Temple festivals are of three types:
1. Ankuradi - where the ceremonial flag is hoisted on a new bamboo flag post.
2. Dwajadi - where the ceremonial flag is hoisted without a bamboo flag post.
3. Padahadi - where instead of flag hoisting, beating of drums marks the beginning.
The ten-day long Aaratt festival of Guruvayur temple is of ankuradi type. The festival is celebrated in the month of Kumbham (March) according to the Malayalam calendar. It starts with the elephant race and the ceremonial flag hoisted on the day of the pooyam astersim. The festival concludes with the aaratt or the ritual immersion of the idol. Brahma kalasha ceremony is performed, eight days prior to the hoisting of the festival flag. Kids below five years are not allowed to enter the temple during the entire period of the brahma kalasha ceremony. Also, the ritual of trippuka will not be performed in the temple till the end of the festival.
On the first day of the festival, the ritual sheeveli is conducted without elephants. The running race for the elephants is held in the afternoon. On the second day, the ceremonial direction flag is placed. On festival days, after the pantheeradi worship, a ritual called sree bhootha bali darshanam is held in the temple at 11 a.m. and after the athazha pooja (the ritual of serving dinner to the diety), idol of the principal deity is taken to the pazhukka mandapam made of gold.
Palli Vetta (royal hunt) is held on the ninth day of the festival. And after deeparaadhana the Lord is taken out of the temple in a procession. The aaratt is held on the tenth day of the festival. After the aaratt, the idol is worshipped in the temple of Bhagavathi (Mother Goddess). This is the only day when the principal deity of the Guruvayur temple is given mid-day worship outside the sanctum sanctorum. After this, the idol is taken inside the temple through the eastern gate and circumambulates by running 11 times, followed by lowering of the festival flag.