The ancient land came into being with the strike the axe of the legendary mythological figure Rishi Parashuram, is Kerala- God's own country. With the Arabian Sea on the west and the Western Ghats on its east, Kerala is a treasure trove of indigenous cultural practices and art forms that have mesmerized people all over the world. Be it the age old Kathakali or the newly rediscovered Mohiniattyam or the knowledge of Ayurveda . Basking in the generosity of the sun and rain Kerala is home to a host of centuries old temples dedicated to Hindu deities flocked by millions of pilgrims every year.
The temples of Kerala, known for their ingenious architecture and simplicity are frequently visited by tourists.
Kerala Temple Architecture
The early temples of Kerala (up to 3 rd crntury B.C) largely carry influences of the temples of neighboring Tamil Nadu known for their imposing Gopurams. The temples built after that period, are dominated largely by the influence of the local climate and agrarian economy characterized by rainfalls. The wooden pyramidal roof instead of the more common conical roof covered with copper plates is the most distinctive feature of the temples of Kerala. The entrance is a Gopura opens into a courtyard which ends in the Mukha Mandapam the beginning of the main temple building. The central sanctum known as the Sree Kovil is the seat of the deity overlooking the namaskara mandapam , the place from where the visitor is allowed to worship and view the idol. Every Keralite temple has a Kuttambalam or Theatre hall where Kathakali performances and holy recitals take place.
The largest and most renowned temple in Kerala, the Ananthapadmanabhaswamy temple is considered as one of the 108 shrines that are sacred in the tradition of Sree Vaishnavite (dedicated to Lord Vishnu). A well-known historical landmark of the city, this temple in Kerala exhibits a fine and unique blend of Dravidian and Keralite architecture. The presiding deity of the Ananthapadmanabhaswamy Temple, Lord Vishnu is seen in the ' Ananthashayanam' styled posture. The temple is one of the most dominating structures of Thiruvananthapuram and overlooks the Padma Theertham Tank.
History of Ananthapadmanabhaswamy Temple
The ruler of Travencore, Raja Marthanda Varma renovated the Ananthapadmanabhaswamy Temple in the 18th century (1733 A.D) and much of the structure as it is seen today is the result of such a renovation.
Description of Ananthapadmanabhaswamy Temple
The Ananthapadmanabhaswamy Temple is characterized by many beautiful pillars, exquisite and delicate carvings as well as Mural paintings. The temple houses a seven storied tower called 'Gopuram', a typical of the Dravidian features which is adorned with a splendid array of different gods, goddesses, nymphs, sprites and demons. Outside the beautiful courtyard of the Ananthapadmanabhaswamy temple, there are a number of souvenir shops selling handicrafts, woodcarvings and sandalwood items.
Festivals of Ananthapadmanabhaswamy Temple
The Navarathri Festival is held every year during the months of October/November. Musical concerts are held during this time at the Navarathri Mandapam which is adjacent to the main temple building.
Aranmula Temple, Kerala
The Aranmula Temple is located about 16 kms from Tiruvalla in Kerala, on the banks of the Pampa River. This Hindu Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna is one of the most famous and ancient Krishna temples in Kerala, supposedly linked to the legends of Mahabharata.
History of Aranmula Temple
The legend associated with the history of the Aranmula Temple is that this temple was built by Arjuna. It is believed that this temple was built near Sabarimalai near Nilackal. The image was brought here in a raft that was made from six pieces of bamboo, and hence the name Aranmula was given (That means six pieces of bamboo). Legend also says that this temple was built by Arjuna to redress the sin of killing Karna unarmed on the battlefield.
Description of Aranmula Temple
The Aranmula Temple has four towers that are located at the entrance of the temple on the exterior wall. There is a flight of 18 steps that lead to the Eastern Tower while 57 descending steps from the Northern tower reaches the Pampa River.
Festivals of Aranmula Temple
Located on the banks of the Pampa River, the festivals associated with the Aranmula temple are water carnivals, such as boat races during Onam. There are snake boat races that happen with much joviality and excitement. Another festival that is celebrated here is the Khandavanadahanam during the month of Dhanus where a replica of a forest is made and then lit up, which is symbolic to the forest fire of Mahabharata.
