Posted 13 June 2022

Witness the popular festivals celebrated in Kannur

Kannur is a beautiful coastal city in the Kannur district of the south Indian state of Kerala. Owing to its lovely natural location between the Lakshadweep Sea and the Western Ghats, the city is also known as the ‘Crown of Kerala’. With its gorgeous beaches, beautiful forts, lovely picnic spots, historical monuments and ancient temples, Kannur has everything an incredible tourist destination should have. Apart from this, the city is home to people from various cultural and religious backgrounds. Also, its culture is significantly influenced by the former Dutch, British and Portuguese colonial powers. Being a melting pot of different cultures, Kannur witnesses a plethora of vibrant festivals and events all through the year.

So, to fully explore and enjoy Kerala’s rich culture and traditions. Here is a list of festivals celebrated in Kannur.

1. Onam

Onam is a popular Hindu festival celebrated with much vigour and fervour all across Kerala. It is also counted amongst the most popular festivals in Kannur. The festival is celebrated in the month of Chingam on the Malayalam solar calendar. It marks the end of monsoon and the arrival of the harvest season. As per the legends, Onam is celebrated to honour King Mahabali, whose spirit is believed to visit Kerala during the festivities. It is believed that during the Onam celebrations, Asura King Mahabali visits the homes of all the Malayali people to bless them and check on their well-being.

The celebrations include numerous rituals and activities, such as -

  • Pulikali (tiger dance)
  • Vallam Kali (boat races)
  • Onathappan (worship)
  • Tug of War
  • Onam Kali
  • Thumbi Thullal (women's dance)
  • Onathallu (martial arts)
  • Kummattikali (mask dance)
  • Onavillu (music)
  • Athachamayam (folk songs and dance)
  • Kazhchakula (plantain offerings)

The festival marks the Malayalam New Year and stretches over 10 days, starting on Atham day and ending on Thiruvonam day. Even though the festival holds immense significance for the Hindus, the people of all religions enjoy the festivities wholeheartedly. Besides the numerous Hindu rituals that take place during Onam, the Christian community of Kannur celebrates this annual festival with great enthusiasm as well. Their rituals include the lighting of Nilavilakku followed by aarti and waving of colourful flowers over the Bible. Throngs of married women clad in traditional Kasavu sarees can be seen enjoying the celebrations.

People of all faiths and beliefs feast together.

Tripunithura Athachamayam, lively street parades, is the major attraction of the festival. The processions include beautifully adorned elephants accompanied by dancers, musicians and carnival floats. Pookalam is another major ritual where people decorate the front doors of their homes and temples with intricate floral decorations and arrangements. Onasadya, a nine-course meal consisting of 11-13 traditional delicacies served on banana leaves, is the highlight of Onam celebrations.

2. Kottiyoor Vysakha Mahotsavam

Also known as Kottiyoor Ulsavam, Kottiyoor Vysakha Mahotsavam is a 28-day-long annual festival held in Kottiyoor, an idyllic village situated in Kannur’s eastern hilly area. It is one of the most famous festivals of Kannur. The festival takes place from the Swati Nakshatra of the Hindu month of Vaisakha to the Chitra Nakshatra of Jyaistha month. It is hosted by two temples, Ikkare Kottiyoor and Akkare Kottiyoor, located along the opposite banks of the River Bavali. Both these temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is believed that the Ikkare Kottiyoor temple was created by Parashurama, while the Akkara Kottiyoor temple is naturally formed. All the rituals and ceremonies take place at Akkare Kottiyoor, which opens only during the festival.

  • The annual pilgrimage is observed by the Hindus to commemorate the mythology of Daksha Yagna. As per the legends, Daksha Yagna was a major turning point in the development and creation of the various sects in Hinduism, such as Shaivism and Shaktism. It is the legend behind the origin of Shakti Peethas called 'Stala Purana'.
  • All through the celebrations, Vedic hymns are recited and a range of priestly rites are performed. It is believed that the system of rituals and rites were developed by Sankaracharya. The festival starts with the Neyyattam ritual and ends with the Thirukalasattu ritual conducted on the last day of the festivities. It is attended by hundreds of devotees from different parts of the country.
  • Elaneer Vayppu is an important ritual performed during the celebrations where devotees offer tender coconuts to the Swayambhoo Shiva linga. This ritual is followed by another ritual called ‘Elaneeraattam’ held on the next day, where the head priest pours the water collected from the tender coconuts on the idol. 
  • Another remarkable spectacle witnessed during the festival is Rohini Aaradhana, a ritual where priests embrace the Swayambhoo Shiva linga.

