This is a well known pilgrim centre in the rugged terrains of the Western Ghats. The holy shrine dedicated to Lord Ayyappa attracts crores of pilgrims from all over India, especially from other parts of South India.Sabarimala is surrounded by hazardous hills like Karimala and Neelimala. The devotees known as 'Ayyappas' negotiate the hills to reach the Shrine after undergoing 41 days of ' Vrutham' (self imposed devotional penance).
The pilgrimage season, involving Mandala Pooja and Makaravilakku comes between the latter half of November and the former half of January, every year. Ablution in River Pamba is considered as holy as ' Ganga Snanam' .The confluence of Hindu and Muslim deities in the form of Lord Ayyappa, and his lieutenant Vavar makes this esteemed pilgrim centre a model of communal harmony and castelessness. Vehicular traffic cannot go beyond Pamba and the last 5 kms. to the Shrine can be reached only by trekking.
Guruvayoor Sree Krishna Temple
A big pilgrim draw, Guruvayoor is known as Kasi of South. Round the year devotees throng to worship Guruvayoorappan, little Krishna, the reigning deity.
The 16 th century poet Narayana Bhattathiri, fallen with rheumatic pain sought relief from Guruvayrappan. He composed Narayaneeyam. He recovered from disease then after the temple got an aura as a place with healing powers.
A popular venue for marriages as well as annaprasna, when a child first gets solid food. Hindus consider entering matrimonial life in the presence of Lord Vishnu as lucky. In a day's most auspicious time the temple witnesses dozens of marriages.
The most famous offering of the temple is thulabharam, where a devotee presents to the deity their own body weight, the product can be anything such as banana or rice depending on devotees' pocket.For entering into the temple, women must wear sari and men dhoti without shirt. Pants , jeans are forbidden.
The Vishnu idol, made of a rare stone 'Patala Anjanam' is supposed to have healing qualities, especially for rheumatism. With a Shank (conch), Chakra (wheel), Gada (mace), Pankajam (lotus) in its four arms and radiant smile on lips, the idol is bewitchingly beautiful.
Entering the portals of the temple, one is overwhelmed by the prevailing atmosphere of piety and devotion.
Exquisite architectural pattern and paintings around the Sreekovil depicting stories of pranks of little Krishna stand testimony for the art of a period. The Mandapam facing the Sreekovil (sanctum sanctorum) is resplendent with beautiful carvings.
Another attraction in the temple is the elephant camp at Punnathore Kota 5 km away from the temple. As many as 50 elephants are being nurtured here many of which were brought as offerings of rich devotees of Guruvayoorappan. Anayoottu, feeding elephant is a major attraction here.
'Koothambalam', a stage for performing dances and Krishnattasala, where Krishnattom used to be staged are other attractions of the temple town. Week-long Ekadisi festival begins in December first week.
Attukal Bhagavathi Temple
Attukal Bhagavathy temple (Mudippura), knows as the Sabarimala of women, is in Thiruvananthapuram. Attukal Ponkala, the annual festival commences on Bharani day in Kumbhom (February - March) and continues for nine days. Ponkala is an offering usually made in Bhagavathy temples, prepared in the form of payasam ( a liquid food in Kerala), ingredients are rice, jaggery, coconut kernel and plantain fruits. The festival begins with thottampattu (a song about Bhagavathy) which is being chanted for nine days continuously.
On the ninth day, women throng the temple with ponkala pots and ingredients for cooking. Ponkala preparation starts morning and by noon would be over, then the melsanthi (chief priest) carrying Devi's sword goes around the temple sprinkling holy water and showering flowers over the preparation. After this, the idol of the Devi is being taken in procession to the Manacaud Sastha Temple with the accompaniment of thalapoli, kuthiyottom, annam, vahanam and, caparisoned elephants. Percussion in the procession include chenda, nagaswaram, band and neyyandi melam. There will also be Kumbhakudam (pageantry) during the procession. En route, the procession is received with nirapara (a pot filled with paddy and decorated with flowers usually arranged in front of traditional Kerala houses). The procession returns next morning.
Chettikulangara Devi Temple
One of the renowned Devi temples in Kerala is Chettikulangara temple, Kayamkulam in Alappuzha. Highlights of Bharani festival, celebrated in February-March, are Kuthiyottam and Kettukazhcha. Of these , the former is performed as an offering to Bhagavathy.
The man who makes the offering teaches an adolescent boy religious rites for seven days from Sivarathri day (in February) to Bharani asterism, During the period the boy will have to observe fast. On Bharani morning, after feast and other rituals, the boy with his body coiled with silver wires is taken in procession to the temple with accompaniment of percussion.