The Chottanikkara temple near Ernakulam in Kerala is one of the well-known temples in Kerala where the principal mother Goddess of the temple is considered to cure all kinds of mental illnesses of the devotees who line up for her blessings.
History of Chottanikkara Temple
According to legend, a notorious dacoit called Kannapan was chasing a cow to slaughter it when he found his daughter playing with the same cow at home. So he abandoned the idea of killing. Later after his daughter died, he was greatly grieved. It was then that Goddess Bhagwati appeared and said it was she who had come in the form of a cow. Kannapan found two images, in his cowshed the next day, one of the Goddess and the other of Lord Vishnu. This was the root of the shrine that came to be the Chottanikkara Temple.
Description of Chottanikkara Temple
The Chottanikkara Temple in Kerala is dedicated to the mother goddess Bhagawati, one of the most popular deities of Kerala. The Chottanikkara Temple is the place for worship of the Bhagawati along with Lord Vishnu. The principal Deity here is Goddess Rajeshwari. There are three different forms in which the deity in this temple in Kerala is worshipped. She is the Saraswati in the morning, draped in white, the Badrakali in the afternoon in crimson while in the evenings, draped in blue, she is the goddess Durga. An interesting feature of the image is that it is mounted on sand instead of being fixed on the ground.
Festivals of Chottanikkara Temple
The annual festival here is celebrated during the month of Kumbha, February to March. The Maasi Makam coincides with the full moon and this festival of Chottanikkara Temple attracts vast crowds.
Located amidst the serene, natural beauty of the region is the ancient Ettumanoor Temple’s Kottayam which is one of the most respected temples in the world.
Constructed around the 16 th century, the Ettumanoor Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, one of the most important deities of Hinduism. The present temple with its Gopuram and the fortress around it was reconstructed in 1542.
Located at a distance of just around 12 kilometers north of Kottayam Town, the beautiful Ettumanoor Temple is easily accessible by a number of channels of transportation. These include:
By Air: Nearest Airport is Cochin, at a distance of 76 kms. The Thiruvananthapuam International Airport is 152 kms.
By Rail: Kottayam Railway Station located 2 kms away from the Central Bus Station and is connected to most of Kerala's major cities and tourist centers.
By Road: There are two bus stands, one run by state transport and the other private. The buses to major centers operate from the KSRTC bus station.
The Ferry Station is at a distance of 3 kms away from the railway station. Ferry services are available to Alleppey, Mannar, Chempakulam, Mankombu and Ambalapuzha.
Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the walls of the temple are adorned with images from the ancient Hindu scriptures such as the Ramayana, Bhagavad-Gita and Krishna Leela. The murals which adorn the walls of the temple are quite famous because of the images of Balagopalam and other Devas or Gods that are painted to resemble almost life-like forms. Inside the temple is a golden flag-staff that has an image of a bull surrounded by small bells and banyan leaves carved out of metal. The temple roof comprises of 14 ornamental tops covered with copper sheets. Bhagavati, Sastha, Ganapathy and Yakshi are installed here as subordinate deities.
The main festival called the Arattu Festival of this temple is celebrated on a grand scale on the Thiruvathira day in Kumbham (February-March) every year. The 8 th and the 10 th day of the festival is special when large numbers of people travel to the temple to catch a glimpse of seven and a half elephants made of gold (nearly 13 Kgs) are brought out for public viewing.
Thulabharam is perhaps the most important ritual of the temple in which devotees make offerings to the deity in return for favors prayed for. In a balance, the child or man for whom offerings were promised to God is weighed against offerings ranging from gold to fruits. One of the richest temples in the world, the Ettumanoor Temple Kottayam is a very important pilgrimage center for Hindus.
Guruvayoor Temple Kerala
The Guruvayoor Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna is the most popular and most visited Hindu pilgrimage spot in Kerala. Only Hindus are allowed within the temple premises.
Guruvayoor Temple Architecture
This temple popularly known as Daakshin Dwarka , is rectangular in shape. The eastern Nada is the main entrance to the shrine. The Sri kovil (sanctum or the seat of the idol) is adorned with exquisite murals and paintings. The 33.5 m tall Dhwajastambham or flagstpost in the courtyard is gold plated. The extensive use of gold is characteristic of all temples in South India and Guruvayoor is not an exception. A 7m tall deepstambham or lamp stand has 13 receptacles and makes an awesome sight when lighted.
