10 Most Celebrated Festivals in South India

18 May 2021 by Swati Mamgain

The southern part of India comprises states such as Kerala also known as God’s own country, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, etc. The southern part of India is famous for its diverse and white print festivals that are celebrated throughout the year. These festivals represent a deep meaning to the culture of a particular state and it is also related to the religious beliefs as per the mythology of that area. Here is the list of some of the popular festivals that are cheerfully celebrated in the southern parts of India.

1. Onam

Onam is one of the most celebrated festivals of Kerala. This festival is celebrated at the beginning of the first month of the Malayalam calendar, Chingam. As per the Gregorian calendar, Onam falls in August or September. This festival is the harvest festival of Kerala and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. In the year 1961 Onam was declared as the national festival of Kerala.

This festival continues for four to ten days. The first is Atham and the tenth day is Thiruonamare the most prominent days. Onam is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali who as per the legend visits his people annually on this festival. This festival includes a unique boat race in which the boats are snake-shaped and are oared by people for races like the Aranmula Uthrattadhi Boat race and Nehru Trophy Boat race. One can even enjoy the parade- Atthachamyam that includes elephants beautifully marching to drum beats and is accompanied by colorfully dressed people in masks.

One can enjoy the Pookklam that includes flower arrangements to create pretty floral carpets beautifully surrounding the Onathappan statue. One even enjoys the traditional dance forms like- Pulikali, ThumbiThullal Onam Kali and Kummattikali and yes games like Tug of war too.

Enjoy having Onam Sadya that is a nine-course meal that includes seasonal vegetables that are served on Plantain leaves. So just plan a trip to Kerala during the festival Onam and be a part of this joyful festival.

2. Hampi Festival

Hampi Utsav is one of the largest festivals of Hampi, Karnataka that is celebrated for good 3 days in the first week of November month. Hampi Utsav or Vijay Utsav dates back to the Vijayanagar reign. One can enjoy the puppet shows, fireworks that beautifully display the cultural extravaganza of the place. This festival also includes numerous state-sponsored programs to promote the heritage site like- rock climbing, rural and water sports. One can even find the pretty handicrafts and puppets created by the local craftsmen.

One can hear the sounds of drums and pipers with men posted under Gopuras dressed in the military fashion of the golden era. The major highlight of this festival is the folk song concert- Janapada Kalavahini and the Jumbo Savaari or the elephant march. So make sure to attend this festival to enjoy the culture and festivity of this state.

3. Pongal

Pongal is the harvest festival of the state Tamil Nadu that continues for a good four days. This festival is celebrated in January to thank nature and is the symbol of prosperity. Pongal dates back to the Sangam Age and is seen celebrated as Lohri, and Makar Sankranti in the other parts of India. People of Tamil Nadu are seen harvesting crops like- cereals, sugarcane, turmeric and rice during this festival. The very first day of this festival is known as Bhogi and is celebrated in honour of Lord Indra. On this day a major ritual that is Bhogi Mantalu is observed where people toss useless household items in a bonfire.

The second day of the festival- Thai Pongal or Surya Pongal where the rice and mil are boiled in the earthen pot and then it is offered to the sun god.  A traditional and auspicious design Kolam is drawn with lime powder at the entrance of the house. The third day of Pongal is the Mattu Pongal where the cows are worshipped and decorated with bells, beads and garlands.

The fourth day is the last day of Pongal- Kaanum Pongal where the leftover food and the Pongal with betel leaves, nuts and sugarcane are kept on turmeric leaf in the courtyard by women who pray for the prosperity of their brothers. So just attend this festival and be a part of this auspicious festivity.

4. Thrissur Pooram

Thrissur Pooram is one of the most celebrated festivals celebrated in the state of Kerala in the month of Medam according to the Malayalam calendar when the moon rises with the Pooram star in April/May as per the Gregorian calendar. This wonderful festival was started by Raja Rama Verma and can be witnessed at the Vadakkunnathan temple. Lord Shiva is considered the presiding deity of this festival. Processions are sent by the temples to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva.

