Anand George, founder of Purple Poppadom hails from the coastal state of Kerala. As a result, many of our dishes emanate from this beautiful and bountiful part of the globe.
In common with India as a whole, the coastal state of Kerala celebrates a great many religious festivals as observed by different faiths and each with its own incredible cuisine.
Throughout the year in Kerala, a mix of Malayali, Hindu, Islamic, and Christian traditions are celebrated, as they are in other parts of India.
The most famous of Kerala’s own festivals is Onam which is one of the most important events in the Malayali calendar. It’s a two-week harvest celebration, including boat racing, folk music and dance, colourful costumes, and of course traditional culinary delights.
At Purple Poppadom in Cardiff, the menu includes a number of dishes served at Onam and other festivals.
The influence of Kerala is seen across the menu, traditional curry, sadhya, and many other dishes are inspired by the great festivals of the Southern state.
Major Festival dates:
In India, the timing of festival dates is not always fixed as they can change according to the lunar calendar, but they are normally held in these particular months.
- Thiruvathira – January
- Maha Shivarathri – February/March
- Vishu – April
- Ramadan – April/May
- Bakrid – July
- Onam – August/September
- Navarathri – October
- Miladi Sherif – October
- Deepavali – November
- Christmas – December
If you decide to travel to Kerala, in common with other states in India, you’ll find it difficult to miss out on traditional festivities. There is a festival for almost every month of the year. Each of these includes the chance to sample the fantastic cuisine. Here is an overview of the significance and celebrations of each.
Onam is the official state festival of Kerala. It’s a harvest festival which according to legends celebrates the visit of the spirit of the ancient ruler King Mahabali. Onam is a major event for Malayali people and is celebrated across several communities.
Festivities include the famous boat races, worship, music, and dances. Typical Onam cuisine includes the sadhya feast which consists of several different vegetarian dishes served on a large banana leaf.
Thiruvathira is a Hindu festival that mainly takes place in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. For over 1500 years, it’s been celebrated on the longest night of the year.
It’s considered a festival for women as legend has it that the Goddess Parvathi finally met Lord Shiva after a long penance on this day. It’s celebrated with a giant feast of rice-based foods, vegetable dishes, plantain, and coconut-based desserts.
Observed by Hindus throughout India, Maha Shivarathri honours the Hindu god Lord Shiva and celebrates the night when he performs the heavenly dance. It’s a solemn festival and represents a remembrance of overcoming darkness and ignorance in the world. Maha Shivarathri is observed by chanting, fasting, meditation, and even pilgrimage. After a long day of fasting, the evening feast includes mostly wheat-based dishes, dal, and soups.
Vishu is a Hindu festival celebrated in Kerala and other regions including Tulu Nadu. It is a family festival and many people in Kerala dedicate time to spend with their families. Traditionally, colourful and auspicious arrangements are prepared known as Vishu Kani. These can include golden blossom, money or silver, pattu cloth, mirrors, rice, and other harvest items. The Vishnu Kani are left on display. According to tradition, the new year will be better if one views joyful things on this special day. Sadhya is also eaten during Vishu.
In Kerala as all over the world, the holy month of Ramadan is observed in during which Muslim devotees practice fasting and spend the night in devotion and prayer. Charity is also an important feature. Food is distributed to the poor by anyone with an excess. Fasting is broken at sunset with the feast Iftar. A wide range of dishes is served, including rice pathiri, mutton curry, and sweet unnakkaya.
In India, Bakrid is the second major Islamic festival observed in India. Worldwide it is known as Eid al-Adha or the festival of sacrifice. It’s celebrated in commemoration of Ibrahim’s (Abraham) willingness to sacrifice his son. To honour his devotion Allah provided a lamb to sacrifice instead. Traditionally, animals are sacrificed during Bakrid and one third is kept by the owners and the remainder is given to the poor.
The Hindu festival of Navarathi is a celebration of the Divine Mother Devi. In the southern states of India such as Kerala, the victory of different goddesses, including Rama or Saraswati is also celebrated. Traditionally, the nine-day festival is a crop season cultural event. You can expect competitive design and the staging of pandals, which are temporary structures. Hindu devotees often also observe fasting during Navarathri.
Miladi Sherif is an Islamic festival celebrating the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. In Kerala, this is now observed on a larger scale, often with colourful processions lead through the towns with the participants reciting Thakbir.
Public meetings and lectures are also held to educate people on the life of the Prophet. Traditionally, food is also prepared using the Prophet’s favourite ingredients including dates and honey. In Kerala, you can also find spicy lamb and mutton dishes such as curry, and semolina-based desserts.
Deepavali or Diwali is celebrated by Hindus. It’s known as the festival of light and for this reason, Hindu devotees decorate their homes with traditional lights called diyas and rangoli. They also celebrate the goddess of prosperity and wealth, Lakshmi, light fireworks, and host family feasts. During the feasts, special sweets known as mithai and gifts are shared.
Christmas is big in Kerala as there is a large population of Christians. There are several stunning churches and cathedrals where carols are sung and nativity scenes are displayed.
In a traditional Malayali Christian house, Christmas is celebrated with a feast of chicken, meat, and fish dishes including, Kerala style curry, and vegetarian and coconut-based dishes. Coconut is a staple in Kerala and you can find it in many festival favourites.