A Pilgrimage to Remember: Famous Temples in God’s Own Country
Kerala, a state situated on the southwestern coast of India, is often referred to as “God’s Own Country”. This nickname is not just a marketing slogan; it is a reflection of the state’s natural beauty, diverse culture, and spiritual significance. Kerala is known for its stunning beaches, serene backwaters, lush green forests, and majestic hills. The state’s rich history and heritage can be traced back to ancient times, with influences from Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam.
Why is Kerala Called God’s Own Country?
The term “God’s Own Country” was first used to describe the state of Kerala by a popular travel writer, Mr. Walter Mendez, in an article published in 1989. Since then, the phrase has become synonymous with Kerala and is used widely in the state’s tourism promotions.
The state is known for its lush green landscapes, pristine beaches, serene backwaters, and rich cultural heritage. It is believed that the natural beauty of the state and the harmonious coexistence of various religions and cultures are a testament to the divine blessings that Kerala has received.
The state is also home to several ancient and revered temples, churches, and mosques, which attract pilgrims from all over the world. The state’s unique geographical location and diverse topography make it a haven for a wide variety of flora and fauna, which only add to the state’s aura of divinity. All of these factors combined have contributed to Kerala being called “God’s Own Country.”
Brief description of the importance of temples in the state
Temples play a significant role in the cultural and social life of Kerala. They are not just places of worship but also centers of art, literature, music, and dance. Temples are an integral part of the state’s identity, with many of them dating back centuries. The festivals associated with these temples are major events that draw people from all over the state, the country, and even from overseas. Kerala’s temples are a testament to the state’s spiritual heritage and cultural richness.
Top 15 Temples in Kerala
A. Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple
Located in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram, Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple is one of the most famous and highly revered temples in Kerala. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, and its construction dates back to the 8th century. It is renowned for its architectural beauty and is a must-visit pilgrimage destination for Hindus from all over the world.
The temple has a fascinating history, and there are many interesting legends associated with it. One such legend tells the story of a sage who prayed to Lord Vishnu, asking him to reveal himself. Lord Vishnu appeared before the sage as a small child, and the sage took him home with him. The child, who was none other than Lord Vishnu himself, grew up with the sage and later took up residence in the temple.
The temple is known for its impressive gopuram, which stands at the height of 100 feet. It is also home to a massive idol of Lord Vishnu, which is made of 12008 saligramams (sacred stones). The temple also houses several other deities, including Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna.
Every year, the temple attracts thousands of devotees who come to offer their prayers and seek the blessings of Lord Vishnu. The temple is also famous for the Navaratri festival, which is celebrated with great fervor and enthusiasm. During this festival, the entire temple is beautifully decorated, and the idol of Lord Vishnu is adorned with exquisite jewelry and garments.
Overall, Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Kerala. Its stunning architecture, rich history, and spiritual significance make it a truly special place.
B. Sabarimala Sree Ayyappa Temple
The Sabarimala Sree Ayyappa Temple is located in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala and is one of the most famous temples in the state. This temple is unique as it is open to all people, regardless of their caste or creed. The temple is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa and is situated atop a hill, which can only be reached by climbing 18 sacred steps. These steps are called “Pathinettam Padi” in Malayalam and are considered to be very sacred.
The Sabarimala Temple is famous for the “Makaravilakku” festival, which is celebrated every year on January 14th. The festival marks the end of the two-month-long Mandala Puja season and the beginning of the Makaravilakku season. The temple attracts millions of devotees during this festival.
Apart from the Makaravilakku festival, the temple is also famous for its “Kettunira” ceremony, which involves the wearing of a special garland made of Tulsi leaves. This garland is considered to be very sacred and is believed to bring good luck and prosperity to the wearer.
The temple is also known for its strict dress code, which requires male devotees to wear black dhotis and upper garments and female devotees to wear sarees. The temple is closed for worship during the first five days of every Malayalam month and is open for worship only during the days of the Mandala Puja and Makaravilakku seasons.
The Sabarimala Sree Ayyappa Temple is a must-visit for all devotees of Lord Ayyappa and for those who want to experience the unique and vibrant culture of Kerala.
C. Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple
Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Krishna located in the town of Guruvayur in the Thrissur district of Kerala. This temple is considered to be one of the most important and sacred pilgrimage sites for Hindus in South India. The temple is believed to be more than 5000 years old and has a rich history and culture associated with it.