On the way to the temple, tender coconut water will be sprinkled on the boy. Later the boy dances facing the Sreekovil (Sanctum Sanctorum).
This ceremony ends with the his presentation of prizes to Gurus (teachers). This dance if performed in pairs is called Iratta Kuthiyottam. Afternoon, locals bring huge decorated effigies of chariots, horses, epic figures such as Bhima, Panchali and Hanuman, and place on wheeled platforms. After darshan, the parties take up their respective position in the paddy field lying east of the temple.
During the night, the image of Devi will be carried in procession to the effigies stationed in the paddy field. This is what is known as Kettukazhcha. Next day, these effigies will be taken to their respective Kavus (place of worship of different families).
On the tenth day after the festival, another festival is being celebrated in the temple for thirteen days. On each day, residents of a particular Kavu take up the onus of celebration.
Mannarsala Temple, Harippad
Mannarasala temple at Harippad is the seat of God of Serpents. Built in a grove, the temple is reputed for having 30,000 images of snake-gods and this is the largest of its kind in the state.
On the day of Ayilliam asterism in the Malayalam months of Kanni and Thulam (September and October), all the serpent idols in the grove and the temple are taken in procession to illam ( the house connected with the temple) where Nurum Palum (rice flour and milk), Kuruthi (a red liquid made of turmeric and lime), offerings are made.
The oldest female member of the family carries the Nagaraja idol, procession is conducted with great pomp and gaiety. During the festival days, thousands throng the temple to worship the hooded gods. The offerings include coins and snake effigies made of gold, silver and copper, grains of all kinds, pepper, tender coconuts, plantains, melons and sandalwood.
Thrichambaram Sree Krishna Temple
The temple dedicated to Sree Krishna is at Thrichambaram, Kannur, 14-kms from Pappinisserry railway station. The fortnight festival begins on 22nd Kumbham (February - March). Another temple dedicated to Sree Balarama ( believed to be the brother of Lord Krishna) is at Mazhoor, Thrichambaram. On the first day, the idol of Balarama is taken out in procession from Mazhoor temple and brought to the Thrichambaram temple.
The procession marks the beginning of the festival. On the last day of the festival, the idols of Sree Krishna and Balarama are taken out ceremoniously. Lord Krishna retreats to His abode, that is Thrichambaram temple, while his brother Balarama returns to Dharmakulangara temple, denoting the end of the festival.
The processions in this festival is sans elephants.
Janardhanaswamy Temple, Varkala
Arattu, the annual festival is celebrated every year in March-April commencing with Kodiyettu on Karthika day. Tens of thousands of people attend the festival. Colourful processions are held on all festival days.
Sree Vallabha Temple, Thiruvalla
The temple, 3-kms away from Thiruvalla Railway Station, have many deities though it is dedicated Lord Vishnu. The temple compound houses a tank supposed to be a natural one. The 50- feet high flag post is granite. An idol of garuda, vehicle of Lord Vishnu, is fixed atop the flag post.
Ladies are allowed entry to the sanctum sanctorum only on two days; Vishnu and Thiruvathira. Annual festival, Uthraseeveli is celebrated on the Makayiram asterism in Meenam (March - April). Apart from the religious ceremonies, cultural programmes are also held.
Subrahmania Swamy Temple, Haripad
One of the oldest, most important temples devoted to Lord Subramania is on Kollam-Alapuzha highway. The Subrahmania idol with four arms is the biggest of its kind designed after the sculptural pattern of the Buddhist period. It is believed that the idol was worshipped by Lord Parasurama and was obtained from a river.
Regatta at River Paipad is conducted commemorating the idol recovery. As many as three festivals are celebrated in this temple, of which Chithira festival in Medom( April-May) is the most important. The procession with the golden peacock throne is quite attractive.
Kodungaloor, the ancient capital of Kerala, is 35 kms north-west of Ernakulam, has a hoary past. From the days of recorded history, Kodungalloor, then a trade emporium in India, had been a maritime port of international repute. The city had been a beehive of activities and had trade relations with West as well as Middle-East.
Today, the city is a great pilgrim centre. Bharani festival held in the Bhagavathi temple here is a big devotee draw.
On bharani day, special nivedya (nectar) known as Variyarippayasam is offered to Devi. This is performed by Adikals( priests). Early morning, the deity would be ceremoniously taken out of the Sreekovil (sanctum sanctorum) and placed on a raised pedestal for public worship. Simultaneously, the temple flag will be hoisted signifying the victory of Devi over Darika( evil). After the bharani day, the temple doors will remain closed for six days. During this period, pooja will be offered only once in a day.
