The major festival in Kerala is Onam. Kerala has a number of religious festivals. Thrissur Pooram and Chettikulangara Bharani are the major temple festivals in Kerala. The Thrissur Pooram is conducted at the Vadakumnathan temple, Thrissur. The Chettikulangara Bharani is another major attraction. The festival is conducted at the Chettikulangara temple near Mavelikkara. The Sivarathri is also an important festival in Kerala. This festival is mainly celebrated in AluvaTemple and Padanilam Parabrahma Temple. Padanilam Temple is situated inAlappuzha district of Kerala, about 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) from Mavelikkaratown. Parumala Perunnal, ManarkaduPerunnal are the major festivals of Christians. Muslims also have many important festivals.
Kerala is also known for the many events conducted by the Ministry of Tourism for tourist attractions. Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the first Biennale in India was conducted in Kochi from 12 December 2012 till 13 March 2013.The government contributed about 12-150 million on the event. An International Coir Fest is conducted annually that is aimed at developing the coir industry of Kerala and tourism.
To further promote tourism in Kerala, theGovernment of Kerala started the Grand Kerala Shopping Festival in the year 2007. Since then it has become an annual shopping event being conducted in the December–January period. During this period stores and shops registered under the GKSF offer a wide range of discounts, VAT refunds, etc. Along with the guaranteed shopping experience, shoppers are provided with gift coupons for a fixed worth of purchase entering them into weekly and mega lucky draws. As compared to shopping festivals held in other countries, this Festival converts the entire state of Kerala into a giant shopping mall, incorporating not just the big players, but also the small and medium scale industries. Through this shopping festival, the Kerala Government intends to transform the State into a hub for international shopping experience and thereby launch “Shopping Tourism” in the state.
Medical tourism, promoted by traditional systems of medicine like Ayurveda andSiddha, is widely popular in the state, and draws increasing numbers of tourists. A combination of many factors has led to the increase in popularity of medical tourism: high costs of healthcare in industrialised nations, ease and affordability of international travel, improving technology and standards of care.
However, rampant recent growth in this sector has made the government apprehensive. The government is now considering introduction of a grading system which would grade hospitals and clinics, thus helping tourists in selecting one for their treatments.
Kerala’s culture is mainly Hindu in origin, deriving from a greater Tamil-heritageregion known as Tamilakam. Later, Kerala’s culture was elaborated on through centuries of contact with overseas cultures. Native performing arts include koodiyattom, kathakali—fromkatha (“story”) and kali (“play”)—and its offshoot Kerala Natanam, koothu (akin to stand-up comedy), mohiniaattam (“dance of the enchantress”), thullal, padayani, and theyyam. Other arts are more religion- and tribal-themed. These include chavittu nadakom, oppana(originally from Malabar), which combines dance, rhythmic hand clapping, and ishal vocalisations. However, many of these art forms largely play to tourists or at youth festivals, and are not as popular among most ordinary Keralites, who look to more contemporary art and performance styles, including those employing mimicry and parody. Additionally, a substantial Malayalam film industry effectively competes against bothBollywood and Hollywood.
Several ancient ritualised arts are Keralite in origin; these includekalaripayattu (kalari (“place”, “threshing floor”, or “battlefield”) and payattu(“exercise” or “practice”)). Among the world’s oldest martial arts, oral tradition attributes kalaripayattu’s emergence to Parasurama. Other ritual arts includetheyyam, poorakkali and Kuthiyottam.
Kuthiyottam is a ritualistic symbolic representation of human bali (homicide). Folklore exponents see this art form, with enchanting well–structured choreography and songs, as one among the rare Adi Dravida folklore traditions still preserved and practised in Central Kerala in accordance with the true tradition and environment. Typical to the Adi Dravida folk dances and songs, the movements and formations of dancers (clad in white thorthu and banyan) choreographed in Kuthiyottam are quick, peaks at a particular point and ends abruptly. The traditional songs also start in a stylish slow pace, then gain momentum and end abruptly.
Kuthiyotta Kalaris’, run by Kuthiyotta Ashans (Teachers or leaders), train the group to perform the dances and songs. Normally, the training starts about one to two months before the season. Young boys between 8 to 14 years are taught Kuthiyottam, a ritual dance in the house amidst a big social gathering before the portrait of the deity. Early in the morning on Bharani, after the feast and other rituals, the boys whose bodies are coiled with silver wires, one end of which is tied around his neck and an arecanut fixed on the tip of a knife held high over his head, are taken in procession to the temple with the accompaniment of beating of drums, music, ornamental umbrellas, and other classical folk art forms, and richly caparisoned elephants.
All through the way to the temple tender coconut water will be continually poured on his body. After the circumambulation the boys stands at a position facing the Sreekovil (Sanctum Sanctorum) and begins to dance. This ceremony ends with dragging the coil pierced to the skin whereby a few drops of blood comes out.
