The festival season is on in Kerala. The hot midsummer nights are transformed into convivial carnivals of music, dance and performance in a variety of ways in various locations of culture. Temples and churches are throbbing with their annual festivals. These religious centers become secular in these sociable and inclusive nights that open up for everyone.
Both popular and elite cultural forms pull audiences from all walks of life. There are still hegemonic and orthodox traits in some aspects like the parading of elephants and temple purity and pollution culture that are both anti human and anti aniamal. But still the old democratic spirit and egalitarianism of Kerala’s Sramana heritage of Buddhism and Jainism are reminiscent in the festival culture. The temple festivals in Kerala are actually the lasting legacy of Buddhist and Jain festival rituals appropriated later by Hindu Brahmanism as they converted the temples in the 8th and 9th centuries.
But still the popular performances and music in these starry nights are a true democratization of culture and celebration of the secular human spirit. The dynamism and creative energy of Kerala’s young talents are expressed amidst mixed crowds and fans of this unique festive gaiety that surpasses caste, gender, class, age and locality. The hegemonic and reiterating elements must be checked and the secular and democratic spirit must be upheld by the people. Let me leave you with glimpses of this vibrant creative energy and local life culture.