The temple is known for its magnificent architecture and intricate carvings. The central shrine of the temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and is adorned with gold and precious stones. The temple also has several other shrines dedicated to different deities, such as Lord Ganesha, Lord Ayyappa, and Lord Shiva.
The temple is also known for its unique rituals and customs. One of the most significant rituals is the daily elephant procession that takes place in the temple. The temple has a large number of elephants, and it is considered auspicious to offer food to them. The temple also has a large collection of ancient manuscripts and artifacts that reflect the rich history and culture of the region.
Thousands of devotees from all over the world visit this temple every year to seek the blessings of Lord Krishna. The temple is open to people of all religions and is a symbol of unity and harmony. The peaceful and serene atmosphere of the temple provides a perfect setting for spiritual seekers to meditate and reflect on their lives.
D. Ettumanoor Mahadeva Temple
Ettumanoor Mahadeva Temple is a popular and ancient temple located in the Kottayam district of Kerala. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is believed to be over 4000 years old. It is famous for its exquisite murals and carvings, especially the scenes from the Hindu epic of Ramayana. The temple is also known for its annual festival called the Ettumanoorappan Festival, which is celebrated during the Malayalam month of Kumbham (February-March).
The temple is built in typical Kerala style architecture with a gopuram (tower) at the entrance. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple is situated in the middle of a square-shaped inner sanctum, which is surrounded by a circumambulatory path. The main idol of Lord Shiva is a swayambhu (self-manifested) lingam, which is believed to be very powerful and capable of fulfilling the wishes of the devotees.
Ettumanoor Mahadeva Temple is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus in Kerala and is visited by thousands of devotees every year. The temple has a peaceful and serene atmosphere, which adds to the overall spiritual experience. It is a must-visit destination for those who wish to explore the rich culture and history of Kerala.
E. Chottanikkara Devi Temple
Chottanikkara Devi Temple, located near Ernakulam in Kerala, is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to Goddess Bhagavathy. The temple complex houses two main shrines, one dedicated to Rajarajeswari and the other to Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Durga. It is believed that the Goddess at the temple has the power to heal her devotees and is therefore known as the “Goddess of Healing.”
The architecture of the temple is a mix of traditional Kerala style and modern construction. The main deity is placed in a golden-hued sanctorum, adorned with intricate carvings and paintings. The temple attracts thousands of devotees every day, especially during the annual festival of Navarathri.
Chottanikkara Devi Temple is also known for its strict dress code and traditions. Men are required to wear dhoti and women have to wear a saree or a long skirt and blouse. The temple also has strict rules against the consumption of alcohol and non-vegetarian food on the temple premises.
Visiting the Chottanikkara Devi Temple is a spiritual and cultural experience that every tourist should not miss when in Kerala. The temple is open from early morning to late evening and there are regular bus services to the temple from major cities in Kerala.
F. Attukal Bhagavathy Temple
Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, located in Thiruvananthapuram, is an ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Bhadrakali. It is known for its famous Attukal Pongala festival, which holds the Guinness World Record for being the largest annual gathering of women in the world.
During the festival, millions of women from different parts of the country gather at the temple to offer Pongala, a sweet dish made of rice, jaggery, and coconut, to the goddess. The entire city of Thiruvananthapuram is lit up during the festival, which usually takes place in February or March.
Apart from the festival, the temple is also known for its stunning architecture and beautiful surroundings. The main deity of the temple, Goddess Bhadrakali, is believed to be a powerful deity who can grant the wishes of her devotees.
Visitors can also explore the nearby Attukal Shopping Complex, which is known for its traditional handicrafts and souvenirs. The temple is easily accessible from the Thiruvananthapuram city center and is a must-visit for those who want to experience the rich cultural and religious heritage of Kerala.
G. Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple
Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple is an ancient temple located in the Alappuzha district of Kerala. The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and is renowned for its ‘Palpayasam’, a sweet pudding made of rice and milk, which is served as an offering to the deity.
The temple is said to have been built in the 8th century AD by the local ruler Chembakassery Pooradam Thirunal-Devanarayanan Thampuran. The temple’s main idol is Lord Krishna in the form of ‘Parthasarathy’, with four arms holding the conch, the discus, the mace, and the lotus. The temple also houses idols of other deities such as Ganesha, Devi, and Hanuman.