3. Trichambaram Utsavam

Trichambaram Temple is a magnificent religious centre devoted to Lord Krishna situated in Taliparamba in Kerala’s Kannur district. It is believed that the temple got its name from the Holy Thiru Shambara in honour of Maharishi Shambara who meditated here. The annual Trichambaram Temple festival called Trichambaram Utsavam is a very vibrant and colourful event. The festival is another one of the most popular festivals celebrated in Kannur. It is a fortnight-long festival that begins on Kumbham 22 (6th March) every year and ends on Meenam 6 (20th March) as per the Malayalam calendar.

  • Kodiyettam, a flag hoisting ceremony, marks the beginning of this festival, whereas another ritual called Koodipiriyal marks its end. All the other ceremonies and rituals in between are held at Pookoth Nada. This festival is observed by thousands of devotees every year. Beautifully decorated idols of Lord Balarama and Lord Krishna are carried by priests on their heads. This procession is accompanied by hundreds of colourfully dressed devotees.
  • The idol of Lord Balarama, brother of Lord Krishna, is carried in a procession that starts from Dharmikulanagara Temple at Mazhoor and brought to Trichambaram Temple located 4 km away. The procession is accompanied by Melam and thousands of devotees. One of the ceremonies during the festivities involves a procession including the idols of Lord Balarama and Lord Krishna marching all through the village. This procession is called Nadu Valam Vekkal and only the eldest members of the Namboodiri families are allowed to take part in the ritual. On the 5th day of the Malayalam month of Meenam, a ritual called Aarattu is performed where the idols are dipped in the temple pond.
  • On the last day of the festivities, the idol of Lord Krishna is installed in Trichambaram Temple and the idol of Lord Balarama is taken back to its original place at Dharmik Kulangara Temple. In older times, Meenam 7th Fair was very popular during this time of the year.

4. Pongal

Pongal is an important harvest festival celebrated with much enthusiasm and gaiety in Kannur and the rest of South India. It is a series of celebrations, including Bhogi Pongal, Mattu Pongal, Kaanum Pongal and Surya Pongal, all rolled into one grand affair. The festival is another major name on the list of festivals celebrated in Kannur.

  • The 4-day-long festival is celebrated in the month of January to honour Surya, the Hindu Sun God. It is believed that Pongal has been celebrated for over 2000 years and used to be celebrated as Puthiyeedu during the Medieval Chola reign. During the festivities, people clean and decorate their houses and wear new clothes. On the first day of festivities, which is called Bhogi Pongal, people worship the god of rain, Lord Indra. People replace their old and useless belongings and burn them in a bonfire. Colourful rangolis are made on the front doors of the city’s homes.
  • The second and main day of the festival is called Surya Pongal. This day is celebrated with friends and family and people prepare traditional Pongal food in an earthen pot in an open space under the sun. The earthen pot is beautifully decorated and a flower garland is tied around it. Multiple fresh sugarcane stalks are placed near the cooking stove. Women gather around the stove to sing traditional songs and offer prayers to the Sun god. On Mattu Pongal, the third day of the festivities, cattle and livestock are thanked for their significant contribution to the prosperous harvest. The cattle are washed, cleaned and adorned with flowers, paint and bells. They are offered special food, including sugarcane and sweet rice and they are allowed to wander freely.
  • Many temples and communities conduct processions that involve parading icons from the temples’ sanctums in wooden chariots, as well as amazing drama-dance performances. Kaanum Pongal marks the last day of the festivities. On this occasion, numerous families hold reunions to enjoy the celebrations with loved ones. Various communities organize social events for strengthening mutual bonds. People visit their elders to pay their respects and seek blessings. All the temples in Kannur are stunningly illuminated during the 4-day-long festivities. People all through the city prepare delicious food in their kitchens and distribute it to everyone present on the streets.

So, these are some of the most famous festivals of Kannur you must attend to witness the city’s rich cultural heritage.

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