I visited Kerala, God’s Own Country, during Onam festival which is one of the very famous festival of Kerala. Kerala is also known as god’s own country for so many reason, so besides exploring Onam festival I do had a reason to visit kerala which was to explore the reason for which kerala is known as god’s own country.
Here is link my previous blogpost where I have summarized my research of god’s own country
So now back to Onam festival, let me start first with the History of Onam festival
History of Onam
Once upon a time there was a king name Mahabali who was consider as one of the most powerful king of all time . It is believed that when mahabali was ruling kerala , it was the golden period of kerala. Mahabali was Asura king but he was kind as well. He was so powerful that gods from heaven started surrendering themselves in front of him and he was ruling the earth and was about to rule the heaven as well. The king of heaven(Indra) was aware of that but couldn’t stop mahabali by himself so Indra went to lord Vishu and requested Lord Vishu to stop mahabali before mahabali become king of heaven as well.
In Hindu Religion , most of our stories of fight between God and Asura are full of politics. So same happened again. Lord Vishu disguised himself as sadhu and went to mahabali and requested alms. Mahabali was very kind king who had never said no to anyone who requested alms.
Vishu as sadhu requested space to keep 3 foot. Mahabali agreed and then sadhu turn into Vamana avatar. Mahabali who was follower of vishu didn’t refuse even seeing the vamana avatar of vishnu in front of him. Lord Vishnu covered whole earth in first step, heaven in 2nd step and left with space for one more foot. He asked mahabali for more space and mahabali requested lord vishnu to put the third foot on his head .
Now some stories say mahabali died and Onam was celebrated because mahabali last wish was that people of his kingdom would always remember him even after his death . But some stories say mahabali never died . He was sent to hell and came on earth during the onam festival. Here is how is he used to look like 🙂
Starting of Onam @ Tripuntira
Onam festival start from small town of Tripuntira near Earnakulam (30 minutes by bus from Earnakulam). Since I had very little idea about this festival , so I took a cheap hotel(300rs/night near railway station) in morning itself as soon as I reached tripuntira and decided to stay at tripuntira for a night hoping something will happen at night as well. In morning , I had very famous south Indian breakfast food which is idaly and shambhar and I received my first surprise in kerala when the waiter served me a purple color water to drink and that too little hot. On asking him about why water is hot and colored , he replied “Good water , added jadibuti”. My experience of kerala was not good with respect to language as most of the time I was speaking with people in sign language only. So I didn’t ask the same guy again hoping I will check with some other guy in future as every hotel in kerala server purple colored hot water. And everywhere I got the same answer that they add leaves of some plant which change the color of water but those leaves are good for health.
So after having my breakfast , I left for the starting place of 1st day of Onam festival. On first day of festival a rally is organized where people dressed up like gods. The makeup start early morning at around 7 O’clock at the starting point and continue for around 2-3 hours .
When all groups are ready , the rally(where people who dressed up like god are dancing madly) goes to famous temple and take circle of small area of town which is believed to be the place where king used to live . To me it looks like a celebration of welcoming king Mahabali on Earth as the feeling with which people of Kerala participate can be consider as highest level of madness. From the participants to viewers everyone is immersed in god’s devotion
But the 1st day of festival start from early morning at around 7 o’clock and till 2 -3 o clock afternoon everything is over. During evening when I was walking on same road where I witnessed the crazy festival I found the road a people normal as if nothing had happen in morning.
Onam is around 10 days festival but after 1st day people celebrate next few days of festival at home by cooking good food and worshiping god and there is not much to catch on streets for next few days . So for few days I decided to stay at fort cochin.
Stay Fort cochin definitely added a new travel experience in my travel journey so far. Not only fort kochin but most of the places in kerala have hostel system where you have single bed in room of 6 beds. It’s always nice for lonely traveler to stay at such location because you always have someone to talk whenever you feel alone and the most Interesting thing about those hostel is you make friends instantaneously. Whenever someone new enters into the room , you shake hands and the friendship starts
Another reason to stay in fort kochin was my camera which I had given for repair in service center. I stayed in fort kochin at Vedanata Wake up hostel for for 6-7 days and had said goodbye to around 15 tourist 😀 and currently I am in contact with only 1 of them . For some people it sound weird to make friends and then never be in touch with them but for me its one of the best thing about my journey as memories are always better then reality.
