Kerala with its rich tradition and culture has lots of with religious places. Known for its religious tolerance unity Kerala temples are well preserved, celebrated and revered by all. The temples of Kerala are in itself worth a visit to enjoy its beauty and festivals apart from the divine ambience it provides. Here are some of the famous temples of Kerala.
Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple
A temple having the idol created by Visvakarma(divine architect) installed by Guru Brihspathi (the divine teacher) and Vayu (wind), and blessed by Shiva and Parvathi – Guruvayoor is one of the famous temples in Kerala. The temple can be entered through the eastern gate and has the 33.5 meter gold plated Dwajasthambam (flagpost). The temple of Guruvayoorappan, dedicated to Krishna is popularly referred to as Bhuloka Vaikuntam (“Earthly abode of Lord Vishnu”). With a history of more than 5 centuries the temple was made dear to the masses by its famous devotees during their lifetime : Poonthanam, Melpattur, Vilvamangalam, Kururamma and the Prince Manadevan (Zamorin).
Also known as the ‘Dwaraka’ of south India, Guruvayoor has the largest elephant sanctuary at Annakotta (elephant fort) at about 3 kms from the temple. It houses over 60 elephants most of which are offered by devotees to the Lord Guruvayoorappa. Prasada oottu (meal) is offered daily to over 500 devotees daily and the temple is one of the richest in Kerala. The offering here are usually thulabharam (of equal weight) with different objects like Pazham ( plaintain), Jaggery, coconut etc.
The Aranmula Parthasarathy (Charioteer of Of Arjuna or Partha)Temple is one of the 108 Temples of Lord Vishnu and has many legends associated with it. Believed to be Arjuna’s deity it was brought in a raft made of six(aaru) bamboos (mula) lending it the name of “aranmula’. This is the place wherein Lord Vishnu had revealed the knowledge of creation to Lord Brahma. Situated at about 10 kms from Chengannur it is on the banks of River Pampa. The Aranmula Velankali on the 4th day of Onam, the Aranmula kannadi – the mirror made of a unique bronze, the rich traditions followed even today at the temple all make Aranmula a must visit destination.
One of the traditions associated with the temple is of the fasting by the elders of a family who offer feast to all devotees on the Thiruonam day but themselves fast on that day. This is to atone for the sin which was committed by their forefathers who ignored a poor and needy woman leading to her death. This was followed by misfortune falling on the family and now is being repented and atoned for. This was also the place where the royal ornaments “thiruabharanam’ of Sabarimala was kept earlier.
Thirunelli Temple is an ancient old place of worship of Lord Maha Vishnu and a main pilgrim center in North Kerala. It is situated at a height of about 2000ft in a valley surrounded by hillocks, little streams and beautiful forests. Nearest town is Manathavady,32 km. Records exist that Thirunelli during the period of 962–1019 CE was an important pilgrim center and town. The Ruins of two ancient villages can be found in thick forests around the temple.
An idol, set in an Amla (Nelli) tree was noticed by Lord Brahma. Thus the name of Thirunelli came into being. It was promised that the waters of the river flowing nearby would cleanse you of all sins. This river is known as Papanasini, the one who washes away all your sins.
Legend has that Parasurama took a dip in Papanasini to cleanse his sins of killing Kshatriyas.
Even today the head priest of the temple leaves a portion of the pooja(worship) materials in the sanctum sanctorum in the belief that Lord Brahma himself will come and perform pooja rites in the early hours of morning.
Unlike other many temples this temple does not have a well. Stone aqua ducts bring water directly to the temple from a stream nearby.
