One of the few Keralan traditions that has survived the onslaught of electronic media and other more modern forms of entertainment is the temple festival. The annual festival or uthsavam is an important event in the diary of most Kerala temples. Festivities begin with the hoisting of the temple flag to the beats of a dozen or so musicians comprising the panchavadyam (five instrument orchestra). What follows is a week-long celebration of music and performing arts. These daily performances are a good opportunity to catch not only well-known dances such as Kathakali but also lesser known but equally stunning Keralan art forms such as Koodiyattam, Ottamthullal and so on. Every morning and evening caparisoned elephants are taken around the temple to the accompaniment of the panchavadyam. Festivities reach a crescendo with a firework display on the final day and the lowering of the festive flag.
Uthsavams also present a great business opportunity for local traders and there are usual an array of local delicacies for sale in the stalls around the temple. As the uthsavam events are held outside the santum sanctorum, they are open (and free) to everyone, irrespective of religion. Temple festival season kicks off in mid-November and goes on until February. One of the bigger festivals in Cochin is the Ernakulam Shiva Temple uthsavam held in January every year (www.ernakulathappan.org). Details of other temple festivals can be had from local Kerala tourism offices.
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