On the seventh day when the sreekovil is opened, thousands would have Dharsan (vision) of Devi, Such a darshan is reckoned as most auspicious
Koodalmanickam Temple, Iringalakkuda
Ancient and historic Koodalmanickam temple in Manavalassery is about nine kilometres from Irinjalakuda Railway Station. The deity is Sree Bharatha. A few temples are dedicated to him.
Festival is held for all days in Medom (April-May) from Utram to Thiruvonam asterisms, the flag hoisting being on the Utram day. Procession accompanied by caparisoned elephants is the special features of the festival.
Sree Krishna temple, Ambalapuzha
It is situated 14 kms. away from Alleppey. In its architectural features, the Sreekrishna Temple confirms the typical Kerala style. The temple is famous throughout Kerala for 'Palpayasam', a milk porridge of exceptional sweetness offered to the deity.
Krishna temple, A r a n m u l a
Dedicated to Lord Krishna is another pilgrim place for Hindus. The temple is from Chengannor on the Thiruvananthapuram - Kottayam route. A major attraction is the snake boat races held as part of the festival in August/September. Aranmula is famed for its hand-made mirrors of polished metal called the "Aranmula Kannadi".
Darmasastha temple, Erumely
This is an important pilgrim centre for the ‘Hindus and Muslims. Sree Dharmasastha Temple here is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa. Pilgrims going to Sabarimala alight here. The 'Petta Thullal’ of 'Kanni Ayyappas' is an important festival which is held in December/January. There is also an ancient mosque dedicated to ‘Vavar’ who is considered to be the friend of Lord Ayyappa. The devotees going to Sabarimala visit this Mosque also.
Siva temple, Ettumanoor
12 kms. north of Kottayam, this ancient Shiva Temple attracts many devotees. There are exquisite mural paintings and sculptures inside the temple. Its central shrine is circular, copper plats with a stupa of copper gift at the top. The Ramayana, scenes from Santhana Gopala Krishna Leela and Bhagavath
are, beautifully carved round the shrine.
The State Archeaological Department has opened a mural arts centre near the temple. The annual festival of the temple falls in February/March and it lasts for ten days. The last day 'Arathi' falls on the day of Thiruvathira.
Jain Temple, Palakkad
One of the few existing Jain temples in Kerala is the Jain temple at Jainamedu in the Vadakkanthara village on the Western border. With granite walls devoid of any decorations,this temple comprises four divisions and is 32 feet high and 20 feet wide.
Legend has it that the temple was built about 500 years ago by a Jain head named Inchanna Satur for the Jain sage, Chandranatha Swamy.
It is the imposing seven-storied tower built by Raja Marthanda Varma in 1733 A.D, that makes it by far the most impressive landmark around the city. The Hindus have held the temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, sacred from antiquity. There are innumerable pillars, intricate carvings and mural paintings. Only Hindus are allowed inside and dress regulations are strictly followed. A large market, lines the street in front and the pool beside it is for ritual bathing.
Vadakkunathan Temple, Thrissur
A classic example of the Kerala's traditional architecture. Holy shrines of Paramashiva, Parvathy, Sankaranarayana, Ganapathy, Sri Rama and Sri Krishna are housed. The central shrines and Koothambalam exhibit exquisite vignettes carved in wood.
Angadippuram, an important religious centre for both Muslims and Hindus, has the Tirumandhankunnu Temple dedicated to Goddess Durga as well as the Puthanangadi Mosque which has Arabic inscriptions engraved on one of its planks.
One of the few existing Jain temples in Kerala is the Jain temple at Jainamedu in the Vadakkanthara village on the Western border. With granite walls devoid of any decorations,this temple comprises four
divisions and is 32 feet high and 20 feet wide.
Legend has it that the temple was built about 500 years ago by a Jain head named Inchanna Satur for the Jain sage, Chandranatha Swamy.
Glass Temple of Kottamunda
It is 20 km from Kalpetta, located on the slope of Vellarimala, and is dedicated to Parswanatha Swami, third Thirthankara of the Jain faith. The mirrors inside the temple walls reflect in thousands of beautiful image patterns of the icons in the temple sanctum.
Other places of interest in Kalpetta are Chembra Peak, Banasura Sagar Dam near Padinharathara and Meenmutty Waterfalls, about 40 km from Kalpetta.