The temple has a beautiful architecture, featuring a gopuram (tower) at the entrance and a rectangular shaped sanctum sanctorum. The walls of the temple are adorned with beautiful murals and carvings depicting the life of Lord Krishna. The temple also has a large pond, known as ‘Anantha Sarovaram’, which is believed to have healing powers.
The temple is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Kerala and is visited by thousands of devotees every year. The temple also hosts the famous Ambalappuzha Temple Festival, which is held in the months of March and April and attracts a large number of devotees from all over the state. The festival is a grand celebration, with a procession of decorated elephants, traditional music, and dance performances.
H. Vadakkumnathan Shiva Temple
Vadakkumnathan Temple, located in Thrissur district, is one of the oldest and largest Shiva temples in Kerala. The temple dates back to over 1,000 years and is known for its impressive Koothambalam, an indoor temple theatre, and its stunning mural paintings.
The temple is also known for its unique architecture, which blends the traditional Kerala style with the Dravidian style of architecture. The temple is surrounded by a massive stone wall and has four gopurams or towers, each facing a different direction.
The main attraction of the temple is the annual Thrissur Pooram festival, which is celebrated with great pomp and show in April or May. During the festival, the temple is beautifully lit up and decorated, and a grand procession of caparisoned elephants takes place.
Visitors can also witness the daily rituals and offerings at the temple, which include the Abhishekam, the Pooja, and the deeparadhana. The temple is open to people of all religions, and visitors are required to follow the dress code and other customs of the temple.
I. Thirunelli Temple
Thirunelli Temple, also known as the “Kashi of the South,” is a beautiful temple located in the Wayanad district of Kerala. This ancient temple is situated amidst the lush green forests and hills, and its serene surroundings make it a perfect place for meditation and introspection.
The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is believed to have been constructed over 3000 years ago. It is also known for its sacred water source, Papanasini, which is believed to have the power to wash away one’s sins.
The temple has a unique architecture and is made of 30 granite columns. It is surrounded by a beautiful courtyard, and the temple’s sanctum sanctorum houses a 1.5-meter-tall idol of Lord Vishnu in a reclining position.
The temple is also famous for its annual ritual of performing the ancestral rites, also known as “Pitru Tarpanam,” where devotees pay homage to their ancestors. The temple’s serene surroundings, beautiful architecture, and spiritual significance make it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking inner peace and tranquility.
J. Thiruvanchikulam Mahadeva Temple
Thiruvanchikulam Mahadeva Temple is an ancient temple located in the town of Kodungallur in the Thrissur district of Kerala. The temple is believed to be over 2000 years old and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is famous for its exquisite architecture and is considered to be one of the most important Shiva temples in Kerala.
The main deity of the temple is Lord Shiva in the form of Mahadeva. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple is adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures, which are a testament to the excellent craftsmanship of the artisans of ancient times. The temple is also home to several other deities such as Lord Ganesha, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Murugan.
The annual festival of the temple, the Thiruvanchikulam Mahadeva Temple festival, is a major event in the region. The festival is celebrated with great pomp and show and attracts thousands of devotees from all over the state. The highlight of the festival is the procession of the temple’s presiding deity on a caparisoned elephant.
The Thiruvanchikulam Mahadeva Temple is also known for its unique practice of conducting the “Rudra Ekadasi” ritual. This ritual involves chanting the Rudram, a Vedic hymn dedicated to Lord Shiva, 11 times in a single day. The ritual is believed to have great spiritual significance and is considered to be one of the most sacred practices of the temple.
Visitors to the temple can also witness the traditional Kerala dance form of Kathakali being performed here. The temple authorities have set up a Kathakali school, where young artists are trained in this traditional art form.
K. Thiruvalla Sree Vallabha Temple
Thiruvalla Sree Vallabha Temple is one of the most popular temples in Kerala dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is located in the town of Thiruvalla in the Pathanamthitta district. The temple is believed to have been built during the 16th century and is one of the 108 Divya Desams, the holy abodes of Lord Vishnu. The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Sree Vallabha, who is seen in a standing posture, holding a conch and a discus.
