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God’s Own Culture: Understanding the Unique Culture of Kerala

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Kerala, situated in the southern part of India and often referred to as God’s Own Country, is a land of captivating beauty and rich cultural heritage. This lush state is renowned for its serene backwaters, pristine beaches, and vibrant hill stations. The culture of Kerala is reflected in its cuisine, clothing, art, and dance. The state’s architecture is marked by intricately carved temples and traditional wooden homes, while its literature and art forms like Kathakali and Mohiniyattam have gained attention all over the world. Also, the religion and festivals of the state hold a prominent place in the lives of Kerala’s people.

In this article, we give you a glimpse into the traditions and culture of Kerala. Learn about the food, traditions, art, festivals, and architecture of this beautiful state.

Cuisine of Kerala

Delicacies of Kerala

When it comes to Kerala’s culture and tradition, food plays a prominent role in this beautiful land. The cuisine of Kerala consists of a variety of non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes. Meat, fish, poultry, rice and vegetables are all part of the cuisine of Kerala. Coconut, spices, and rice rule the kitchen. People here love to cook with coconut in various forms, like coconut oil and coconut milk, which give the dishes a unique taste. Rice, the staple food, takes centre stage in most meals. It’s usually served with a variety of mouthwatering side dishes. These side dishes can be vegetable curries, spicy fish or chicken preparations, and they’re packed with flavour – thanks to the generous use of spices like black pepper, cardamom, and cloves.

One of the culinary delights of Kerala is the traditional feast known as Sadya. Served on a banana leaf, it’s a vegetarian feast with an array of dishes, including sambar, avial, and payasam. The combination of all these flavours makes for a heavenly meal. Seafood also holds a special place in Kerala’s cuisine due to its long coastline. Fresh fish, prawns, and crabs are cooked in various styles, making it a paradise for seafood lovers. Kerala’s food is a burst of flavours and a treat for your taste buds, reflecting the rich culinary heritage of this beautiful state.

Clothing of Kerala

The culture of Kerala is also defined by the attire and clothing of its people. Kerala’s cultural dress or clothing reflects its rich tradition and heritage. The traditional dress for men is called mundu, which is a white piece of cloth wrapped around the waist. It is often worn with a shirt or angavastram. Women typically wear sarees, which come in many beautiful colours and designs. They pair the saree with a blouse called a choli. For special occasions, both men and women don more elaborate outfits. Men opt for the Kasavu Mundu, which has gold borders, while women choose the Kasavu saree, also adorned with gold. These traditional dresses aren’t just clothing; they’re symbols of Kerala’s cultural identity, and you’ll often see them during festivals and celebrations. Kerala’s clothing represents the elegance and beauty of Kerala culture, and it’s a wonderful way to experience the state’s traditions and culture.

Architecture of Kerala

Kerala’s architecture is unique and beautiful. Many traditional homes in Kerala are built in a style called Nalukettu. These houses have a central courtyard and wooden structures that can withstand heavy rains during the monsoon season. Temples in Kerala are also famous for their stunning architecture, with intricate carvings and sculptures that tell stories from ancient times. The gopuram, or entrance tower, of temples, is often adorned with vibrant colours and detailed designs, making them stand out in the landscape. These temples are not just places of worship; they are beautiful works of art.

Besides temples and homes, Kerala also has impressive palaces like the Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram. The architecture here is a sight to behold, showcasing the state’s artistic brilliance. Kerala’s architecture combines function and beauty. So, whether you’re visiting a temple, a palace, or a traditional home, you’ll be amazed by the intricate details and the timeless charm that Kerala’s architecture offers.

Folk Dance and Music

Kerala is known for its vibrant folk dance and music forms. People love to dance and have many different types of folk dances. One of the oldest dances is Kanniyar Kali, done in front of Goddess Bhagvaty. It’s fast and uses devotional folk tunes. Then there’s Kaikotti Kali, where women dance in circles during festivals like Thiruvathira and Onam. Women sing special Thiruvathira songs and dance gracefully in circles, clapping their hands.

Kuthiyottam is famous in Thiruvananthapuram and is performed in temples in front of the deities. Four people join in this dance, singing Padapattu and Kalaripattu songs. The Thirayattom dance is performed during the Kavus festival. It involves torches, creating an exciting show. The Kuravas folk in Thiruvananthapuram perform Kakkarissi Kali, a dance filled with enthusiasm and drumming.

Dappu Kali is a popular dance that uses an instrument known as the dappu, and dancers in even numbers switch sides. Kolkali is another dance form where men and women from farming communities move in circles, clashing sticks together. Kalaripayattu is a swordplay dance with graceful movements.

Kathakali is like a story play, where dancers wear heavy costumes and makeup to tell stories through dance. Kerala also has a love for music, especially Sopana Sangeetham and Carnatic music, which you can hear inside temples. It has some other popular dance forms as well like Ayyappan Vilakku, Parichamuttu Kali, Poorakkali and Sarpam Thullal.

Literature of Kerala

Kerala has a rich literary heritage dating back centuries. Malayalam, the native language, is the key medium for literary expression. Malayalam literature originally included a lot of poems and songs called pattu. A special kind of poetry called Manipravalam, a mixture of Malayalam and Sanskrit also flourished.

