Thiruvananthapuram: Good Friday was observed in churches across Kerala on Friday with the laity turning up in huge numbers.
Good Friday is observed as a day of prayers, penance and fasting to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Incidentally, the mass on Good Friday is the longest of all the various masses that Christians have in their religious calendar.
While in some churches, the Good Friday mass begins around 8.30 a.m and ends around 1 pm, in the Orthodox and Jacobite churches, it ends after 2 p.m.
Among the key religious ceremonies listed for the day in churches is the 'Way of the Cross' - the 14 stations on Christ's Journey to Mount Calvary from Pilate's palace are re-enacted with the worshippers moving to each station singing hymns as the story of the betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion of Christ is narrated by the priest.
The second significant ritual that takes place in all churches is the customary drinking of 'choruka' (a decoction made of bitter gourd juice and vinegar) by all.
When the Good Friday mass reaches its last lap, the priest pours out a spoon of 'choruka' into the mouth of each and every person who has come for the mass.
This symbolises the cry a crucified Jesus made just before he died, and how some of those watching took a piece of cloth, dipped it in cheap wine, put it on a piece of stick, lifted it to his mouth and tried to make him drink.
Another important ritual is the drinking of 'kanji' (the steaming hot gruel made with rice) immediately after the mass ends.
Kanji with pulses and pickle is served to all and elaborate arrangements are made in the churches for its preparation. Drinking this is considered a holy act.
Christians account for around 23 percent of Kerala's 33 million population.