The temple is known for its intricate architecture and beautiful carvings. The temple complex consists of several shrines and mandapams, including the Sreekovil, which is the main shrine of the temple. The temple also has a beautiful pond known as ‘Chuttu Vilakku’, which is lit up with thousands of oil lamps during festivals and special occasions.
Thiruvalla Sree Vallabha Temple is famous for its annual festival, which is held in the Malayalam month of Meenam (March-April). The festival lasts for ten days and attracts thousands of devotees from all over the state. The highlight of the festival is the ‘Arattu’ procession, which takes place on the last day of the festival. The deity of the temple is taken in a grand procession to the nearby river, where a ritualistic bath is performed, after which the deity is taken back to the temple.
Overall, Thiruvalla Sree Vallabha Temple is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of Kerala. The temple’s serene atmosphere, beautiful architecture, and rich history make it a popular destination for tourists and devotees alike.
L. Vaikom Mahadeva Temple
Vaikom Mahadeva Temple is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located in Vaikom, Kottayam district of Kerala. It is considered one of the oldest and most significant Shiva temples in the state, with a history dating back to the 12th century. The temple is also known for its unique architecture, which is a blend of traditional Kerala and Dravidian styles.
The temple is believed to have been built by the legendary Parasurama, who is said to have created Kerala by throwing his axe into the sea. According to the legend, Parasurama installed the idol of Lord Shiva at Vaikom, and the temple has since become an important pilgrimage center for Shiva devotees.
The main attraction of the temple is the sanctum sanctorum, which is built in the shape of a chariot. The temple is also famous for its murals and carvings, which depict various scenes from Hindu mythology. The temple hosts a number of festivals throughout the year, the most important of which is the Vaikathashtami festival, which is celebrated in the month of November or December.
Vaikom Mahadeva Temple is not only a significant religious center but also a symbol of Kerala’s rich cultural heritage. It attracts a large number of tourists and devotees from all over the world who come to experience the spiritual and architectural beauty of the temple.
M. Parassinikadavu Muthappan Temple
The Parassinikadavu Muthappan Temple is located in Kannur district, in the northern part of Kerala. It is a popular pilgrimage site for devotees of the Hindu deity Muthappan. The temple is unique in that it is open to people of all religions, castes, and creeds, and it is known for its simple and rustic charm.
The temple is situated on the banks of the Valapattanam River and is surrounded by lush greenery. The deity is represented by two stones, which are believed to have been discovered in the nearby river. The temple is known for its ritualistic Theyyam performances, which are a form of folk art unique to Kerala.
The annual Theyyam festival, held in February or March, is a major attraction for visitors. The festival involves elaborate rituals and processions, and attracts thousands of devotees and tourists from all over the world. The temple also hosts a daily feeding program for the poor, known as “Muthappan Seva.”
Overall, the Parassinikadavu Muthappan Temple is a must-visit for anyone interested in experiencing the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of Kerala.
N. Kaviyoor Mahadeva Temple
Kaviyoor Mahadeva Temple is a revered temple located in Kaviyoor, a small village in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is known for its stunning architecture and serene surroundings.
The temple is believed to be more than a thousand years old and has a rich history associated with it. It is said that the temple was once a Jain temple that was converted into a Shiva temple by the Hindu king, Cheraman Perumal. The temple is built in the traditional Kerala style of architecture and is a sight to behold with its intricate carvings and decorations.
The main deity of the temple is Lord Shiva, who is worshipped in the form of a lingam. The temple also houses several other deities, including Lord Ganesh, Goddess Parvati, and Lord Ayyappa. The temple is an important pilgrimage site for devotees of Lord Shiva and attracts a large number of visitors throughout the year.
The temple is surrounded by lush greenery and offers a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere to visitors. The Kaviyoor Mahadeva Temple is also famous for its annual festival, which is celebrated with great pomp and show. The festival, known as the Kaviyoor Mahadeva Temple Utsavam, is celebrated for ten days and attracts a large number of devotees.
Overall, the Kaviyoor Mahadeva Temple is a must-visit for anyone interested in exploring the rich spiritual and cultural heritage of Kerala. The temple is a perfect blend of history, architecture, and spirituality and is sure to leave a lasting impression on visitors.