Ezhuthachan, often called the father of the Malayalam language, made important contributions. The Ramacharitam, composed by Punnathur Kotta, is one of the oldest literary works in Malayalam. Renowned poets like Kunchan Nambiar have contributed to the vibrant world of Ottan Thullal poetry. Modern Malayalam literature boasts of literary giants like MT Vasudevan Nair and OV Vijayan. Kerala’s literature is a treasure trove of stories, poems, and epics that have been passed down through generations, reflecting the cultural and social nuances of the land.

Art and Craft in Kerala

The art and craft of Kerala are a testament to its artistic mastery. Kathakali and Kalamkari paintings are famous for their vibrant colours and intricate detailing. Aranmula Kannadi, or metal mirrors, are handmade using a unique alloy that gives them a special reflective quality. Wood carving is another significant craft in Kerala, with artisans creating beautiful sculptures and furniture.

When it comes to crafts, you can find brass items, Chinese ceramics, tin, bells, lamps, etc. The jewellery worn in Kerala is unique and is mostly made of gold. The necklaces that women wear are long and have a thick chain with gold pieces attached. These pieces are of various shapes and sizes, making them an important part of Kerala’s culture and tradition.

Kerala Culture: Explore the Rich Art and Culture of Kerala

If you’re looking to explore the rich art and culture of Kerala on your trip, here are some popular places to witness the vibrant Kerala traditions.

  1. Kathakali Centres: Kerala is renowned for its classical dance form, Kathakali. You can visit Kathakali centres in cities like Kochi and Trivandrum to witness the mesmerising performances. These centres often offer demonstrations and makeup sessions, allowing you to learn about the intricate art of Kathakali.
  2. Kerala Folklore Museum, Kochi: Located in Kochi, this museum is a treasure trove of Kerala’s folk art and culture. You can explore a vast collection of traditional artefacts, masks, sculptures, and costumes. It’s a fascinating journey into the heart of Kerala’s heritage.
  3. Hill Palace, Tripunithura: This historic palace, situated in Tripunithura near Kochi, offers insights into the royal heritage of Kerala. It houses an impressive museum with a diverse collection of art, antiques, and artefacts that reflect the state’s cultural richness.
  4. Mattancherry Palace (Dutch Palace): Located in Fort Kochi, this palace is famous for its exquisite Kerala murals that depict various episodes from the Ramayana. It’s a place where history and art converge, giving you a glimpse into Kerala’s past.
  5. Art Galleries: Kerala is home to several art galleries and cultural centres where you can appreciate contemporary and traditional art forms. The Durbar Hall Art Gallery in Kochi and the Lalithakala Academy in Thrissur are notable venues to explore local art.
  6. Kerala Kalamandalam, Cheruthuruthy: This renowned institution is a hub for traditional art and culture in Kerala. You can attend performances of classical dance and music here and even enrol in courses to learn these art forms.
  7. Thrissur Pooram: If your visit coincides with this grand festival in Thrissur, you’re in for a cultural extravaganza. Thrissur Pooram is known for its spectacular elephant procession, traditional music, and fireworks, offering a vibrant celebration of the culture of Kerala.

Kerala’s art and culture are part of everyday life, and these places let you explore the state’s rich cultural heritage.

Other Important Information About Kerala

Now that you’ve read about the cultural heritage of Kerala including the important places to witness Kerala traditions and art, it’s time to plan your trip. However, before you do that, here is some more information you may need about the state for a hassle-free travel experience.

Best Time to Visit Kerala

The best time to visit Kerala is during the winter months, from November to February. During this time, the weather is pleasant and not too hot. You can enjoy the lush green landscapes, beautiful beaches, and vibrant festivals without being bothered by extreme heat or heavy monsoon rains. It’s the perfect time to explore Kerala’s culture, enjoy the houseboat ride in the backwaters, and indulge in the delicious cuisine. So, if you’re planning a trip to Kerala, consider visiting during the winter season for the most enjoyable and comfortable experience.

Top Tourist Attractions In Kerala

  1. Alleppey Backwaters: Embark on a houseboat ride through the serene backwaters of Alleppey. This unique experience allows you to witness the mesmerising blend of water, palm trees, and traditional villages. It’s a tranquil journey that captures the essence of Kerala’s natural beauty.
  2. Munnar Tea Gardens: Munnar is famous for its tea gardens. Here, you can enjoy the breathtaking scenery while strolling through picturesque tea plantations. It is also an opportunity to savour some of the finest teas in the region.
  3. Kochi: Explore the vibrant culture of Kochi, a city steeped in history. Visit the historic Fort Kochi area, where you can see colonial-era architecture and the iconic Chinese fishing nets. Don’t forget to explore attractions like the Dutch Palace and Jewish Synagogue as well.
  4. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary: For wildlife enthusiasts, a visit to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is a must. This sanctuary is home to a variety of wildlife, including elephants, tigers, and many other exotic creatures. You can go on a thrilling wildlife safari to spot these majestic animals in their natural habitat.
  5. Kovalam and Varkala Beaches: Kerala boasts pristine beaches like Kovalam and Varkala, perfect for unwinding by the Arabian Sea. Whether you want to relax on the sandy shores, take a swim, or enjoy water sports, these beaches offer a tranquil escape from the bustling city life.

We have tried to cover everything you need to know about the culture of Kerala. To witness the art and culture of Kerala and immerse yourself in its beauty, book your Kerala tour packages with Thomas Cook now. You can choose from a wide range of tour packages on the website and experience the popular and much talked about Kerala culture. So go ahead, plan a trip to Kerala and make the memories that you will cherish for years.

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