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Heritage & Cultural Tours

Kerala has a great cultural heritage. The culture of Kerala is a part of both Indian and Dravidian culture. Even then there is some part that has its own flavor. The culture of Kerala was expanded with the influence of neighboring areas as well. The cultural heritage of Kerala can be seen from the different art forms and customs of Kerala. The landlords of earlier times encouraged these arts and culture together with holding the moral values of it. A significance of art of Kerala is the special visual effects and good music. Kerala can boast of its performing arts proudly. There is no other state in India which can match up with the creativity of arts of Kerala. The people of Kerala lead a simple life and are culturally inclined and traditional and celebrate the festivals well.

Kerala - the land of greenery and natural beauty, backwaters and rich cultural diversity

Global tourism destination

Land of Ayurveda

An Indian state with 100% literacy

Kerala also pride itself for its repertoire of rich cultural heritage. Kerala holds a place of honour among the people of India who have enriched Indian Cultural Heritage and helped the cause of national integration. Kerala's culture is in fact, an integral part of Indian culture. Kerala is a great place to tour to during your holidays.

We are a Kerala specialist tour operator looking after the requirements of incoming visitors, visiting Kerala and we have special Kerala programmes focusing the rich cultural heritage of Kerala

Kerala Culture & Tourism:

The culture of Kerala is a composite and cosmopolitan culture to which several people and races have made their significant contributions. Kerala's population comprises of a large number of the people from the Dravidians race, who also inhibit most of the southern part of India. Hinduism is the principal religion with considerable percentages of Muslims and Christians. The gradual evolution of composite and cosmopolitans culture led to the emergence of a spirit of tolerance and catholicity of outlook, which still persist among the people of Kerala. Thus during your tour to Kerala you get to be a part of the tradition and culture of the native people.

The cultural heritage of Kerala is also revealed in its varied dance forms, martial arts and cuisine. Kathakali is a 300-year-old dance form developed exclusively in Kerala combining the performing art forms of opera, ballet, masque, and pantomime. Other dance forms of Kerala are Krishnanattom, Mohiniyattom, Thullal, Koodiyattom, Kolkkali, Thiruvathirakali, Kakkarishi Natakom, Oppanna and Chavittunatakom. Panchavadyam, Nadanpattu, Omanathinkal Kidavo and many more music forms have evolved over the centuries in Kerala. There is a lot to explore while you are on a tour to Kerala, India.

Kerala is renowned for its varied martial arts. Amongst the many forms of martial arts of Kerala are Kalaripayattu, Parisa Kali, Velakanni, Valeru, Kunderu and Njaninmel Kali. Woodcarving is an important craft form that this state has developed. The craftsmen of Kerala can pick up the humblest and meanest bits of material and imbue them with magical mastery. You can shop for handcrafted titbits at the bazaars during your tour to Kerala, India.

Onam is a time for sports and festivities and in Kerala - where one third of the area is low lying, covered with canals, lakes and backwaters - the people take to their boats and country crafts to celebrate. This is perhaps the best time to go on a tour of Kerala, India. Christmas is another festival that is celebrated with much vigor and enthusiasm in the state. Other important festivals of Kerala are Eid, Muharram, and other festivals that are traditionally celebrated all over the country. Kerala's genius for adaptation and fusion of old traditions and new values in every sphere of human thought and endeavour is also evident in its cuisine. Kerala has a distinctive cuisine, very unusual and different from the rest of India. Cooking in Kerala is all about discoveries, aromas and colors. It's a melting pot of different ingredients sprinkled by the various communities down the ages. During your Kerala tour you can experiment with the myriad cuisine of Kerala, which are a gastronome's delight. Thus, in its totality, the culture of Kerala represents the quintessence of the collective achievements of a people in the fields of religion and philosophy, language and literature, art and architecture, education and learning and economic and social organisation.

Important Festivals in Kerala:

Onam Festival:

Onam is celebrated in Kerala when the August monsoon rains give way to the pleasant warmth of autumn. Onam is a harvest festival and the celebration of the return of Mahabali, the once and future king. This king ruled "when all men were equal, when no one was poor, when there was neither theft nor dread of thieves".