O. Thirumanthamkunnu Bhagavathy Temple
Thirumanthamkunnu Bhagavathy Temple is one of the most popular temples in Kerala and is dedicated to the goddess Bhadrakali, who is considered to be a fierce form of Devi. The temple is located in Angadipuram, about 3 km from Perinthalmanna in Malappuram district.
The Thirumanthamkunnu Bhagavathy Temple is believed to have been built during the 11th century, and it is famous for its beautiful architecture and stunning wood carvings. The temple’s main attraction is the annual seven-day festival, which is held in February or March, and is attended by thousands of devotees from all over the country.
During the festival, the idol of the goddess Bhadrakali is taken out in a grand procession, accompanied by traditional music and dance performances. The highlight of the festival is the Thalappoli ceremony, which involves young girls carrying lit brass lamps on their heads and performing a dance in front of the deity.
The temple also has a museum that houses a collection of ancient artifacts, including rare paintings, sculptures, and old coins. The museum provides an insight into the rich cultural heritage of Kerala and its historical importance.
Visitors to the Thirumanthamkunnu Bhagavathy Temple are advised to follow the dress code and remove their footwear before entering the temple. The temple is open from early morning until late in the evening, and visitors can enjoy the peaceful ambiance and beautiful surroundings while seeking the blessings of the goddess Bhadrakali.
P. Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple
Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple is one of the most famous and sacred temples located in Kerala. It is dedicated to Nagaraja, the serpent god, and is believed to be one of the oldest and most important snake temples in the country. The temple is situated in the forest region of Haripad, and is surrounded by lush green trees and a serene atmosphere.
According to the legend, the temple was built by Parasurama, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It is believed that Parasurama worshipped Nagaraja and installed the idol of the serpent god in the temple. The temple complex consists of two main temples, namely the Mannarasala Temple and the Naga Shrine.
The Mannarasala Temple is known for its unique rituals and customs, which are centered around the worship of snakes. The temple priests perform special pujas and offerings to the serpent god, which are believed to bring good luck, prosperity, and health to the devotees. The temple also has a large number of sacred groves, which are home to a variety of snakes and other wildlife.
The Naga Shrine, on the other hand, is dedicated to the goddess of serpents, Nagayakshi. It is believed that the goddess protects the devotees from the harmful effects of snakes and blesses them with good fortune and prosperity.
Overall, the Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple is a must-visit destination for anyone who is interested in the rich cultural and religious history of Kerala. The temple’s unique customs and rituals, along with its serene surroundings, make it a truly unforgettable experience.
Q. Varkala Janardhana Swamy Temple
Varkala Janardhana Swamy Temple is an ancient Hindu temple located in the coastal town of Varkala in Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the form of Janardhana, and is one of the few temples in Kerala where Lord Vishnu is worshipped in his reclining posture. The temple is situated on the banks of the holy Papanasam beach, and is a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims alike.
The temple has a rich history dating back to several centuries, and is said to have been built by the powerful Chera dynasty. It is also believed to have been a major center of Vaishnavism in the region. The temple has undergone several renovations and restorations over the years, and today stands as a testimony to the rich cultural and religious heritage of Kerala.
The temple hosts several important festivals throughout the year, including the ten-day long annual festival in the Malayalam month of Meenam (March-April), which draws large crowds of devotees from all over the state. The temple is also famous for its stunning architecture, intricate carvings, and beautiful murals depicting various scenes from Hindu mythology.
Overall, the Varkala Janardhana Swamy Temple is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in exploring the rich spiritual and cultural heritage of Kerala. Whether you’re a devotee seeking blessings or simply a curious traveler looking to experience the unique charm of this beautiful state, a visit to this historic temple is sure to be a memorable and enriching experience.
Kerala is a state with a rich spiritual and religious history, and is home to many famous temples. The top 25 temples in Kerala showcase the various forms of deities and religious beliefs followed by the people in the state. From the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple to the Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple, each temple has its own unique significance and history.
Pilgrimage to these temples is not just a religious experience, but also a cultural and historical one, as they give insight into the state’s rich heritage. Tourists and travelers can gain a better understanding of Kerala’s traditions and practices through temple visits.
A pilgrimage to Kerala to visit its temples can be a memorable experience for spiritual seekers, as well as for travelers who are interested in the state’s history and culture. It is a wonderful opportunity to immerse oneself in the unique atmosphere and spirit of God’s Own Country.