The temples of Kerala are home for a rich and vivid spiritual tradition. Thousands of devotees from all over the country travel to the state to seek blessings from some of the most popular temples here. Each temple has a unique legend associated with it, besides the historical significances of these temple complexes.
For instance, the ‘Shivlinga’ at the Sree Mahadeva temple at Aluva is not enshrined in a sanctum as it is believed that Lord Shiva himself appeared here when Lord Rama was conducting the last rites of Jatayu, the sacred bird in Ramayana. Here’s a trail through some of the temples in Kerala where legends and unique rituals play major role in drawing hundreds of devotees every year.
Panachikkadu temple, Kottayam
The Panachikkadu temple situated at Panachikkadu in Kottayam is also known as ‘Dakshina Mookambika’ (Mookambika of the South). Here the main deity of Goddess Saraswati dwell exotically on the banks of the sacred well, adorned with creepers and shrubs. Though Lord Vishnu is the main deity, thousands of devotees throng the temple during the days of the Navrathri festival to offer special prayers to Goddess Saraswathi.
The deity of Saraswathi is covered by creeper leaves called the ‘Saraswathi Latha’. Poojas are not offered here, instead special poojas are offered to an idol erected just opposite this main deity. One of the most significant features of the Panachikkadu temple is that the ‘vidyarambam’ (initiation into education) ceremony for the kids could be conducted at all the time of the year.
Karthyani temple, Cherthala
A unique ceremony at the Karthyani temple at Cherthala, Alappuzha, is the offering of roosters which then lives in the temple premises itself. Devotees make a special offering to get relief from many ailments and diseases. Rice flour, honey, banana, raisins, rock candy, dried ginger powder and cumin powder are mixed into a fine paste and then stuffed into a rod like vessel made with dried palm leaf. This vessel containing the mixture is then sealed with mud and roasted in fire before offering it to the deity. Devotees believe that their physical ailments would disappear if they eat this special preparation.
Parabrahma Moorthy temple, Oachira
The main deity is placed on the platform (aalthara) beneath the sacred banyan tree here. It is believed that the Parabrahma Moorthy himself revealed, in a ‘Devaprasnam’ (astrological consultation) that he would like his deity to be placed beneath the banyan tree from where he could bless the devotees, enjoying the beautiful nature and changing seasons.
No special prayers are offered near the banyan tree where the deity is placed; instead the presence of god is felt through the ardent belief of the thousands of devotees who throng the temple. The temple complex sprawls in a 36-acre plot and has the mystical charm of a sacred grove. It was Velu Thampi Dalawa, the prime minister of the erstwhile Travancore province, who built the famed ‘aalthara’ here. There are many temples dedicated to the sub deities as well. This temple at Oachira is also known as ‘Dakshina Kashi’ (Kashi of the South).
Thrikkakara temple, Kochi
Kerala hails the legend of Mahabali, the demon king who sacrificed himself to the Brahmin lad Vaman, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who demanded three feet of earth. The Thrikkakara temple in Ernakulam is the only temple in Kerala where the deity of Vaman is placed. Onam is the main festival here.
Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple
It is one of the largest and popular snake temples in India, located in Mannarsala in Kerala. The temple is dedicated to Lord Nagaraja, the king of serpents. There are around 30,000 stone snake idols and images within its compound, leading to the temple. It is said that the temple is 3,000 years old. Newly wed and childless couples make a wish for children by holding a popular ritual here.