Last updated on September 1st, 2023 at 09:52 am
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear of Kerala? Aside from beautiful sights and the Malayalam language spoken in this region of South India, Kerala traditions and rituals also stand out for their rich representation of the state’s culture.
If you plan on going to the state of Kerala in India, make sure that you don’t only learn Malayalam but also take interest in learning a bit about Kerala culture, Malayalam literature, major festivals, temple festivals, religious rituals, and mythological stories that make it unique.
And to help you do that, let me brief you about the most integral part of their traditions while you add more words to your Malayalam vocabulary list.
What Is The Traditional Ritual Of Kerala?
There is not one but many Kerala festivals and traditional rituals that form the core of Kerala culture. Here’s a list of the must-experience and must-try traditional festivals, performing arts, and rituals comprising the culture of Kerala recommended for learners and tourists.
Onam is called the Grand Harvest celebration, which marks the harvest season in Kerala. During this time of year, the state of Kerala comes alive with verve and colors. The locals celebrate Onam with feasts and traditional dances, with dance performers doing folk dance or the “Kaikotti Kali” dance. The Onam festival takes place in the months of August and September, and everyone joins, regardless of their religion or caste. It is done to honor the spirit of King Mahabali who, the locals say, frequents the place during the event.
The festival is marked by street lights, making “Pookalam” or flower “Rangolis” (patterns), tiger dance or “Pulikali”, and serving feasts on fresh plantain or banana leaf. The traditional feast, called “Onam sadhya,” includes three desserts (“Payasams”), boiled rice, and up to 20 side dishes. Tourists can join the fun with the locals or enjoy “Onam sadhayas” at many restaurants nearby.
It’s a unique ritual popular in Northern Kerala in India, performed by “Theyyam” artists dressed as deities. It’s a dance ritual performed involving mime and over 400 types of trance-like dances and music that have been practiced for a thousand years. The ritual aims to bridge the gap between human and divine beings. It is Malayali people’s way of honoring their ancestors and local heroes.
If you want to witness the ritual, the best place to visit is the temple of Parassinikadavu Muthappan in Kannur. You will get a closer look at all the details of the ritual at this venue, including the elaborate colors, costumes, and offerings.
Aranmula Boat Race
This is among the oldest snake boat race tournaments in Kerala that you can witness during the Onam festival. It’s a thrilling spectacle you will enjoy seeing with the whole family. The tournament has over a hundred traditional snake boats competing with teams of rowers doing rhythmic rowing and synchronized chanting. It happens on the Pampa River in the district of Pathanamthitta.
Kalaripayattu is an ancient Indian martial art form believed to be the precursor to many other martial arts styles. It originated in Kerala and was a popular part of the culture. However, over time, it has become rare that the locals engage in it. Still, you can find venues where experts teach this martial art form to kids.
It uniquely blends physical agility, combat techniques, and traditional healing methods. Tourists will enjoy watching the matches or learning from the short courses provided by certain institutes.
Kerala Traditions And Rituals
From costumes, festivals, unusual rituals, food, and more, Kerala boasts many colorful traditions dating years back. Even the story of how it was discovered is interesting and makes the place more fascinating. According to a legend, King Parshuram, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, threw his prized possession, a battle axe, into the sea. This led to the emergence of Kerala state, called “God’s Own Country.”
Here are the other factors that make traditions and rituals in Kerala something to look forward to:
Traditional Dress And Clothing
In Kerala, women traditionally wear blouses and sarees and upgrade them with elaborate costumes, like Kasavu or a set of sarees during festive occasions. On the other hand, men wear the “Mundu,” a piece of clothing artfully wrapped around their waist. Local women wear sarees most of the times while local men wear “Mundus” on formal occasions but opt for “Lungis” for casual events. Younger generations of Malayalis mostly wear Western clothing.
Malayali eat both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes using loads of spices as spices are the mainstay of the Malayalam cuisine. Kerala people take their time doing rice preparations. They also prepare many dishes with ingredients such as coconut milk, coconut oil, red meat, black pepper, turmeric powder, curry leaves, mustard seeds, rice, poultry, and more.
Arts And Crafts
Kerala is known for many popular handcraft items, including lamps, caskets, teapots, Chinese ceramics, and more. It is also home to exquisite mural paintings that adorn temples and palaces. These artworks depict stories from Hindu mythology and showcase the exceptional craftsmanship of Kerala’s artists.
More than half of Kerala’s population follows Hinduism. Meanwhile, its second largest religion is Islam, and the third is Christianity. The diverse religious beliefs in the place lead to different festivals. For example, Muslims in the land observe traditions such as Eid-ul-Fitr and Ramadan. Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter with decors and carols.
The Importance Of Elephants
Kerala’s state animal is the elephant. They are imprinted on the Government of Kerala’s emblem and called “Sons of Shaya.” They are typically found outside the temples during important religious festivities in the state.
Adding Words And Phrases To Your Malayalam Vocab
Here are some words and phrases that may come in handy when you visit Kerala in time for their important events and rituals:
Learn More About The Malayalam Language Using Ling
Learning new languages, including Malayalam, is now easier with applications like Ling. Just download it on your phone via Play Store or App Store and start learning with its interactive and fun activities.