People buy new clothes and exchange gifts. A Christmas mass is held in the churches where scenes of the life and birth of Jesus Christ are depicted through models. A scaled down version of the manger where Jesus was born is most commonly put up in these displays. After lighting the candles and singing hymns in the church, people savor delicious cakes and other delicacies.

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8. Maha Shivarathri: All About Paying Homage To The Lord


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Amongst all the festivals of Kerala, this is one of those festivals that reflect the richness of religious aspect of Kerala. Like all the festivals in Kerala, this one too is celebrated with utmost enthusiasm and is therefore counted amongst the most significant ones. The grandiose of this festival can be seen on the Periyar river banks.

What To Expect: It is a wonderful sight to see all the pilgrims coming to worship the Lord Shiva idol. One of the highlights at this festival are the various dance performances

9. Makaravilakku: Witness The Religious Processions

shot of a place packed with crowd

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This Kerala traditional festival is celebrated for a whole week and occurs on the famous Hindu festival, Makar Sankranti. On this day, people of Kerala worship Lord Ayyappa’s idol. The whole program is organized at the Ayyappa Temple located in Sabarimala.

What To Expect: When you are in Sannidhanam during the celebrations, you can see the Divya Jyothi from 9 different spots. You should also take part in the Thiruvabharanam procession. In this procession, you get to see the Lord’s accessories transfering to Sabarimala from the Old Palace

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10. Thiruvathira: Known As Arudhra Darisanam


Image Credit: Arunanand T A for Wikimedia Commons

Thiruvathira is popular as Arudhra Darisanam and is celebrated in Kerala and Tamil Nadu in a grand way. It is believed that on this day Goddess Parvati met Lord Shiva and he accepted his partner. This festival is of immense importance for the unmarried women as they keep fast on this day and pray for getting good husbands. Temples are decorated and you can witness the rituals and traditions on Thiruvathira. It is undoubtedly one of the most prominent festivals of Kerala.

What To Expect: You can witness the Thiruvathirakali dance performed by women and listen to the folk songs that locals sing that are dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

11. The Arattu Of Lord Padmanabhan: The Holy Bath

The Arattu Of Lord Padmanabhan

Image Credit: Sambath punalur for Wikimedia Commons

At Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Trivandrum, the Arattu of Lord Padmanabhan is celebrated every year and people from all over the state attend this festival. Arattu means holy bath and on this festival, the priest of the temple takes a bath in the river while holding the idol of Lord Padmanabhan. The Travancore royal family organizes this festival and it is one of the best festivals in Kerala that you must attend on your vacay.

What To Expect: The Padmanabhaswamy temple is decorated and the Travancore royal family and other locals perform rituals and the priest takes a holy bath.

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12. Ambalapuzha Arattu: The Grand Lord Krishna Festival

Ambalapuzha Arattu

Image Credit: Pradeep for Wikimedia Commons

Ambalapuzha Arattu is another famous festival of Kerala and is celebrated for 10 days Sree Krishnaswamy Temple in Alappuzha. This temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and on the last day of this festival, the idol of Lord Krishna is taken to the banks of the river for the holy bath. The temple is beautifully decorated and the locals and the priests organize a special prayer ceremony at this eminent festival.

What To Expect: Attend the prayer ceremony and walk with the priest to the banks of the river to witness all the rituals.

We know you’re all set for a Kerala holiday! Attending these festivals in Kerala will only help you get an understanding of the culture even more. Also, it’s always the best plan when you have your bestie along. So, share this with your best friends and let them, too, have their dose of wanderlust!

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Frequently Asked Questions About Festivals In Kerala

How many festivals are there in Kerala?

There are various festivals in Kerala that are celebrated with full vigor. Some of the major ones are Onam, Vishu, Thrissur, Theyyam, etc.

What is the famous food of Kerala?

There are various dishes in Kerala that shouldn't be missed out while you are here. Some of them are - Malabar Biryani, Puttu, Sadhya, Idiyappam, Naadan Kozhi, etc.

Which dance is famous in Kerala?

Kerala is essentially known for two types of classical dance forms: Mohiniyattam and Kathakali.

What festivals are celebrated in Kerala?

Some of the famous festivals celebrated in Kerala are Kerala Boat Festival, Onam, Vishu, Christmas, Maha Shivratri, and more.

Which is the most famous festival in Kerala?

Onam is the most famous festival that is celebrated nationwide.

Which is the national festival of Kerala?

The national festival of Kerala also happens to be the most popular and vibrant festival. Onam is considered the national festival of Kerala.

What is the agricultural festival of Kerala?

Onam is the agricultural festival of Kerala. It is a 10-day harvest festival that is celebrated in the months of August and September.

What is the famous dress of Kerala?

For local men and women, the famous dress is Lungi which is also known as Kaili or Kalli Mundu. It is a casual dress or a working uniform for the laborers in the South.

What is the mother tongue of Kerala?

The mother tongue of Kerala is Malayalam. It is the official language of Kerala.

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