Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple during Lakshadeepam, Photo Credit: Anooj Krishnan J R
Every city in the world is unique, with its own history, culture and tradition. Trivandrum also has its own unique DNA. Many of the city’s culture and tradition goes a long way back to ancient times, while some of them are fairly new. These things make Trivandrum different from other cities.
So, here are 11 things that makes Trivandrum unique!
1. Attukal Pongala
Where else can you see millions of women taking over city streets with hearths? That’s right only in Trivandrum. Attukal Pongala is the largest annual gathering of women in the world for a religious purpose. Women devotees take over footpaths, courtyards and empty spaces within an eight-km radius of the temple on Pongala day. Last year it was estimated that around 3.5 million women took part in Pongala and this year it will be close to 4 million. The mega event, which had found a place in the Guinness Books of World Records for being the largest congregation of women, is never to be missed one for various reasons.
The International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), which is held every year on December is a movie-lovers most anticipated event. It is Asia’s largest film festival in terms of viewer participation. During the festival time, the city is buzzing with IFFK frenzy. Delegates, celebrities, film-goers from across the world will be in the city, making it their home for a week to be part of the festival.
3. Soorya Festival
The 75-day annual Soorya Festival, is one of a kind event in the city. Soorya Festival is acclaimed as the longest running cultural festival in the world and reflects the sound of music, dance and traditional arts forms of India. All Indian cultural dance, music and arts are showcased in this festival. Renowned dancers and musicians from all over India participate in this festival. Dancers such as Padma Subramaniam, Alarmel Valli, Chitra Viswesvaran, Lakshmi Gopalaswami,Rajendra-Nirupama and musicians such as Ustad’s Allah Rakha, Amjad Ali Khan, Bismillah Khan, Zakir Husain, Balamuralikrishna, Bhimsen Joshi etc are a few among the famous artistes who have performed here.
4. Beemapally Uroos
Beemapally ‘Uroos’ one of the important events in the capital city’s religious calendar, is held annually to commemorate Syedunnisa Beema Beevi, a saintly lady, whose tomb is in Beemapally Dargah Sharif. The Dargah Shareef is dedicated to Beevi who had been believed to possess extraordinary powers. Bee Umma, as she was known to believers, belonged to the family of Prophet Mohammed and reached Trivandrum from Mecca centuries ago, to preach Islam.
5. Kovalam Literary Festival
The two-day Kovalam Literary Festival is a writer’s festival which is held in Trivandrum every year. Kovalam Literary Festival was first held 8 years ago in 2008. Since then, the festival is growing annually, and it shows that Trivandrum has the support base for an international literary festival. From Nobel laureates to local language writers, Man Booker prize winners to debut novelists, every year the most remarkable, witty, sensitive and brilliant collection of authors come together for two days of readings, debates and discussions in the Kerala capital.
6. Onam Celebration
The most spectacular Onam Celebrations take place in Trivandrum. All the buildings from Vellayambalam to East fort are beautifully illuminated with colourful lights. Even the trees will be illuminated. You will feel like as if you are in a wonderland. Much of Kerala’s culture is showcased during the festivities. The weeklong celebration comes to an end with a massive cultural procession from Kowdiar palace to East Fort. Around 100 floats participate every year along with beautifully caparisoned elephants and traditional art forms. It’s one thing you don’t want to miss.
7. Vettucaud Festival
The Vettukad Church, also known as the Madre De Deus Church, is renowned among the pilgrims and tourists for the Feast of Christ the King celebration. The ‘Feast of Christ the King ‘ is celebrated on the last Sunday of the liturgical year corresponding to the 3rd Sunday of November every year. The celebration lasts for 10 days and the second last day sees a grand procession with the image of Christ the King that goes round the entire parish. A high mass led by the Arch Bishop of Trivandrum and the benediction marks the final day that experiences a spill of around 50,000 devotees. Vettucaud Church, bears this tradition of more than 500 years.
The Sri Padmanbaswamy Temple Trivandrum is renowned for the Aarattu. The word Aarattu means the holy bathe of the deities in sea. During Aarattu, the idols of Sri Padmanabhaswamy, Krishna and Narasimha are carried along the 5Km route to Shanghumukham Beach, escorted by members of the royal family and armed police. A procession in the light of traditional torches, escorts the purified idols back to the temple, marking the conclusion of the grand festival. These customs and traditions have been practised down the centuries. The uniqueness of the Arattu is that the head of the royal family of the erstwhile Travancore still escorts the idols during the procession donning his traditional attire.
9. Nishagandhi Festival
Nishagandhi Festival is a 7-day long cultural fest which is held in Trivandrum every year on the month of January. The festival showcases the beauty and grandeur of Indian classical dance and music to the world. Renowned artists of Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam, Kathak, Odissi, modern ballet and other folk form perform at the open-air theatre of Nishagandhi during this dance festival. The reason behind the popularity of this dance festival is the collection of diverse form of dances from all over the country. Moreover, participation of the artists and connoisseurs from across India make this festival cherished and glorious. Apart from being a retreat to the dance lovers, this festival also exhibits the traditional arts and handicrafts of Kerala and the cuisines of India.
10. Swathi Sangeethotsavam
Swathi Sangeethotsavam is another a week-long festival of music celebrating the compositions of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal who was also a famous classical musician and composer. The festival is held in January every year at the courtyard of Kuthira Malika, Trivandrum. It pays homage to Swati Tirunal by devoting the entire festival to his compositions. As one of the famous national music events in India, the Swathi Sangeethotsavam invites the great maestros of both Carnatic and Hindustani music to this festival which highlights Kerala’s contribution to Indian Classical Music. It also aims at developing and sustaining interest in classical music in the young budding musical talents of today.
Lakshadeepam is the lighting of one lakh lamps at Sree Padmanabha Swami Temple marking the end of the 56-day ritual called “Murajapam”. The sight of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple when its majestic structure gets adorned with one lakh 1 lakh lights is a spectacular view that cannot be described using words. It’s not just the towers, the entire temple premises gets illuminated by oil lamps. The “Murajapam” ritual, initiated by the 18th century Travancore King Marthanda Varma and conducted once in six years. The last Lakshadeepam was held in 2014 and we have to wait till 2020 to see the next Lakshadeepam Festival.
So, there you have it, the festivals that only happen in Trivandrum. Did we miss anything? Let us know in your comments.