LIFESTYLE & RELIGIONS
racial strains have passed through Kerala virtually since the dawn
of time and have left the state richer in its philosophy of co-existence.
Even in these modern times, with Kerala being India's only fully
literate state, and having provided the nation with some of its
eminent writers and satiric cartoonists, it comes to dwell in a
time warp, where slow-boats still coast along backwaters, the people
dress elegantly in white, and festivals are celebrated over many
days with traditional gaiety.
official language of the state is Malayalam, but English is widely
spoken and understood. One of the principal Hindu castes of Kerala
is that of the Nairs, among two of the country's only societies
that follow a matriarchal system that has brought the women into
social prominence. Kerala's Brah- mins, the namboodris, till recently
had a system in which only the eldest son could marry within the
same caste, since the others had to find wives outside the community,
they were disowned from family rights. These are now traditions
of the past. But it is not only the Hindus that make up the colourful
mosaic of this land.
Jews, for example, came to Kerala when they fled the rule of Nebuchadnezzar
in 587 BC, St Thomas the Apostle came here in the first century
AD, the Syrian Christians were in existence here in the second century
AD, among the oldest of the Christian churches exists in Cranganore
dating back to 400 AD. When the Portuguese came to Kerala, they
found a thriving Christian community here, but one that had never
heard of the Pope ! All these faiths have existed in complete harmony
in Kerala. Today there are temples and mosques, churches and synagogues,
they form the cohesive warp and weft that has gone into the making
of the fabric of Kerala.
abound in Kerala, but there are some that are better known than
others. Since all temples celebrate their individual festivals,
chances are that on your visit you will come across atleast some
form of the cele- bration. The most spectacular of these is Trichur
Pooram, the annual temple festival in Tirchur. Held in April-May,
it includes a spectacular proces- sion of ten temple deities. Some
thirty elephants of a uniform size are dressed in glittering chain-mail
to lead the celebrations.
them sit Brahmin priests under silk parasols. The procession winds
its way through the streets throughout the day to the accompaniment
of ritual music, while devotees make offerings of rice and flowers.
Following sunset, the specta- cle is again enacted, this time accompanied
by flaming torches and fire- works, and heralded by the roll of
drums. For those who would like to participate in concerts, this
is the time for some of the finest kathakali performances and carnatic
music recitals. Onam in August-September is a celebration of Kerala's
harvest and new year, and lasts for a week, leading up to the full
moon. Traditional feasting includes the painting of homes, new clothes,
the floral decoration of swings and courtyards, and dancing to greet
the idols of King Mahabali, whose legendary rules signifies prosperity.