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Enchanting Kerala


ISSUE: 204



Manarcad Perunnal

Start Date: 01-09-2010

End Date: 08-09-2010

In Kerala, celebrations and festivities that mark religious occasions are many. They are often colourful and involve participation in thousands. The Christian sects in Kerala have numerous occasions in a calendar, among which those falling in the category of perunnal or feast is an event of high auspicious significance and elaborate in terms of celebrations.

One such feast or perunnal as it is known in the local language Malayalam is the annual feast held at the St. Mary's Church at Manarcad in Kottayam district of Kerala. This is one of the most important churches of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christians. The annual feast is popularly known as the ettunombu perunnal. During this eight-day event, thousands of devotees visit the church to offer their prayers and to undergo fast.

Every year, during the eight-day feast at Manarcad, the retreat and fast will begin on the first of September. During the course of the feast, on the last three days, one can witness processions with the sacred golden cross. Large number of devotees takes part in the procession. They hold colourful muthukkudas (sequined parasols).

Getting there:

Nearest railway station: Kottayam, about 10 km away.
Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport, about 76 km from Kottayam.


In Sanskrit, the word Navaratri literally means nine nights - nava means nine and ratri means night. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Goddess Devi are worshipped. The festival usually falls in the months of September / October, every year. The exact dates of the festival are determined based on the lunar calendar. This year it starts on 8th October 2010.

Navaratri is celebrated in different ways throughout India. Kerala too has its own distinctiveness when it comes to celebrating Navaratri. The final set of three days of the Navaratri festival is spent in worshipping the Goddess of wisdom and learning - Saraswati. This is the same in other parts of India. In Kerala, and other parts of south India, Saraswati worship is performed on the 9th day. On this day, Ayudha Pooja is held at households, business centres and offices, where people would keep their working tools like pens, machinery, books, automobiles etc. for ritual worshipping and abstain from work on that day. The intention is to start afresh from the next day onwards, the 10th day which is considered as Vijaya Dasami or the victory day. This day is also considered auspicious in Kerala for initiating children to the world of letters.

As part of the Navaratri festival in Kerala, many cultural programs are held in different parts of the state. Most of these are devoted to music and dance. Of these, the most popular one is the nine-day long classical music fiesta called Navaratri Music Festival, held at Kerala's capital city, Thiruvananthapuram.

The venue of this music festival is the Navaratri Mandapam, located inside the historic East Fort. It is a beautiful pavilion made of wood and stone. During the occasion of the nine-day music festival, this pavilion will get decorated with flowers and the air will be filled with the fragrance of incense. This venue has an indigenous acoustic technology in place. These are in the form of earthen pots, held in their positions by means of coir ropes, with their mouths open down towards the ground. The pots are of different sizes and thickness with their mouths having different measurements. They are kept at different angles to act as sound reflectors and to prevent echoes.

Surely an enlivening experience for visitors to the historic city, the classical concerts take place in the evenings. The concerts would also have a special place for the compositions of King Swathi Thirunal, the music maestro and the former ruler of Travancore.

The ambience at the Navaratri Mandapam is simply magical and the avid followers of Carnatic classical music would find it just irresistible.

Getting there:

Nearest railway station: Thiruvananthapuram, about 1 km away.
Nearest airport: Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, about 6 km away.
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