Sabarimala, located in the western Ghats Kerala, India is an very important Hindu pilgrimage center. It is believed that around 50 million devotees visit Sabarimala every year making it one of the most visited Hindu shrines in the world. It is the place where Lord Ayyappa meditated after destruction of Mahishi the demoness and her kingdom. Situated at an altitude of around 1600 ft, above sea level, it is surrounded by forests and mountains of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Known as Poomkavanam of the Lord there are a lot of flowering trees in each of the hills that surrounds these hills. Nilackal, Kalaketi, and Karimala are some of the open and functional temples around the area
It is a pilgrimage center for men of all ages. Sabarimala pilgrims can wear only black or blue dhotis and upper part of the body of men has to be bare. Until the completion of the pilgrimage, cutting of hair and shaving is prohibited. They smear bhasma or sandal paste on their foreheads during the all of 41 days of penance that has to be undertaken. A vow of celibacy is a must. Females between years 12 and 50 (during menstrual age) are strictly prohibited from entering the temple. This is because Lord is a celibate. The temple is open only during the days of Mandalapooja (15 November to 26 December approx.), Makara Sankranthi period(January), Vishu (14th April) and for the first five days of each Malayalam month .The dates are decided all ways according to the Malayalam almanac. Neypayasam (made of jaggery, ghee and rice) is one of the important offerings here.
Aluva Mahadevar Temple (Part of 108 Shivalayams)
This temple do not have sanctum sanctorum in the traditional sense and is located on the sand banks (manalppuram) located between Mangalappuzha (as a part of Periyar as it is known after splitting) and Periyar itself. The Swayambhoo Shivalinga (which came out of the ground on its own) which Parasurama worshipped came out of the sand banks of the river. These sand banks are popularly known as manapuram.
Legend is that Shiva told Parasurama as per the Lords wish, no permanent temple structure would exist there, after earlier temple was destroyed by floods. Another belief is that the Bhuthaganas of Shiva was allowed to construct a temple under the stipulation that it should be completed in a night.
Lord Vishnu came as a cock and cuckooed in the night misleading the Bhoothaganas about the time. Stopping the work they started allover again the next night and this continued.
A temple constructed earlier was destroyed by flood in AD 1343.
The area is flooded and the Shivalinga gets submerged in water during Mansoon. Hence the priests decided to construct a tiny one on the riverbank to perform poojas during monsoon. Though unfinished in nature, the present one has withstood the vagarity of nature and hence is a surprise to architects. There is only one pooja daily. Shivarathry around Jan-Feb, annual festivals around March April, Bali Tharpanam in Nov. are the rituals & festivals. Main offerings are Dhara and Rudrabhishekham.
People belonging to all classes, castes and creeds assemble for Shivarathri. A bath in this river in the early morning after rituals of Shivarathri are over is very sacred. The festival concludes with the Aarattu on the next day of Shivarathry.
Adi Sankara Temple Kalady
At about 19 kms from Aluva is Kalady, the birthplace of Adi Sankaracharya, the great Advaita philosopher of the 8th century. The temple here is dedicated to Sri Sankara, Sarada Devi, Sri Krishna and Sri Ramakrishna. Many miracles are attributed to have happened at Kalady. The Crocodile Ghat is where Adi Shakara was caught by the crocodile and only after Shankara’s mother agreed to his renunciation and becoming a sanyasi did the crocodile leave him. . This is just below the Sringeri temple. The Adi Sankara Keerthi Sthamba Mandapam houses the Paduka Mandapam (shrine of footwear) where two silver knobs representing the Padukas of the teacher are revered.
This temple is open to people of all religion and caste and as one climbs the eight storied memorial, one sees the life of Adi Sankara retold in paintings. The Sankara Stupa is eight sided and is on the banks of Periyar also called Purna. Legend has it that Sankara had forced the river to change its course to enable his old mother have her daily bath without having to walk the long distance to the river.
Kharasura was given 3 Lingas by Shiva and was told to worship them to attain Moksha and while returning from his penance at Himalaya, he being tired kept the Lingas down. It is said that when he tried to pick them up he couldn’t and he heard heavens speak “I shall remain here and those who take refuge in me shall attain Moksha”. The Lingas were then entrusted with Sage Vyaghrapada. The three Lingas are now worshipped at the Vaikom, Kaduthuruthy and Ettumanoor temples. The western door of the temple is kept closed since ages. The incident goes back to the Njallal Namboothiri who was unhappy with other priests and to show his displeasure spat on to the Nivedya (offerings).
The namboothiri who had entered the temple through the western door was bitten by a snake right outside the western door and died. This was followed by the door getting shut automatically and a voice from Sreekovil (sanctum sanctorum) forbade the door to be opened hence forth. Vaikath Ashtami is the main festival and is held in November–December on the day of Krishna Ashtami.