Thrissur Pooram starts with flag hoisting and is followed by fireworks on the fourth day- Sample Vedikettu. The last day is called the Pakal Pooram and on this day the idol is taken back to their respective temples and the festival is further concluded by fireworks. Thrissur Pooram is known as the festival of festivals. So make sure to visit Kerala during this auspicious festival and become a part of it and grab some beautiful memories to cherish for a lifetime.

5. Ugadi

The festival Ugadi is celebrated in the Andhra Pradesh state of India in the Hindu month of Chaitra and as per the Gregorian calendar in March/April month. Ugadi means the beginning of the new age. This festival welcomes the Telugu New Year, the beginning of the Hindu Lunar calendar. This festival is witnessed with harmony and joy marking the beginning of a New Year when the buds bloom and blossom. Ugadi festival starts with a holy, oil bath after which people wear new clothes.

The women make beautiful rangolis. Mango leaves are used to decorate the entrance of homes and shops. The people pay a visit to the temples to seek blessings for wealth and prosperity. The festival Ugadi celebrates the aroma of raw mangoes. Raw mango is the main ingredient of the Ugadi Pachadi- a special festive dish of the Telugu community. Enjoy some delicacies like- Atukulu Payasam, Bellam Garelu, Semiya Payasam, Pappu Pulusu and Vankaya Batani. So make sure to become a part of this splendid festival.

6. Mysore Dasara

Dasara is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Mysore, Karnataka. It can be witnessed on the tenth day of the Hindu month of Ashvin that falls in September or October according to the Gregorian calendar. Dasara is the festival that marks the victory of good or evil and is one of the most famous festivals in India. As per Hindu mythology, Goddess Chamundeshwari killed the demon Mahishasura.

This festival is for 10 days in Mysore. It starts with 9 nights called Navaratri and the last day is called Vijaydashmi. Be a part of this festival and witness the Jamboo Savari- a parade of beautifully adorned elephants that carry the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari. The elephants are accompanied by dance, music and folklore.

The major attraction of the is festival is the Mysore Palace that is illuminated with almost 1 lakh bulbs daily in the evening and the special durbar where the royal sword is worshipped. Mysore city celebrates this festival with great pomp and show. So make sure to visit Mysore at the time of this festival and be a part of the grand celebration.

7. Chithirai Thiruvizha, Madurai

Chithirai Thiruvizha is celebrated in Tamil Nadu in the Tamil month of Chitirai, in the April month as per the Gregorian calendar. This festival is the longest festival in the world that is celebrated for a month. The 15 days of this amazing festival celebrate the coronation of goddess Meenakshi and the next 15 days celebrate the journey of Lord Azhagar from Kallazhagar temple in the Alagar Koyil to Madurai. Numerous devotees visit Madurai to become part of this most celebrated festival.

One can witness the flag hoisting by the chief priest, the coronation ceremony and the grand celebration of the marriage of goddess Meenakshi with Lord shiva. Make sure to plan a trip to Madhuri at the time of this superb festival.

8. Vishu, Kerala

Vishu is the traditional New Year celebration for the people of Kerala state that is witnessed during April month. The major highlight of this festival is the Vishupadakkam that means to burst crackers and decorated the house with beautiful lights and candles. The first day of this festival begins with the Vishukani to the Vishu sight for which the arrangements of special articles- raw rice, fresh lemon, golden cucumber, coconut, jackfruit, Kanmashi Kajal, betel and other items that signify prosperity are made in a bell metal vessel known as Uruli. 

As per the legends, the demon king Ravana did not allow the Sun god to rise from the east direction so after the death of Ravana on the Vishu day the sun god started to rise from the east and thus the Hindus of Kerala commemorate the return of sun god.  One can see a ritual of gifting money to each other called- Vishukkaineetam.

