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Avani Avittam and Raksha Bandhan: Sacred Rituals and Family Gatherings in Kerala

Last updated :
July 3, 2024

minutes read

In Kerala, the festivals of Avani Avittam and Raksha Bandhan coincide, creating a unique blend of sacred rituals and family celebrations. These festivals reflect the rich cultural heritage and spiritual devotion of the people of Kerala.

Brother and sister celebrating Raksha Bandhan with gift exchange in Kerala
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Historical Background

Avani Avittam, also known as Upakarma, is an important ritual for the Brahmin community in Kerala. It is observed on the full moon day of the Tamil month Avani (August-September). This day is dedicated to renewing the sacred thread, known as Yajnopavita, and involves rituals that signify spiritual cleansing and a fresh start for the year.

Raksha Bandhan, celebrated on the same day, focuses on the bond between brothers and sisters. This festival involves sisters tying a rakhi (sacred thread) on their brothers' wrists, symbolising their prayers for their well-being, while brothers vow to protect their sisters.

Rituals and Practices

  • Avani Avittam Rituals: The day begins with Brahmins taking a holy dip in rivers or ponds, performing the Mahasankalpam, a vow for atonement of past sins. They then change their old sacred threads with new ones, reciting specific mantras that highlight the purity and significance of the Yajnopavita.
  • Puja and Prayers: The rituals involve offering prayers to the Rishis (sages) and deities, seeking their blessings for knowledge and wisdom. The day is marked by recitations of Vedic hymns and scriptures, reinforcing the spiritual essence of the festival.
  • Raksha Bandhan Ceremony: Sisters prepare a thali with rakhis, sweets, and a diya (lamp). They perform aarti, apply tilak on their brothers' foreheads, and tie the rakhi, praying for their well-being. Brothers, in turn, promise to protect their sisters and give them gifts as tokens of their love.

Unique Traditions in Kerala

Kerala's celebration of Avani Avittam includes unique practices such as the chanting of the Gayatri Mantra and other Vedic hymns. The rituals are conducted with great reverence, and the entire community often participates, reflecting the collective spiritual ethos.During Raksha Bandhan, it is common for women to tie rakhis to male friends and neighbours, extending the protective bond beyond immediate family members. This practice underscores the inclusive nature of the festival in Kerala.

Modern-Day Celebrations

Traditional rakhi ceremony alongside a video call setup for Raksha Bandhan, blending tradition and modernity

With changing times, both Avani Avittam and Raksha Bandhan have seen modern adaptations. Many families now use video calls and digital platforms to celebrate with loved ones who are far away. E-rakhis and virtual gifts have become popular, ensuring that the spirit of Raksha Bandhan transcends geographical boundaries. Despite these modern touches, the essence of the festivals—spiritual renewal, love, and protection—remains unchanged.

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Local Delicacies

Traditional Kerala foods for Raksha Bandhan on a festive table setup, including payasam, banana chips, sarkara varatti, and appam

Festive celebrations in Kerala are incomplete without indulging in traditional delicacies. Some popular dishes prepared during Avani Avittam and Raksha Bandhan include:

  • Payasam: A sweet pudding made from rice or vermicelli, flavoured with cardamom and garnished with nuts and raisins.
  • Banana Chips: Thinly sliced and deep-fried banana chips, seasoned with salt or jaggery.
  • Sarkara Varatti: A sweet snack made from fried banana pieces coated in jaggery.
  • Appam: A type of rice pancake that is crispy on the edges and soft in the centre, often enjoyed with coconut milk or curry.

Community and Environmental Impact

Avani Avittam and Raksha Bandhan in Kerala also emphasise environmental consciousness. Many families use eco-friendly decorations and biodegradable materials for pujas. Community initiatives, such as tree planting drives and clean-up campaigns, are organised, reflecting the values of sustainability and social responsibility embedded in these festivals.


Avani Avittam and Raksha Bandhan, celebrated with sacred rituals and family gatherings in Kerala, offer a glimpse into the state's rich cultural and spiritual heritage. These festivals not only strengthen familial bonds but also foster a sense of community and environmental stewardship. By blending tradition with modernity, they continue to evolve while preserving their core values of devotion, protection, and togetherness.


What are some traditional foods prepared during Avani Avittam and Raksha Bandhan in Kerala?

Traditional foods include Payasam (sweet pudding), Banana Chips, Sarkara Varatti (sweet banana snack), and Appam (rice pancake). These dishes are enjoyed during festive celebrations and reflect Kerala's rich culinary heritage.

How are Avani Avittam and Raksha Bandhan celebrated in Kerala?

Avani Avittam involves sacred thread changing ceremonies, recitation of Vedic hymns, and spiritual vows, while Raksha Bandhan features the traditional rakhi tying ceremony, family gatherings, and the exchange of sweets and gifts.

What is unique about the Avani Avittam celebrations in Kerala?

The unique aspect is the chanting of the Gayatri Mantra and other Vedic hymns during the sacred thread changing ceremony, reflecting the deep spiritual significance of the festival. The inclusive nature of Raksha Bandhan, where rakhis are tied to friends and neighbours, highlights the communal spirit of the celebrations.

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