Located in Thiruvananthapuram in the southern state of Kerala, Dravidian architecture is the style adopted in the construction of this Temple. Featuring a tall 16th-century Gopuram, it is the hereditary of the Ananthapuram Temple in Kasargod. This temple is constructed based on the Adikesava Perumal temple in Kanyakumari, Tamilandu. It is the wealthiest Hindu temple in terms of precious metals and stones and as of present the wealthiest place of worship in the world now.
The main deity, Lord Vishnu , is in lying posture or Anantha Sayanam, the eternal yogic sleep on the Divine snake Anantha. Only Hindus are permitted enter the temple has to strictly follow the dress code (no upper garments for male & western style dresses are dissuaded).
This shrine finds mention in holy texts like the Skanda Purana, Padma Purana Mahabharata, Bhagavata Purana,Vayu Purana, Brahma Purana, Matsya Purana, and Varaha Purana, This Temple also finds mention in Tamil texts from 500 BC and 300 A.D. Many a historian is of the opinion that one of the names of the Temple, “The Golden Temple” – really means that the Temple was incredibly wealthy.
In the medieval Tamil literature of the saints (6th–9th AD), the temple is one of the 108 centers Vaishnavism and is celebrated thus.
Lokanarkavu is located 4 km from Vatakara, in north Kerala in state of India. The name is a short form for LOKAMALAYARKAVU which literally means loka (world) mala (mountain),aar (river) kavu (grove). The nearest railway station Vadakara, is 5 km from temple and nearest airport Calicut 87 km away. Pooram the main festival, begins with Kodiyettam, traditional hoisting of flag and concludes with Arattu, immersion of the Devi idol in the temple waters. This was the favourite place of worship of Thacholi Othenan, Kerala’s legendary martial arts hero.
Mandala Utsavam the main temple festival is celebrated in the Malayalam month of Vrischikam (November-December) and Pooram in the month of Meenam (March-April). The folk dance called Poorakkali is presented here during festivals. This dance, reminds one of the traditional martial art Kalarippayattu. Even today, its practitioners seek the blessings of the deity before their initial fight. This is because of the temples relation with the Thacholi Othenan.
Chottanikkara (Jyotiannakkara) Tempe is a famous temple of the goddess Bhagawati, located near Ernakulam, state of Kerala. It is an ultimate testimonial for the ancient vishwakarma sthapathis or wooden sculptures. The deity is worshipped as Saraswati in the morning, as Lakshmi at noon, and as Durga in the evening. Visitors to the temple include those affected with mental illness, as the Temple is famous for its cure. ‘Guruthi Pooja’ in the ‘Keezhkkaavu’ (lower) temple at Chottanikkara should be attended to. This is a ritual done everyday late in the evening to invoke the goddess.
It is believed that the Kali idol of Kizhkkavu was found in the temple pond and installed by Vilvamangalam Swamiyar.
‘Chottanikara Makam thozhal’ held in the month Kumbham according to the almanac, (Feb-Mar) is the most important temple festival. For Makam Thozhal Devi appears in all her glory, decked in fine jewellery with two of her arms showing Varam, Abhayam,( gift, refuge) and the other two bearing Shank and Chakram. Those who get Holy Darsan during this Lagna, will be blessed with all good things in life
Warding of evil spirits
The priest, nails a part of the hair of the affected to the banyan tree, indicating that evil spirit is captured and the affected cured of their illness. Neem leaves, lime and chillies are taken home as prasadam from the temple.
Parasurama after killing demon Daruka, and as advised by Shiva constructed this shrine and installed the Devi as Bhagavathi/Bhadrakali.
A form of installation called the “RURUJIT VIDHAANA” was adopted here with Sapta Matrus in between with Shiva at one end and Vinayaka at the other. Another popular belief is Kannagi came to Kodungallur, prayed to Goddess Bhadrakali and got absorbed into the Bhagavathy idol. Fowl and goats were sacrificed to the deity for fulfillment of desires in ancient times. At present, only red dhotis are offered to the deity. They also offer gold, precious stones, silver and other valuables.