Kerala Boat Festivals:

On the great backwaters of Kerala, fierce boat races and water carnivals erupt every year in a dramatic spectacle and hold tens of thousands of people spell-bound, cheering the action, laying bets, goading the boatmen to row faster. The water carnivals and snake boat races herald the week of the great harvest festival of Onam. It is Kerala's most important celebration and in scores of villages spread across central Kerala, competitive races featuring the smaller churulans, oadis, and irrutukuthies provide expression to the spirit of an intrepid, athletic people, born and bread near water.

Vishu Festival :

Vishu falls on the first of Medam (March-April), which is the Malayali New Year's Day. Since it is considered propitious to view good things on this day for year round good fortune, Vishu morning is an important time in Kerala.

Thrissur Pooram Festival :

The most spectacular festival of Kerala is Thrissur Pooram. Sakthan Thampuran, the Maharaja of erstwhile Kochi state, introduced this festival. Celebrated in Medom (April-May) the festival parades the fulgent faces of Kerala culture. With every passing year Tthrissur Pooram, the temple festival, attracts large masses of devotees and spectators to Kerala.

Payippad Jelotsavam Festival:

Payippad Jelotsavam held in memory for the Prathista ceremony of Haripad Subramanya temple and therefore has a religious significance. This festival is celeberated for three days commencing from the Onam festival day. Snake boat processions are taken out on the first two days and competitive boat race take place on the third day.

Attukal Pongala Festival:

Attukal Pongala this is the one and the only temple festival in the world where lakhs of women assembled together to make offerings by cooking a pudding for the goddess in the Attukal temple. It is taken home after the chief priest of the temple will come and sprinkle the holy water and will shower the flowers. This festival will come to an end in the evening with a procession from the temple.

Makaravilakku at Sabarimala Festival:

For centuries, Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta has been a major pilgrim centre in Kerala attracting lakhs of devotees from all over India, more so from the southern states. The presiding deity is Lord Ayyappa known as Dharma Sastha, a considered symbol of unity between Vaishnavites and Saivites.

Christmas Festival:

With a large number of Christian population in Kerala, Christmas is a festival that is celebrated with much vigour and enthusiasm in the state. Easter is also an important festival in the state. The numerous churches that are spread across the state brighten up around this time.

Theyyam Festival:

Theyyam is one of the popular festivals of Kerala. It is the worship of the deity; on the other hand, the dancer is also the deity. Theyyam celebrates primarily the Mother Goddess. Animals, serpents and trees also figure in worship.

There are other important festivals in Kerala lik Eid, Muharram, and other festivals that are traditionally celebrated all over the country.

Kerala Culture:

Kerala is having a rich cultural heritage, which goes way back to ancient times. The contribution of Kerala to literature, music and arts of Indian heritage is unique and exemplary. The history of Kerala goes back more than several millennia. Stone age carving in Edakkal Caves had pictorial writings believed to be dating to atleast 5000 BC, from the Neolithic man, indicating the presence of a prehistoric civilization or settlement in this region.

Like the rest of the south India, Kerala also, in earlier times, was ruled by the Dravidians. Hence, the influence of the race is very much apparent even today. Though the majority of people are Hindus in the state, there are considerable percentages of Christian and Muslim population as well. Till the time Israel was created, a significant number of Jews also resided in the state. The co existence of diverse religion has made the people not only extremely tolerant, rather it has given birth to a sense of respect for other religious faith as well. The official language of the state is Malayalam and the people are quiet frequently referred to as Malayalees. English is also spoken widely as Kerala commands the respect of being hundred percent literate state.

A typical Malayali woman drapes herself in a six metre long saree, though the younger generation of girls prefer to put on convenient dresses like churidar kurta and even jeans top. Keralese men are mostly seen in trousers and shirt, though the more traditional attire "Kasavu Mundu" is also quiet popular, specially among rural areas. "Kasavu Mundu" is a three to four meter long cotton twin cloth with silk border. More informal male dress up include "Kaily" or "Lungy". Malayali male's fashion sense requires him to keep long moustaches and also a good beard.

