13 Kerala's Hidden Traditions You must Experience once in your life!

Hey travel buddies! Kerala, the land of lush greenery, serene backwaters, and warm hospitality, is no stranger to any of us. But beyond the postcard-perfect sights, Kerala cradles a treasure trove of unique traditions waiting to be explored. So, ditch the usual tourist trail and dive into the heart of Kerala's cultural heritage with these hidden gems:

1. Witness the Trance of Theyyam:

TheyyamImagine witnessing a vibrant explosion of colors and rhythmic drum beats. That's Theyyam for you, a ritualistic dance performance unique to North Malabar. Elaborately costumed performers, channeling the spirits of deities and heroes, dance themselves into a trance, creating an experience that's both captivating and deeply spiritual.

Pro tip: The Theyyam season peaks in the months of January and May. Head to Kannur or Kasaragod districts to witness this spectacle.

2. Unwind with a Kalaripayattu session:

KalaripayattuEver dreamt of feeling like a warrior? Kerala's ancient martial art, Kalaripayattu, might just make that dream a reality. This 2000-year-old practice combines self-defense techniques with yoga and meditation, offering a glimpse into Kerala's rich martial history.

Pro tip: Several centers across Kerala offer Kalaripayattu demonstrations and even workshops for curious travelers.

Read more: 15 Highly underrated places in Kerala that you must visit!

3. Seek blessings at the Snake Boat Races:

Snake Boat Races KeralaCome monsoon season, Kerala comes alive with the electrifying energy of the Snake Boat races. Long, colorful boats manned by energetic teams weave through the emerald waters in a thrilling display of teamwork and tradition. Witnessing the sheer passion and the rhythmic chants of the oarsmen is an experience that will stay with you long after the race ends.

Pro tip: Plan your trip around Onam (usually in August or September) to witness the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, one of the most prestigious events.

4. Savor an authentic Sadhya:

SadhyaNo Kerala experience is complete without indulging in a traditional Sadhya, a vegetarian feast served on a banana leaf. An array of over 25 dishes, each with its unique flavor and aroma, come together to create a culinary symphony. From the tangy rasam to the melt-in-your-mouth payasam, a Sadhya is a delicious journey through Kerala's culinary heritage.

Pro tip: Many homestays and restaurants offer Sadhya experiences. Look for ones during festivals like Onam for the full cultural immersion.

5. Learn the art of Aranmula Kannadi making:

Aranmula KannadiKerala's craftsmanship is renowned worldwide, and the Aranmula Kannadi (mirror) is a testament to its finesse. Witnessing the meticulous process of making these highly reflective metal mirrors, using age-old techniques passed down through generations, is a fascinating experience.

Pro tip: The village of Aranmula in Pathanamthitta district is where this magic happens. You can find workshops offering demonstrations and even purchase these exquisite mirrors.

6. Witness the Grand Thrissur Pooram:

Grand Thrissur PooramIf you're looking for a sensory overload in the best way possible, then the Thrissur Pooram is for you. This vibrant temple festival is a riot of colors, sounds, and emotions. Witness the majestic procession of decorated elephants, the rhythmic beats of the Panchavadyam (five instruments) and the sheer energy of the crowd. It's a celebration unlike any other.

Also Read: 10 Reasons Why is Kerala a Perfect Holiday destination in 2024?

7. Witness the enchanting Vishu Kani:

Vishu KaniThe Malayalam New Year, Vishu, is celebrated with a unique ritual called Vishu Kani. Early in the morning, devotees arrange auspicious items like gold coins, fruits, and flowers on a special plate. The first thing one sees upon waking up is believed to influence the coming year. Witnessing this beautiful ritual offers a glimpse into the deep-rooted beliefs and traditions cherished by Malayali families.

Pro tip: If you're lucky enough to be visiting Kerala during Vishu (usually in April), consider staying at a homestay to experience this tradition firsthand.

8. Participate in the playful tug-of-war of Onattukara:

tug-of-war of OnattukaraImg: Economic Times

Looking for a unique and dynamic cultural experience? Head to Onattukara in Kottayam district during the harvest festival of Onam to witness the thrilling 'Onattukara Onappudhuka' (tug-of-war). Two teams, clad in vibrant attire, engage in a lively tug-of-war using a massive, 400-meter-long coconut fiber rope. The energy and camaraderie on display are truly infectious.

Pro tip: This event usually takes place on the fourth day of Onam celebrations.

9. Participate in the Attukal Pongala:

Attukal PongalaImg: Onmanorama

Attukal Pongala, held annually in Sabarimala, is the world's largest gathering of women. Witnessing this extraordinary spectacle, where millions of women cook a sweetened rice dish called Pongala, is truly awe-inspiring. The sheer scale of devotion and community spirit makes it an unforgettable experience.

Pro tip: Due to its immense popularity, planning well in advance for accommodation and transportation is crucial if you wish to witness this festival.

Also read: 10 Unique Things to Do Only in Kerala

10. Learn the Art of Toddy Tapping:

Toddy TappingImg: The Hans India

Ever wondered how that delicious palm toddy gets to your glass? Head to the Alleppey region and learn the age-old art of toddy tapping from local experts. Climb tall coconut trees, learn the tapping technique, and witness the fresh sap being collected. Responsible tourism tip: Ensure you only visit licensed toddy tappers and avoid climbing trees yourself.

11. Unwind with a Unique Ayurvedic Experience:

AyurvedaWe all know Kerala is famous for Ayurveda, but have you tried a rejuvenating massage with kizhi, herbal poultices filled with medicinal herbs? This is a truly immersive experience, promoting both physical and mental well-being.

12. Learn the art of making Kavi:

art KaviImg: Kavi Art/ Facebook

Kavi, the traditional hand-painted murals adorning the walls of Kerala's temples and homes, are not just beautiful decorations, but also tell stories and convey cultural significance. Observe skilled artisans create these vibrant murals using natural pigments and age-old techniques. You might even get a chance to try your hand at this unique art form!

Pro tip: The village of Irinjalakuda in Thrissur district is known for its Kavi tradition. Workshops and demonstrations are often available for interested visitors.

13. Explore the legacy of Pulikali:

PulikaliImg: vinodkumarm

Celebrated during the Onam festival, Pulikali (meaning "tiger dance") is a vibrant folk art form. Energetic performers dressed in tiger costumes and vibrant body paint dance to the pulsating rhythm of drums and cymbals. Witnessing this colorful spectacle is a thrilling immersion into Kerala's rich cultural heritage.

Pro tip: Head to Thrissur district during Onam to experience the electrifying energy of Pulikali. The Thrissur Pooram festival features one of the most renowned Pulikali performances.

Explore: Is Kerala really worth the hype? Travel insights and more!

So, there you have it, folks! These are just a few of the hidden gems waiting to be discovered in Kerala. So, pack your bags, embrace the spirit of adventure, and embark on a journey to experience the true essence of Kerala's cultural tapestry. Remember, the most beautiful discoveries often lie beyond the well-trodden path!

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