Kerala has a fairly rich mythological heritage and temples of several gods and goddesses dot throughout the state. The temples of Kerala are not only significant for their religious importance but are equally significant for their great architectural set ups. Some are huge and elaborately decorated while others are small with simple decor, but uniformly all speak volumes about the highly religious temperament of the people.
1. Guruvayoor Temple
29 km North-West of Thrissur, Kerala, Guruvayoor is the place where the famous Sri Krishna Temple is situated. It is one of the most sacred and important pilgrim center of Kerala. This ancient historic temple is hidden in mystery. It is believed, the temple was created by ‘Guru’, the ‘preceptor of the gods’ and ‘Vayu’, the ‘god of winds’. This is perhaps the only temple in the state that hosts the largest number of marriages and rice feeding ceremonies (the ritual first meal for infants).
The eastern ‘nada’ is the main entrance to the shrine. In the ‘Chuttambalam’ (outer enclosure) is a 33.5-m tall gold-plated ‘Dwajastambham’ (flagpost). There is also a 7 m high ‘Deepastambham’ (pillar of lamps), whose thirteen circular receptacles provide a truly brilliant spectacle, when lit. The square ‘Sreekovil’ is the sacred sanctum sanctorum of the temple, housing the main deity. The walls of the sanctum sanctorum are inlaid with beautiful mural paintings and carvings. The interior of the temple also displays the images of Ganapathy, Sri Ayyappa and Edathedathy Kavil Bhagavathy. Only Hindus are allowed inside the temple.
2. Sabrimala Temple
Dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, Sabarimala is a renowned pilgrimage center atop the rugged hills of the Western Ghats. The sanctum sanctorum nestles 914 m above sea level, amidst the virgin forest wilderness of the Western Ghats. The Village of Sabarimala is named after Shabari who did severe penance in order to meet Rama. As the legend goes, touched by her devotion and faith, Lord Rama lovingly ate the half-eaten ‘ber’ (kind of berries) that she offered. In her simplicity, she had preferred to taste them first to ensure that they were sweet and tasty.
The main pilgrimage is undertaken between November and January. Regardless of caste, creed, colour, they wear black dhotis and carry on their heads, bundles containing traditional offerings like coconut filled with ghee, camphor and rice. To reach the temple, transportation is available up to Pamba, from where one has to travel a distance of 5 km on foot. Devotees undertake rigorous penance, ritualistic vows and fasts before they visit the temple.
3. Kalpathy Temple
Situated 3 km form Palakkad, the Vishwanatha Swamy shrine is the oldest Shiva temple. The annual chariot temple is a gala event. The annual ‘Ratholsavam’ or Chariot Festival at Sri Viswanantha Swamy temple lasts for seven days.
The festival is dominated by three magnificent chariots, bedecked with flowers and flags, each sanctified by the presence of the lord. Amidst the soul stirring chants, thousands of people and millions of hands try to reach out to be one of the privileged to have the honour of pulling the chariots, as they proceed in stately grandeur.
4. Thriprayar Temple
Thriprayar Temple, located south of Thrissur is one of the important temples dedicated to Lord Rama. The impressive wood carvings, sculptures and Mural Paintings are an interesting sight to see here. The 11 day temple festival is held in November / December and includes a parade of 17 elephants.
During the Onam festival in the months of August / September, there is a snake boat race. There are regular buses to Thriprayar from the Shakthan Thamburan bus stand.
5. Chottanikkara Temple
Chottanikkara Devi temple, located near Kochi city, is one of the popular temples in Kerala. This temple is dedicated to goddess Bhagawati – the mother goddess and is one of the most popular deities in Kerala. The goddess is worshipped along with Lord Vishnu.
People who have mental illness seek refuge in the divine mother, who graciously cures all her devotees. Goddess Rajarajeswari is the presiding deity. This deity is worshipped in three different forms – as Saraswati in the morning – draped in white, as Bhadrakali at noon draped in crimson, and as Durga in the evening decked in blue.
The image in the shrine is not fixed to the ground and is mounted on loose sand. Water offered during ablution ceremonies percolates underground.
6. Vadakkumnathan Temple
Vadukkumnnatha is an important Shiva temple, in downtown Thrissur, Kerala. This is one of Kerala’s most ancient shrines, which also exhibits a museum of ancient wall paintings, wood carvings and art pieces of immense historical value.
The ‘Pooram festival, falling in April/ May, attracts thousands of devotees and tourists from all over the world to this place. It is a spectacular event, combining the majestic elephant pageantry with the frenzied playing of drums and cymbals and rounded off with a fireworks extravaganza.