It is believed that in olden days, the temple was a Shiva shrine and it was Sage Parasurama who installed the present deity Sri Kurumba Bhagavathi,
The western chamber of the inner temple is the seat of Saptha Matharas (Seven Mothers) who face north. The idols of Ganapathi and Veerabhadra are in the chamber, with one facing east and the other facing west.
Main idol of Bhagawati is around seven feet tall, and is carved from wood of a jackfruit tree. Its eight arms carry weapons and symbols.
To the left of the temple is an enclosure of a medieval shrine deity for small pox, chicken pox, mumps and other contagious diseases.
Ambalappuzha Partha Sarathy Temple
This Temple is situated in district of Alleppy in the state of Kerala and is located approx.1.5 km. towards east of the Ambalappuzha junction. The Lord Parthasarathy is the main deity of the temple. It was built in by the Chembakasserry Devanarayanan Thampuran in the year 790ME. The idol of Sree Krishna from the Guruvayoor was brought here for safe keeping during raids of Tipu in the year 1789 AD. The important offering here is Palpayasam, a sweet pudding made of rice, sugar and milk. Main festival starts in Atham in Meenam (March–April). The important Aarattu festival takes place on the Thiruvonam day of the same month.
Sree Krishna in the form of a sage once challenged the King to a game chaturanga (chess). The prize demanded was 1grain of rice on the first squire of the board, 2 on the second, 3 on the third and so on. After he lost the game, while calculating the price, the King realized, by the time they reached the 64th squire the grains of rice required will be to the tune of billions of tons(enough bury the country in couple feet of rice). Appearing before the King in his real form the lord assured the king that the price can be paid as Palpayasam to his devotees till the quantum of rice was covered.
Ambalapuzha Velakali is a group dance performed in open and exhibiting preparedness for the war. It is an important ritual performed every year inside the temple compound during festival season.
Thirunavaya Nava Mukunda Temple
In Writings of Tamil saints Tirumangaialwar and Nammalwar, Thirunavaya is referred to as Thirunavai,
The Navamukunda Temple, in Ponnani thaluk of Malappuram district is on the banks of famed Bharathapuzha river. A great assembly was held here once every 12 years by the local rulers of Kerala, of olden times. This grand festival was held last time in 1755 AD. This Temple was once plundered and almost totally destroyed by Tipu Sultan’s army. Later it was the Zamorin (Samuthiri) who repaired it.
This is the temple where Vishnu gave darsan for Nava yogis (9 yogis).Hence this place was called Thiru Nava Yogi which changed to Thirunaavaya. What we see now is the idol worshipped by the 9th yogi.
This is the only temple, in Kerala which has a separate Sreekovil for Maha Lakshmi.
An idol was installed in the temple and the Sreekovil was kept closed for 7 days, enabling Gods to offer poojas. On 8th day, they were shocked to see the idol missing. The next idol too disappeared. This went on for 8 times and on the 9th time, they opened the temple doors before the scheduled time. They were shocked to see that the idol had partly descended to the earth. They immediately chanted mantras to prevent the descend any further. Belief is that when the idol would descend into the earth, Kaliyuga will come to an end.
Because of the presence of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma temples this area is considered as equivalent of Varanasi(Kasi).
The Navamukunda temple is said to be the sacred spot blessed with the presence of Saraswathi, Gayathri, Lakshmi, Parvathy, Shani, Markandeya, Ganga, and Yamuna. Yearly rights for the departed souls are performed here.
Sree Poornathrayesa Temple
Sree Poornathrayesa temple is situated in Tripunithura, Kochi, the capital of the former Kingdom of Cochin. The temple is considered among the greatest temples in Kerala. The temple is famous for its yearly Utsavams or festivals. The main one is the Vrishchikoltsawam, which is conducted every year in the month of Vrishchikam (November–December), which lasts for 8 days, kicking off the ‘Ulsava’ Season in Kerala. And it is the biggest temple festival of Ernakulam District and one of the biggest temple festivals of Kerala. Olpenna, gingelly oil in small pots made of plantain leaves is an important offering here
The deity in this temple is Lord Vishnu who is in the form of Santhanagopala Murthy. It is believed that childless couples will be blessed with children on praying to Poornathrayesan.
