With beautiful lakes and rivers, sprawling hills, scenic locations, lush greenery filled with coconut plantations, Kerala is really a tourist’s paradise. No wonder, it is called as ‘God’s Own Country’. In a way, this attribute also fits so well with the state as it has many magnificent and ancient temples which are not only splendid in terms of their history, mythology and beauty but also because all these temples are administered in traditional manner with emphasis on ancient rituals and ceremonies. Thus, a visit to these temples is a must when one is in Kerala. Though there are thousands or more temples in Kerala, here are the ten most renowned and most visited temples in the state.
1. Sabarimala Temple
A mention of Kerala, and one of the first images that come to mind is the Sabarimala temple, located on a hill amidst dense forests. Dedicated to Lord Ayyappan, the son of Lord Shiva and Mohini, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Sabarimala temple, located in the Western Ghats in the district of Pathanamthitta is visited by millions of devotees from all walks of life. To reach the temple, a long trek is essential and only male devotees are allowed to enter. Women under the age of 10 and over the age of 50 can visit though.
2. Guruvayoor Temple
Renowned as the Dwarka of the South, The Guruvayoor temple, in Guruvayoor in Kerala, is one of the most popular temples in the state. It is dedicated to Lord Krishna and sees lakhs of visitors daily. The number increases during the temple festivals and during Vishu, the New Year of Kerala, in April. Mid-April, February or March, and December or January are the times the temple is seen in glorious form and has devotees even from abroad coming to the temple to offer their prayers.
3. Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple
Located in Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital, Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple is one of the most famous temples not only in Kerala but all over the country. It shot to limelight after some of the vaults that contained treasures dating back centuries ago were opened a couple of years ago. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is listed among the best Vishnu temples in the world. The idol of the Lord is seen reclining on the eight-hooded serpent God Anantha, and can be seen in three parts through three windows only. The temple is built in Dravidian architectural style and is said to belong to the 8th century, with the 100-feet tall gopuram, stone carvings and murals being the main attractions. The months of March/April and October/November are the best time to visit as temple festivals are held during the period.
4. Attukal Bhagavathy Temple
Dedicated to Goddess Kannaki, an incarnation of Goddess Parvati, in Thiruvananthapuram, the Attukal Bhagavathy temple is famous all over the world for its annual Attukal Pongala Festival. Many foreigners also come here every year for this festival. It is held for 10 days during which millions of women from different parts of the world participate. The festival, held either in February or March, has also found an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest ever congregation of women for a religious purpose. During the festival, women cook pongala or a sweet dish made from rice, coconut, ghee and jaggery in make-shift fire places around the temple. The temple is situated close to the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
5. Mannarshala Nagaraja Temple
It is one of its kind temples in India dedicated to serpent Gods. The Mannarshala Nagaraja temple is situated in Harippad in Kerala and is spread around huge acres with many sacred grooves. The temple is thus built to facilitate the movement and life of serpents. There are around 30,000 or more images of snake Gods around the temple. One of the famous rituals here is the ‘Uruli Kamizhthal’ or ‘placing a vessel’ which is a pooja done by childless couples. Those who are blessed with an offspring after the pooja return to the temple and carry out further poojas and offer snake images of silver or gold as a thanksgiving. The annual temple festival is the Mannarshala Aayilam which is attended by millions of devotees. It is held either in October or November.
6. Ettumanoor Mahadeva Temple
Located in Kottayam, the Ettumanoor Mahadeva temple is also one of the oldest temples in the country. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva or Mahadeva and is also renowned for its unique Dravidian architecture. The temple is believed to have been built centuries ago and its renovation work was done in the 16th century. There are mural paintings on the exterior as well as interior portions of the temple. The annual temple festival held during February or March is the best time to visit during which devotees can witness many traditional rituals that is a unique experiences in itself.
7. Ambalapuzha Srikrishna Temple
Located in Ambalapuzha town, Srikrishna temple is dedicated to lord Krishna who is worshipped in his child form. The temple is believed to have been built in the 17th century and the prasadam or offering, made from milk, sugar and rice is very famous for its unique taste. The annual temple festival known as the Ambalapuzha temple festival, held during July and the Aarattu Festival during March or April is the best time to visit the temple.
8. Chottanikkara Devi Temple
The main feature of Chottanikkara Devi temple is the three main ways in which the presiding Goddess is worshiped. She is worshiped as Goddess Saraswati in the morning, as Goddess Lakshmi in the afternoon and as Goddess Durga in the evening. There is a belief that those who suffer from mental illnesses are cured here. October and during the annual festival, the temple is visited by thousands of devotees.
9. Vaikom Mahadeva Temple
Situated in Kottayam in Kerala, the Vaikom Mahadeva temple is dedicated to Lord Mahadeva or Shiva and is built in the Keralan style of architecture. Known as the ‘Kashi of the South’, the temple is one of the ancient temples in the state and finds mention in many ancient texts. During November or December, the annual temple festival is held which is a great time to see the temple in its splendid glory.
10. Vadakkunathan Temple
Located in the cultural capital of the state, Thrissur, it is also one of the oldest temples in the country and has a beautiful architecture. It is believed that Vadakkunathan temple was built by Sage Parashuram, who was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Though a Shiva temple, Lord Rama and Lord Vishnu are also worshiped here. The world famous Thrissur Pooram, the temple festival held here during April or May is a spectacular sight, as decorated elephants, colourful umbrellas, beating of traditional drums and cheerful cries of millions of devotees transform the whole atmosphere into a divine setting.
All the temples in Kerala can be visited all throughout the year but annual temple festivals are held at specific times of the year in the temples, which is a great time to visit as the temple is not only decorated in all its glory, but visitors will also get to witness age-old traditional rituals here. Most of the Kerala temples are closed in the afternoon and many temples also have ‘annadanam’ or ‘donation of food’ and visitors can eat at the temple halls built for the purpose.