There is one more ritual of Vishukkani that is an assortment of auspicious things that a person must first look at the first thing in the morning to mark a prosperous new year. Vishu Kani is a collection of numerous auspicious things like- fruits, grain, vegetables, Lamps, flowers, coconut, gold, mirror, Hindu holy books like- Ramayana or Bhagavatigita. Scripture reading from the Hindu holy book Ramayana is done after seeing the Vishukanni. Vishu festival is indeed one of the most celebrated festivals.

Children just love to enjoy bursting crackers and lightening the candles to celebrate this auspicious festival. People are seen visiting the temple to worship with traditional Chandana or sandal paste that is applied on their forehead. There is a tradition of buying new clothes and this tradition is known as Puthukodi or Vishukodi. Two dishes are prepared during this festival are- Vishu Kanji and Vishu Katta. There is one more dish that is prepared- Thoram.

9. Karaga, Karnataka

Karaga is one of the oldest festivals in the Karnataka state of India. It is celebrated on the full moon day of Chaitra that falls on the March/April month according to the Gregorian calendar. This festival is celebrated in honour of Goddess Shakti at the renowned Dharmarayaswamy temple in Banglore. This festival beautifully showcases the rich cultural heritage of Karnataka.

Karaga is an auspicious festival of the Thigala community who as per the popular legend was part of the mythological army that helped Draupadi in her fight against a demon. Draupadi took the form of Shakti and gathered an army of Veerakumaras, the ancestors of the Thigala community. This festival is celebrated for good 9 days. Karaga is an earthen pot that supports a pretty floran pyramid and a figure of the goddess.

The procession commences at the religious Dharmarayaswamy temple with the Karaga carriers dressed in women’s attire and surrounded by numerous Veerakumaras carrying uncovered swords. This procession halts at the Dargah-e-Sharif of Hazrat Tawkal Mastan- a Muslim saint of the 18th century and then the Karaga is immersed in the pond. This festival truly attracts devotees from all over India.

10. Mahamaham Festival, Tamilnadu

Mahamaham festival is celebrated in the Tamil Nadu state of India when Jupiter enters the sign of Leo. This festival is celebrated once in 12 years in the holy Mahamaham pond in the Kumbakonam town in the state of Tamil Nadu. Mahamaham festival starts with taking a dip in the Mahamaham tank. It is strongly believed that once in 12 years the holy rivers- Ganga and Yamuna meet this tank and thus taking a holy dip the sins of a person are washed away.

This tank contains 12 sacred wells that are named after the 20 holy rivers that are flowing across India. As per the Hindu legend, it is believed that the sacred rivers like-Yamuna, Ganga, Sarayu, Saraswati, Mahanadi, Kaveri, and Narmada wished to get rid of the sins that people were washing away in them and thus reached to Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma then asked these holy rives to combine and take bath in Mahamaham to attain purity and thus the rivers are mixed and this is the best way to get rid of the sins on this festival.

The deities of the temples of Kumbakonam are bathed with the devotees and this ceremony is known as Theerthavari. Make sure to visit Tamil Nadu at the time of this auspicious festival to witness the splendor of this grand festival.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the most Celebrated Festival in southern India?

Mysore Dussehra is one of the most famous festivals of Southern India from this festival is celebrated to rejoice in the victory of good over Evil. This festival is celebrated in Mysore for over a period of 10 days.

How is Onam Festival celebrated?

Onam is celebrated by indulging in various activities such as boat race also known as "Vallam Kali", Tiger dance also known as Pullaki and by making flower rangoli also known as Pokkalam. Onam is it 10 days festival with generally falls on 22nd Nakshatra Thiruvonam in the Malayalam calendar that generally falls in the month of August or September.

Is Pongal celebrated in South India?

Pongal is celebrated for 4 days in the southern part of India and especially in the Tamilnadu region. This festival is generally celebrated during the winter months when the sun reaches the southern hemisphere.

Why is Hampi Festival famous in South India?

Hampi festival is also known as the festival of victory and is also referred to as the Vijaya festival. This festival is celebrated since the rule of Vijayanagara in the Hampi town of Southern India. On this occasion, Fireworks and decorations are done by the local people.

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