Since I stayed at fort kochin for around 6-7 days and there were very few options to get cheap north Indian veg food. All you will get is sea food and if you wish to eat north Indian food it will be very expensive. So I decided to go for kerala special meal food. I did like the food for the first time as something new to try but it was not something which someone can try for 7 days although I did that so I can save money :). I didn’t have camera and food was not something which made me happy during those days so only reason I stayed there because of some people whom I met at vedanta hostel.
After getting my camera , I visited kathakali dance at famous fort kochin theater a dance of expression where artist convey stories with dance. As per them humans have 9 emotions such as love(strongest) , anger etc. The artist at fort kochin theater perform a very famous scene from mahabharat where angel trying to seduce lord Arjun when lord Arjun visited the heaven.
Meanwhile when I was in fort kochin , boat race competitions were happening every third day in kerala as a part of onam celebration but unfortunately I didn’t get chance to visit any boat race as either my camera was in service center for repair or other events were also happening on the same date . From fort kochin I left for Alleppey.
Alleppey (Famous Back water)
I stayed at Vedanta wake up hostels at Alleppey as well which was at walkable distance from house boat point .Alleppey is very nice place to check out back water lakes of kerala. This place which has most number of tourist location although I liked only back water tour
Here is link of my back water experience
Alleppey do have good beach with clean water but that is not something for which I went to Alleppey as I have already seen almost all beaches of India. So I stayed at Alleppey for only 1 night and next day I left for Thrissur where famous pulikali dance festival was scheduled on next day as per kerala tourism website
Pulikali(Where human turn into beast) at Thrissur
Thrissur is cultural capital of kerala where you can witness the most amazing festival of kerala from including Onam and pooram(biggest festival of kerala). I tried to reached thrissur 1 day before pulikali but I waited for 3 days for pulikali festival. The dates as per kerala tourism website and on internet was different and the actual dates was different . It was hard to communicate with people and get proper idea of date and time so I used to visit the place from where pulikali was supposed to start (swaraj round) in morning , afternoon and evening.
There was nothing on first day but on 2nd day at thrissur(2nd last day of Onam) I wintenned a small rally . I don’t remember the name of that event but it had some yatra at the end (pardon me for my small memory 🙂 )
7-10 group of people each having around 50-60 member dance of street which is circled around a garden and at the center of garden located a very famous temple of thrissur (pooram, biggest festival of kerala during month of april also happen at same place). After enjoying pulkali on last day of onam I left for Varakala beach as I wanted to check out sunset in kerala.
Varakala Beach where god paints sky during sunset
The reason to visit beach of kerala was just to check out sunset at kerala . I have seen sky turning into colorful canvas. I had seen the sky in city but never got a chance to see the complete sunset . So same reason I went to varakala beach and it was worth a visit.
Beach of varakala is on hill bottom which was really surprising for me . I never imagined a beach on hill bottom in India . So on varakala beach last bus stop there are three ways to reach beach if you are facing towards the ocean . One on left which is crowded with local Indian people from nearby cities, one way is to take stairs and go directly to the bottom of hill and another one was on right most side which was really quite portion of beach and this was the point from where I witnessed the most beautiful and colorful sunset of my life at kerala .Here is small beach which I found when I went towards right side
I found this city similar to big cities of India and that was point where I lost my interest to explore this city . The city have two famous temples which were really crowded because of Onam festival . So I decided to leave for another beach(kovalam) near to Thiruvanthipuram
Kovalam (Lighthouse beach)
Kovalam beach was more like Calangute beach of goa . The street near kovalam beach having hotels on both side of roads gave me feel like I am in goa again . Since I never planned for this beach visit but came because i was not interested in visiting Thiruvanthipuram city. But as soon as I reached beach I was surprised . I was happy to remove an item from my to do list . The beach have a big lighthouse.
A lighthouse which is still working and painted with red and white. It was one of the small thing in my check list which I wanted to visit but never get a chance . So apart from a beautiful sunset my checklist to go on the top of lighthouse was also fulfilled at Kovalam beach
I ended my trip at kovalam beach not because I didn’t find more places to visit but because I ran out of money . Apart from above place few places which I would Like to visit in my next trip of god’s own country are Munnar and thekkady. I hope I will visit this peaceful land in India again
For more photos from kerala trip please check my facebook page and flickr account as well