The history of this temple is shrouded in mystery. The temple is said to be 500 years old. The legend goes that the temple was created by ' Brihaspati' the teacher of the gods and 'Vayu' the god who controls the winds after Lord Vishnu ascended the Vaikuntha.
The Guruvayoor temple witnessed the Guruvayoor Satyagraha movement during the 1930's as retaliation to the discrimination against the lower castes regarding entry into temples.
Rituals and Festivals
The Guruvayoor temple is the most commonly chosen site for marriages and rice feeding ceremonies (the first ritual meal given to an infant). Apart from that, the Poonthanam day, the Naraneeyam Day, the Kuchela Day are some of the festivals that are celebrated in the temple.
Location: Guruvayoor is situated 29 km north east of Thrissur. The nearest airport is at Nedumbassery(87 km). It is well connected by road to other places in Kerala.
Sabarimala Temple Kerala
The temples of Kerala, known for their ingenious architecture and simplicity are frequently visited by tourists. The most famous and most often frequented Sastha pilgrimage, the Sabarimala temple is dedicated to the Lord Ayyappa and is open to all religions. Notably women above ten years and below fifty years of age are forbidden to enter the Sabarimala temple.
The Sabarimala Temple is said to have been laid after Lord Ayyappa's wishes on a courtyard and is characterized by pyramidal roofs. A flight of 18 stairs called the Holy Stairs lead to the main temple. The guards of Lord Ayyappa, Vavur and Kadutha sit at the foot of the stairs guarding his shrine. To the south-west of the main temple stands the shrine of Lord Ganapati, known as Kannimula Ganapati. Bhasma Kulam, the temple tank where devotees take a dip is situated within the temple premises. The Homakunda now located below the temple was placed in front of the shrine and a holy fire said to purge one of his sins used to burn there always.
Ayyappan was the army chief of the Pandalam family. He defeated Udayanan, who tried to destroy the ancient temple at Sabarimala. The king reconstructed the temple with the aid of Ayyappan. After his death in a clash, Ayyappan became synonymous to Sastha and the people took him to be an Avatar of Lord Sastha and began to worship him.
Rituals and Festivals: Erumeli Pettaithulal is celebrated every year in December January to commemorate Ayyappan's killing of Mahisham.
Location: The Temple is to be reached on foot from Pamba, which is well connected by road to other places in Kerala.
Sivagiri Temple Kerala
The Sivagiri Temple or Mutt was established by the revolutionary religious social reformer Sree Narayana Guru in the 19 th century at Varkala. Notably there is no idol inside the mutt.
The whitewashed temple has been built in modern architectural style with windows, bathrooms with taps inside. These elements defy the traditional dictum of the layout of a temple. The Mutt has a temple dedicated to goddess Sarada or Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge. The roof of the sanctum rises is steps resembling somewhat the structure of a gopuram but defying its form.
Sree Narayana Guru was famous for his philanthropic activities and indiscrimination of all castes and religion and settled in Varkala in 1904. The principle Oru Jati , Oru Matham , Oru Daivam (one caste, one religion, one God) mirrors his ideas which he well put to practice. He abolished all rituals like oil bathing and offering food to the idol at the Sarada (Saraswati) temple in his mutt in Varkala. The Sivagiri temple also known as the Sivagiri Mutt also enshrines the Guru's tomb.
Rituals and Festivals
Thousands of devotees throng the Mutt every year during 30 th December and 1st January. The yellow clothes worn by them signify their willingness to abide by the path shown by the Guru.
Location: Varkala is well connected by road to other places in Kerala. The nearest airport is at Thiruvanthapuram 46 km away.
Thirunavaya Temple, Malappuram
Malappuram, one of the most revered temples of Kerala. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the temple is a must-visit while on a Kerala Tour.
