With the dawn of the pilgrimage season, thousands prepare for a journey of a lifetime. A journey that would test their levels of devotion. The experience is said to grant the pilgrims the one thing that nothing else can - a sense of sacrifice.
Most pilgrims make it a point to visit key temples en route to Sabarimala. A pilgrimage to Sabarimala visiting the 11 Divya Desam temples situated across Kerala is a special one:
Divya Desams temples in Northern Kerala
Location: Tirunavaya, Malappuram District
Legends associated with the temple: The deity, called the Nava Mukundan, was the ninth idol established by a group of saints called the Navayogis. The first eight idols that were installed in the sanctum sanctorum had disappeared as soon as they were placed. The Nava Mukundan, the ninth idol, was forcibly stopped as it was sinking into the sand. Thus, the idol is portrayed only from above the knee while the rest of the image is concealed. It is said that there is a bottomless unexplored pit behind the sanctum.
Best means to reach the destination: By train or bus upto Kuttipuram or Tirur.
From Tirur, you may travel along with Kuttipuram road for a distance of 12km.
From Kuttipuram, you may travel along the Tirur road for a distance of 7 km.
The closest airport is Kozhikode, approx. 60km from Tirunavaya.
Location: Tiruvinjikode, approx.16 km from Shoranur. This temple is enroute to Guruvayoor.
Legends associated with the temple: Vishnu appeared in four forms here and was worshiped by the Pandavas. They installed four images of Vishnu in a single shrine here.
Best means to reach the destination: Train would be the most convenient means of transport.
You may take any train that stops at Pattambi. The temple is roughly 4 km from Pattambi Railway station.
You could also board buses plying in the Shornur–Guruvayoor route and get down at the temple.
Divya Desam Temples in Central Kerala
Location: Thirumoozhikkulam, Ernakulam District. This temple is situated between Alwaye and Kaladi
Legends associated with the temple: Bharata, the brother of Lord Rama and Lakshmana, came to invite Rama, who was in exile, to take over the reins of the Ayodhya. An angry Lakshmana suspecting Bharata's intentions intended to kill him; however, Bharata's innocence was very soon revealed, and then the two of them offered worship together at Tirumoozhikkalam.
Best means to reach the destination: By road. It is approximately 7km away from Angamaly town.
By Rail: Get off at Angamali and the temple is 8.7 km.
By Air: Nedumbassery airport, Kochi. The airport is 15km from the temple.
Thrikkakkarappan Temple (Tirukkatkkarai)
Location: Thrikkakkara, Ernakulam District
Legend associated with the temple: The temple is dedicated to Vishnu's Vamana incarnation. It is said that this is the place where the Mahabali-Vamana episode took place.
Another legend associated with the temple is that Kapila Maharshi did penance at this place and Vishnu pleased with his efforts gave him darshan. At the behest of Kapila Maharshi, Vishnu decided to stay in this place.
Best means to reach the destination: It is situated approx. 14km from Ernakulam Junction railway station and 9km from Ernakulam Town railway station.
The closest airport is Nedumbassery situated 22 km from the temple.
Thrikkakara is 2km east of Idapally and both state and private-run buses are available.
Thrikodithanam, Mahavishnu Kshetram
Location: Chenganassery, Kottayam district
Legend associated with the temple: Each of the Pandava princes, found a separate idol of Vishnu for personal worship. All except Sahadeva, the youngest prince. Despite all efforts, when he could still not find a suitable idol. Sahadeva, decided to immolate himself. Just as he was about to do so, an idol of Vishnu appeared before him. This idol was called Adbhuta Narayanan.
Best means to reach the destination:
This temple is situated approximately 40km away from Kottayam town and just 2.5km away from Chaganaserry town.
The nearest railway station is Changanassery station which is 2km away.
The closest airport is Kochi situated 118 km from the temple.
Location: Thiruvandoor, Alapuzzha district
Legend associated with the temple: It is said that the Pandava prince Nakula had built the temple for the purpose of carrying out his penance.
Best means to reach the destination: The temple is situated 9km from Chengannur town.
It is 117km north of Thiruvananthapuram and it is connected to Kollam and Kottayam by NH 220.
The nearest towns are Pandalam, Thiruvalla, Mavelikkara, Aranmula, Kozhencherry and Pathanamthitta.
