Sri Ananta Padmanabha swamy temple celebrates bi-annual festivals in the months of Thulam (Alppasi) and Meenam (Painkuni). A function is conducted for according formal sanction to conduct the Utsavam (festival). The Alppashi festival which is in October/November and the Painkuni festival which is in March/April, lasts for 10 days each. These festivals culminate with the Aarat (holy bath) procession to the Shankumugham beach. The word Aarat refers to the purificatory immersion of the deities of the temple in sea. This event takes place in the evening. The King of Travancore escorts the Aarat procession by foot. The festival starts with Kodiyettu (flag hoisting) at Sri Padmanabhaswamy’s gold and Sri Krishnaswamy’s silver flag poles. The festival is of ten days duration culminating in the spectacular Palliveta and Aarat processions on the 9th and 10th days respectively. Special Sreebalies (processions) are conducted twice a day, in the evening 4.30 pm and at night 8.30 pm.
The Deities of Sri Padmanabhaswamy, Lord Sri Krishna and Lord Nrsimhadeva are carried in the Aarat procession. The Aarat procession slowly proceeds with pomp and pageantry, colour and music, men carrying divine emblems and insignias of royalty. The procession reaches the Sanghumugham beach and the Vahanams are positioned in the Aarat Mandapam. Deities are given the holy immersion in the sea after the prescribed poojas. After this ceremony, the Deities are taken back to the temple as a procession in the light of traditional torches, marking the conclusion of the festival. Once during the reign of King Marthanda Varma, an elephant ran amock. Since then, the practice of using elephants to carry the Deities in the procession was given up and Vahanas (vehicles) carried on the shoulder by a number of priests came into vogue. Six different kinds of beautiful conveyances are used for these processions. They are the Simhasana Vahanam (Throne), Anantha Vahanam (Serpant), Kamala Vahanam (Lotus), Pallakku Vahanam (Palanquin), Garuda Vahanam (Garuda) and Indra Vahanam (Gopuram). Of these the Pallakku and Garuda Vahanas are repeated twice and four times respectively. The Garuda Vahanam is considered as the favourite conveyance of the Lord.