Located on the banks of the River Bharathapuzha, the ancient Thirunavaya Temple is one of the major tourist attractions of Malappuram, where the history of Kerala has been written over the centuries. The soft murmur of the Bharathapuzha is even today a mute witness to the political importance of the Thirunavaya Temple, Malappuram, where a grand assembly of all the influential rulers of Kerala was held once every 12 years. Thus, if you are planning a holiday in Kerala, make sure you include a tour to Thirunavaya Temple, Malappuram as a major part of your itinerary to Kerala.
Malappuram is well connected to almost all the major cities of Kerala as well as the rest of India by a number of routes of transportation. These include:
By Air: One of the busiest and best designed airports of India, the Kozhikode Airport lies at a distance of around 26 Kms away from the district of Malappuram.
By Rail: Malappuram has two important railway tracks running through it. These include the Mangalore-Madras and Nilambur-Shornur tracks both of which are well connected to almost all the other cities of Kerala.
By Road: An efficient system of roads connects almost all the different parts of Kerala and neighboring Tamil Nadu with the city of Malappuram. Notable among these is the National Highway-17, which can be said to be the lifeline of the district's communication system. A number of buses traverse through these roads of which a large number are regulated by the Government of Kerala.
Thirunelli Temple Wayanad
Nestled amidst the thick tropical forests of Kerala, the ancient Thirunelli Temple, Wayanad is one of the most important pilgrimage centers of Kerala. Thronged by the faithful almost all round the year, the Thirunelli Temple in Wayanad is almost always witness to a flurry of activities. Considered to be one of the most sacred temples in Kerala, the Thirunelli Temple, Wayanad is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, one of the most influential powers of the Hindu Trinity.
The architecture of the Thirunelli Temple, Wayanad lies as a mute witness to the ancient lineage of the temple, with its impressive pillars spell binding the devotees who enter the sacred premises of the temple with their divine charm.
Perhaps one of the greatest attractions of the Thirunelli Temple is the "Koothambalam", which holds an impressive array of paintings that depict several important events of the history of Kerala. While on a trip to Thirunelli Temple, make sure you also visit the Papanasini, a mountain stream whose gushing waters are believed to have the power of absolving the sins of all the people who bathe in its holy water.
How to Reach Thirunelli Temple, Wayanad
Wayanad is well connected to almost all the major cities of Kerala as well as the rest of India by a number of routes of transportation. These include:
By Air: The airport nearest to the Wayanad is at Kozhikode airport at Karippur which is well connected to the hill station by a number of transportation options.
By Rail: The nearest railway station to the pristine hill station of Wayanad is located at Kozhikode, which is situated at a distance of around 67 kms away from Wayanad.
By Road: A number of excellently maintained roads connect Wayanad with its neighboring cities. These include the Kozhikode- Mysore National Highway No. 212, which passes through the middle of the district.
Vaikom Temple Kottayam
A temple with a thousand legends, the Vaikom Temple, Kottayam is a must-visit while on a Kerala Tour. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is one of the most famous pilgrimage centers in Kerala, thronged by the faithful all through the year. Arguably the oldest Shiva Temple in the world, the Vaikom Temple in Kottayam also has a number of stories of India's struggle for freedom attached to it, which has further helped the temple to become one of the major tourist attractions of Kottayam.
The architecture of the Vaikom Temple, Kottayam spellbinds all the visitors to the land with a charm that is truly divine. Surrounded by a courtyard that stretches to almost 8 acres, the boundaries of the temple are marked by four Gopuras or towers.
Facing the East, the temple is easily recognized by its Golden Flag, which flows proudly, welcoming all the devotees to the temple. The temple has been patronized by a number of well-known personalities over the years, a celebrated list which includes names like Parasuraman (the incarnation of Maha Vishnu), Vyaghrapada Maharishi, Srimad Adi Shankaracharya, Villwa Mangalathu Swamiyar and a number of others.
Kottayam is well connected to almost all the major cities of Kerala as well as the rest of India by a number of routes of transportation. These include:
By Air: The nearest airport to the district of Kottayam is the Cochin Airport which is one of the busiest airports of Kerala.
By Rail: The nearest Railway station to Kottayam is the Kottayam Railway Station.
By Road: An efficient system of roads connects almost all the different parts of Kerala and neighboring Tamil Nadu with the city of Kottayam. A number of buses traverse through these roads of which a large number are regulated by the Government of Kerala.