On this day just after midday the residents of the locality bring huge decorated effigies of Bhima panchalia, Hanuman and extremely beautiful tall chariots in wheeled platforms, and after having darshan the parties take up their respective position in the paddy fields lying east of the temple.
During the night, the image of Devi will be carried in procession to the effigies stationed in the paddy fields. On the next day these structures will be taken back. A big bazaar is also held at Chetikulangara as part of this festival. Kuthiyottam is the main vazipadu of the Chettikulangara temple, Mavelikkara.
In respect of Fine Arts, the State has an abounding tradition of both ancient and contemporary art and artists.The traditional Kerala murals are found in ancient temples, churches and palaces across the State. These paintings, mostly dating to between the 9th to 12th centuries AD, display a distinct style, and a colour code which is predominantly ochre and green.
Like the rest of India, religious diversity is very prominent in Kerala. The principal religions are Hinduism, Christianity, andIslam; Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, andBuddhism have smaller followings. Thestate’s historic ties with the rest of the world have resulted in the state having many famous temples, churches, and mosques.
Recognising the potential of tourism in the diversity of religious faiths, related festivals and structures, the tourism department launched a “Pilgrimage tourism” project. Major pilgrim tourism attractions include Guruvayur,Sabarimala, Malayatoor, Paradesi Synagogue, St. Mary’s Forane (Martha Mariam) Church Kuravilangad built in 105 A.D, Attukal Pongala (which has the Guinness record for being the largest gathering of women in the planet), andChettikulangara Bharani.
Kerala Tourism is noted for its innovative and market-focused ad campaigns. These campaigns have won the tourism department numerous awards, including the Das Golden Stadttor Award for Best Commercial, 2006,Pacific Asia Travel Association- Gold Award for Marketing, 2003 and the Government of India’s Best Promotion Literature, 2004, Best Publishing, 2004 andBest Tourism Film, 2001.
Catchy slogans and innovative designs are considered a trademark of brand Kerala Tourism. Celebrity promotions are also used to attract more tourists to the state. The Kerala tourism website is widely visited, and has been the recipient of many awards. Recently, the tourism department has also engaged in advertising via mobiles, by setting up a WAP portal, and distributing wallpapers and ringtones related to Kerala through it.
With increasing threats posed by global warming and changing weather patterns, it is feared that much of Kerala’s low–lying areas might be susceptible to beach erosion and coastal flooding. The differing monsoon patterns also suggest possible tropical cyclones in the future.
The state has won numerous awards for its tourism initiatives. These include:
- 2014 – ITB-Berlin’s Golden City Gate Gold Award for Print Campaign
- 2014 –UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance for Sustainable Tourism
- 2012 – Kerala Tourism wins silver prize at the Golden Gate Award of theInternationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin
- 2005 – Nominated as one among the three finalists at the World Travel and Tourism Council‘s ‘Tourism for Tomorrow’ awards in the destination category
- Das Golden Stadttor Award for Best Commercial, 2006
- Pacific Asia Travel Association
- Grand award for Environment, 2006
- Gold award for Ecotourism, 2006
- Gold award for Publication, 2006
- Gold Award for E-Newsletter, 2005
- Honourable Mention for Culture, 2005
- Gold Award for Culture, 2004
- Gold Award for Ecotourism, 2004
- Gold Award for CD-ROM, 2004 and 2003
- Gold Award for Marketing, 2003
- Grand Award for Heritage, 2002
- Pacific Asia Travel Writers Association
- International Award for Leisure Tourism, 2000–2001
- Government of India
- Best Performing Tourism State, 2005
- Best Maintained Tourist-friendly Monument, 2005
- Best Publishing, 2005
- Best Marketed and Promoted State, 2004.
- Best Maintained Tourist-friendly Monument, 2004
- Best Innovative Tourism Project, 2004
- Best Promotion Literature, 2004
- Best Publishing, 2004
- Best Performing State for 2003, 2001, 2000 and 1999 – Award for Excellence in Tourism.
- Best Practices by a State Government, 2003
- Best Eco-tourism Product, 2003
- Best Wildlife Sanctuary, 2003
- Most Innovative Use of Information Technology, 2003 and 2001
- Most Tourist-friendly International Airport, 2002
- Most Eco-friendly Destination, 2002
- Best Tourism Film, 2001 ( madivilikkunnu star in pavnlal )
- Outlook Traveller – TAAI
- Best State that promoted Travel & Tourism, 2000–2001
- Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry
- Award for Best Marketing, 2003
- Award for Best Use of IT in Tourism, 2003
- Galileo – Express Travel & Tourism
- Award for the Best Tourism Board, 2006
- Award for the Best State Tourism Board, 2003