'O Patriarch of the Golden Cross! Climb we shall, this golden hill'
During the Holy Week, thousands gather at Malayattoor for the pilgrimage. They come from far and across the states, after observing the rigorous fasts, carrying wooden crosses, broom sticks and heavy stones. And walk up this sacred hill in a quest of redemption, to give thanks for favours received or just in search of peace.
Situated on the banks of the Periyar, Malayattoor is one of those places that see visitors all the year through. But it is during the Holy Week and the Sunday after Easter that there is a huge crowd at this hill shrine. Now for a bit of history and how the pilgrimage came to be.
Malayattoor is one of those places where St Thomas is believed to have arrived during his sojourn to India, way back in AD 52. But unlike the other places, he was met with resistance. St Thomas, they say retreated to the hills of Malayattoor where he prayed.
Read more about St Thomas in Kerala
From the church at the Adivaram, it is an arduous two kilometre trek up the hill to reach the top. They offer prayers at the points that mark the 'Way of the Cross'.
The pilgrimage now
People come various parts of the country to Malayattoor during the Holy Week and the week after Easter for the pilgrimage. They carry wooden crosses to commemorate the Way of the Cross. Women carry brooms up the hill – for prosperity and well being; while some others carry heavy stones, that symbolise the burdens of life, which they leave on the hill. The pilgrims includes a visit to the following places on the hill.
Marthoma Mandapam: A perfect blend of Greco-Indian architecture, this building is where the relics of St Thomas are preserved.
Sannidhi: The most spacious place for worship on the mountain.
Golden Cross: This cross is believed to have appeared miraculously when St Thomas made the sign of the cross.
Footprints of St Thomas: Footprints believed to have been made by St Thomas is one of the main attractions on the hill
Chapel: Once, this part of the hill was a forest. It is said that some elephants tried to raze the building to earth. There are impressions of their tusks on the walls of this chapel.
Water spring: St Thomas is said to have struck a rock and a fresh water spring formed. The water in this spring is said to have healing powers.
We leave you with this video, which will allow you to make an online tour of Malayattoor this Holy Week
Nearest railway station: Angamaly, about 23 km
Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport, about 22 km