Cuisine - With so many foreign influences, it is but quiet obvious that Kerala's cuisine is a mix of a variety. Rice (or rather unpolished rice) along with coconut form the major ingredients in the day to day food. They are used in different manners so as to prepare different dishes and snacks. For example rice can be put to use while preparing puttu (pounded and formed into cylindrical shape), vattayappam (round and spongy like a cake), vellappam (lacy edged) , kallappam ( like a pancacke) and idiappam (like noodles). There are more dishes that can be prepared from rice. Similarly, when you set out to find the number of ways coconut is used, you will be left bewildered. Coconut is used as a thickener, flavouring agent, condiment, garnishing agent, desert and lastly as oil (for both cooking and applying on body & hair).

Drinks in Kerala include tea, coffee and buttermilk.

Art Forms - Rooted deeply to their culture and tradition, Keralese have made conscious attempt to preserve their art heritage. So you have beautiful dance forms like Mohiniattam, Kathakali, Theyyam and Thullal to delight you by their colourful and artistic expressions. The music of Kerala also has something that will leave you rejoicing in its very essence. Panchavadyam, Nadanpattu, Omanathinkal Kidavo are only few of the music forms that have made their presence strong over a period of time in Kerala.

The martial art form of Kerala have also found wide recognizition amongst tourists. Kalaripayuttu, in particular traces its origin from the time the state itself was created. Kalari, infact, also has a connection with the ayurvedic treatment of the state. Other martial art form of Kerala include Parisa Kali, Velakanni, Valeru, Kunderu and Njaninmel Kali.

Kerala is well known for its carvings, especially those done on rosewood and sandalwood. Snake Boats that are hugely famous for boat races are made in large numbers. Other items that will catch your imagination include granite idols, coirs, pillars, silk sarees and coconut shell articles. A number of these items make for a brilliant buy during your trip to Kerala.

Events and Festivals - Like the rest of the country, events and festivals are a time in Kerala when people leave aside their routine work and rejoice in the celebration of age old customs and traditions. The most important festival of the state is Onam which welcomes the benevolent king Mahabali who lost everything to fulfil his promise to Vamana Murti, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Around Onam, a whole lot of boat races are held all over the state. These boat races are popularly known as Snake Boat Races in English, though there are other kinds of boats participating as well. The boat races, each have an individual legend or story attached to them that elevates them to position where they are not merely a competition, rather they become a celebration of cultural heritage of the state.

Kerala is known for its population of elephant. This recognition is reinforced when well caprisoned elephant march out in large numbers during the Thrissur Pooram and Elephant Pageant. The grandeur of these festivals are indicative of the richness of Kerala's cultural heritage.

Ayurveda - This 5000 year old ancient form of treatment is inextricably related to Kerala's culture. It is this link that has ensured a continuing faith in this ancient system of healing despite progress in modern method. Not only the natives, rather people from all over India and other parts of the world flock to experience the magical effect of a massage. An ayurvedic treatment is useful in curing as well as instilling a renewed vigour in mind, soul and body.

Kalaripayattu is an ancient form of martial art of Kerala dating back to almost 2000 years. It is from Kerala kalaripayattu martial art that other forms of martial arts were developed in China. This martial art derives its name from two words, "kalari" which means arena of the fighters and "payattu" which means practice. In ancient times, warriors used to tackle opponents by kalari payattu martial art of Kerala. Many times, conflicts between landlords and other chiefs were settled by swift attacks of kalaripayattu.

Kalaripayattu is not kicking and punching. It requires a unique synchronization of mind and body. Along with energy, there should be flexibility of the body and sharp focus of the mind. One should be aggressive but not angry. A person performing kalaripayattu needs to have agile muscles and for that, massage with ayurvedic oils is a must. Also, one should not go to the aggressive movements all at once. One should start slowly with yoga and other exercises that warm up the body and make it easier to perform the aggressive movements with swiftness and dexterity.

Kalaripayattu is learnt in four stages. The first stage involves increasing the flexibility of the body. The student learns to twist, jump and flex his/her arms that will help when learning the next stage. The second stage involves learning how to handle wooden sticks and other wooden weapons. The third stage involves handling metal weapons. The final stage involves fighting with bare hands. The students are taught arm locks, wrestling and defense. Not only does one master the art of fighting, but also learns how to treat injuries and heal bruises and cuts by learning Ayurveda.