You could even board a train to Chengannur or Thiruvalla.
The closest airport is Kochi, situated 126 km from the Thiruvanvandoor.
Divya Desam temples in Southern Kerala
Thiruvaranmula (Aranmula Sree Parthasarathy Temple)
Location: Aranmula, Pathanamthitta district
Legend associated with the temple: Arjuna, the pandava prince, built this temple at Nilackal near Sabarimala to expiate for the sin of killing Karna. Nilakkal was a dense forest and hence it was difficult to perform daily poojas. So the idol was brought here in a raft made of six pieces of bamboo to this site, and hence the name Aranmula (six pieces of bamboo).
Best means to reach the destination: The temple is roughly 13km from Chengannur
You may board a bus from Chengannur upto the temple.
The closest railway station is Chengannur.
The closest airports are Nedumbassery (137km from the airport towards Kochi) and Thiruvananthapuram (114km from the temple)
Location: Tiruppuliyur, Chengannur. It is located 6km west of Chengannur Railway Station on the Mavelikera State Highway
Legend associated with the temple: This temple is believed to have been built by the Pandava prince Beema. Legend has it that Vrushadharbi, son of emperor Shibi was suffering from a severe disease. His kingdom faced a severe drought and famine. The king told the Sapta Rishis that he would offer them a donation only if they help eliminating the dangers before the kingdom and himself personally. The Rishis grew furious and said they would be committing a sin in doing so and went away. Yet, king organised a yajna and sent an evil angel to kill the Rishis. They prayed to Perumal for protection. Lord sent Indira in the form of tiger and killed the evil spirit. This place is named Tirupuliyur after this event.
Best means to reach the destination: You could take a train up to Chengannur. The temple is situated 6km west of the railway station.
By road you may travel 6km west of Chengannur Railway station on the Mavelikara State Highway.
The closest airports is Nedumbassery (137km from the airport towards Kochi)
Tiruchenkunroor (Chengannur Mahadeva Temple)
Location: Chengannur, Alappuzha district
Legend associated with the temple: Legend has it that Yuddhishtra, the eldest of the Pandava princes, offered prayers to Lord Vishnu, seeking pardon for his act on the battlefield, where he uttered the words Ashwattaama hatah kunjaraha.
Best means to reach the temple: Chengannur Mahadeva Temple is only 1km away from both Railway Station and KSRTC Bus Stand.
The closest airport is Thiruvananthapuram (114km from the temple)
Thiruvalla Sree Vallabha Temple
Location: Thiruvalla, Pathanamthitta
Legends associated with the temple: While being in deep meditation at the origin of universe, Viratpurusha appeared to Brahma. Brahma understood the Lord as he could and later on continued worshiping Purusha in an idol created by Viswakarma from energy concentrated out of extreme power and vehemence of Purusha. Upon request by the God of water, Lord Brahma advised worship protocol of Purusha to him and handed over the idol. Later goddess Adi Parasakthi takes birth as Water God's daughter in the name Sreedevi (Lakshmi). Sreedevi worshiped the very same idol and Lord Vishnu promised to marry her while she comes out during churning of the milky ocean. This eventually made Vishnu to be known as Sreevallabhan (Sree which means Lakshmi and Vallabhan which means husband) and the goddess incorporated her power also to the idol. Later Vishnu married Lakshmi as he promised.
An interesting fact: Women are not allowed to enter the Sanctum Sanctorum of the temple except on Vishu and Thiruvathira.
Best ways to reach the temple: The temple is 2.5 km away from Thiruvalla railway station and 2km from KSRTCbus stand. There are several private buses that ply frequently too. Auto-taxi services are also available. The closest airport is Thiruvananthapuram (114km from the temple) .
Thiruvananthapuram Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple
Legends associated with the temple: A saint named Divakara Yogi, who was an ardent devotee of Vishnu, was enraged by the sight of a two year old toddler swallowing his Salagramam, the object of his worship. The toddler, upon being chased by the yogi, entered a tree which had split, and Vishnu revealed himself in all his splendour before the Rishi, who then requested him to assume a form that could be held in worship. Upon this, Lord Vishnu assumed the form of the image.
Best ways to reach the temple: Several trains and buses ply up to and via Thiruvananthapuram.