Its location is around seven km east of Eranakulam, enroute to Chottanikkata.
Ettumanoor Mahadevar Temple
Ettumanoor Mahadeva temple is an ancient and important Shiva temple which is located in the district of Kottayam, State of Kerala. The word Ettumanoor literally means Ettu and Manur meaning the land of deer.
Building of the temple was reconstructed in 1542 AD. On the Walls inside and outside of the main entrance there are murals. There is a golden flag staff inside the temple. On the top of it is the idol of a bull surrounded by small bells and metal leaves of the banyan tree. Architecture of the temple ia a great testimonial for Kerralas traditional temple architecture. It is believed that Soundarya lahari, hyms about the Godess Durga, was written by Aadi Sankara while staying here.
Arattu festival here is celebrated on a grand scale on the Thiruvathira day of the Malayalam month of Kumbham( February–March) every year. On the 8th and 10th days of the festival the statues of seven and half elephants made of gold (totally aprox.13 Kg), popularly known as Ezharapponnana will be exhibited in public.
Located in Trichur Dist. of Kerala this temple finds mentions in ancient Bramhanda Purana. Sage Parashurama exterminated Kshatriyas twenty one times. In order to expiate the sin, he performed a homa on its culmination he gave away all the land to Brahmins.
Sages requested him to give them some secluded land. Varuna upon hearing request for the sages from Parasurama gave him an axe (Mazhu) and he was asked throw it into the sea. A large tract of land was at once recovered from the sea, this territory was Kerala.
Then he approached Lord Shiva and a request was made to him to take abode in Kerala. Shiva with his consort, children and his bhootha ganas went along with Parashurama.
Shiva stopped at a place, present day Thrissur and he and his entrouge disappeared Then Parashurama saw a bright and radiant Shiva linga at the foot of banyan tree. That place came to became the Sri Mula Sthana of the temple.
For sometime, the linga remained at the Sri Mula Sthana. When a temple was to be constructed to install it, the linga could not be moved without cutting off a large part of the banyan tree with the danger of a piece falling on the idol and damaging it. Then Yogathirippad the Brahmiin chief as a solution laid over the idol to cover it completely and asked the men to cut the tree. Not a piece of the tree fell anywhere near the idol.
A temple then was built according to the rituals laid down in and the idol was properly installed. In earlier days Paramekkavu Bhagavathi was inside the Vadakkunnathan temple.
The temple was built at the time of Perumthachan duringthe 7th century. Hence the Koothambalam of temple may be 1,300 years old.
Thriprayar is in Trichur dist. of Kerala State. The idol here is of Shree Rama with four arms with bearing a conch, a disc, a bow and a garland. The deity here is popularly known as Triprayarappan/Thevar and was initially worshipped by Lord Krishna at Dwaraka. After Swargarohanam It was laying deep in the sea later recovered. A temple was constructed by Vakkayil Kaimal and the idol was properly installed. After killing the Asura, Khara, Sri Rama got both the Shaiva and Vaishnava aspects. Thus Triprayar Thevar is also called Khara Samhara Moorthy. Belief is that the portrayal of Rama with a garland held in hand is suggestive of aspects of Bhrahma too and hence the deity is said to be a manifestation of the Trimoorthis.
Images of Sreedevi and Bhudevi are on either side of the idol.There is an image of Dakshinamoorthy, in the sanctum facing the south which is common. Because of the fact that people got relief when troubled by evil spirit the deity is believed to have a Shiva aspect also.With the movement of time the original idol of Rama was subject to severe wear. Astrological investigations however revealed that the Lord did not desire to have change of the idol. Therefore a Panchaloha covering has been put over the original stone image.
This temple has plenty of wood carvings. It has a circular sanctum with a copper covered conical roof and on top of it is a golden globe. The sanctum has several sculptural representations of scenes from the Ramayana that forms a lavish decoration and is an integral part of the architectural beauty of the temple. Its walls are richly covered with beautiful mural paintings. Copper plated traditional mandapa, which is heavily decorated with 24 panels of woodcarvings that represents the Nine Planets or Navagrahas.