Kathakali dance is a traditional dance form of Kerala. In Kerala, the Kathakalli dance form is often known as the King of theater performances. The long hours of make-up, the elaborate and colorful make up, the heavily adorned costumes, all contribute towards making this dance form certainly larger than life. This traditional Kathakali dance form is a very aggressive dance, with no delicate and subtle movements. The actions are powerful and require high amounts of energy to perform. This is also one reason why males play the characters of females as well. It is said that this dance form has evolved over a period of 300 years.

The Kathakali dance basically means story telling. The scenes that are enacted are emoted with much vigor and vitality to bring life to the myths and legends. This dance form highlights complex body movements and facial expressions. The characters they enact seem so real, that at some point during the performance you will feel as though they have swapped their real identities with the characters. Since these complex and intricate body movements require suppleness of muscles, the Kathakali performers have to undergo special massage for their arms, necks and faces. Since the music does not have lyrics, the dance is performed on drum beats and other instruments.

The make-up is very fine and minute details are taken care of. The make-up of a single character can takes hours together. The costumes comprise of heavy multi layered skirt, heavy ornaments and an elaborate headgear. The make up is done according to 5 main types of characters. Each color has its own importance and highlights the significance of the character and the dominant role of that character.

The 5 main types of make up are:

• Pacha (Green): The color green is used for noble characters.
• Kathi (Knife): This make up is used to portray villainous characters.
• Kari (Black): Black colored make up is used for demonesses.
• Minukku (Prettying Up): This make up is used for female characters and sages.
• Thadi (Beard): Some characters require a beard and the bearded look is again of 3     types:
• White Beard: For super human noble characters, like monkey God Hanuman.
• Red Beard: Used for evil characters.
• Black Beard: Used for the character of a hunter.

Krishnattam dance is another form of Kathakali, representing the various life stages of Lord Krishna. In Kerala, krishnanattam dance form still flourishes in the famous Guruvayoor Temple and other temples dedicated to Lord Krishna. The traditional Krishnattam dance is enacted as a series of 8 plays indicating the 8 main stages of lord Krishna's life.

These 8 stages are:

• Avataram
• Kaliyamardanam
• Rasakrida
• Kamsavadham
• Swayamvaram
• Banayuddham
• Vividavadham
• Swargarohanam

The dancers use an elaborate set of gestures and movements and the make up is similar to that of kathakali. The dancer expresses himself through these elaborate movements and gestures. The dances are usually performed by a group of artists instead of solo performers. The music is usually sung by singers and each line is repeated several times to give the artists ample time to express themselves as vividly as they can.

Mohiniattam dance is a very expressive form of dance of Kerala. It is made of two words, "mohini" and "attam". Mohini refers to a beautiful lady and attam means dance. So this traditional Mohiniattam dance form basically means the dance of an enchantress. In Kerala, classical mohiniatam dance form evolved centuries back under the influence of the great king of Travancore, Swati Tirunal. This king was a great patronage of fine arts and encouraged artists from all over India to perform in his court.

The make up and costume of a dancer is very simple yet beautiful. Emphasis is laid on eye make up since most expressions involve emoting through eyes. The color of the costume is usually white or off-white with a golden or a red border. The hair is done up in a bun on the side just above the ear and is decorated with flowers. The jewellery is usually an elaborate pair of earrings and a choker for neck, teamed with a long necklace of coins. Legend has it that Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a gorgeous heavenly enchantress called Mohini to derive the "Pot of Amrit" (potion for immortality), which was in possession of the Demons. He seduced the demons in the form of the divine seductress and somehow managed to get hold of the pot. The dance that was performed to mesmerize the demons is now called "Mohiniattam".

The music is usually classical carnatic, typical of south Indian variations and style of music. It is sung by trained singers or the teacher who teaches the performers to dance. This beautiful style of dance involves the use of eye movements that are sensual yet does not provoke the viewer but enchants in such a way that it is not overt. The idea is to charm without being offensive. The fluttering eye lashes, the curved eye brows and the captivating eyes all enchant the viewers and take them to a virtual paradise!

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