Hinduism, Islam and Christianity are three major faiths that flourish in Kerala. Followers of Jainism and Buddhism are but few here. While Hindu temples abound in this region, there are quite a few Churches and Mosques that serve the religious needs of their respective communities.
Again, given the multitude of Hindu Gods, the choice of religious destinations is driven by purpose or popularity and the time at hand. Churches and Mosques are but few and can be covered during the trip if planned ahead.
Let’s take a look at some of the famous religious sites that warrant a visit, especially when on a pilgrimage.
1. Guruvayoor Temple
Dedicated to Lord Krishna, this temple is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus. The main deity here is Guruvayoorappan, and he is housed in the inner sanctum “SreeKovil”. The inner walls house several murals, carvings and paintings. The ornate pillar of lamps sporting 13 tiers of receptacles (Deepasthambam) stands 7 metres tall and makes a spectacular visual when lamps are lit. The majestic gold plated flag post (Dwajasthambam) measuring 33.5 metres in height welcomes worshippers as they enter the outer courtyard. The temple has a fleet of 65 elephants maintained at Anakotta close to the temple. Admission though is restricted to Hindus.
When in Thrissur, travellers can also visit the Vadakkunathan Temple, Thiruvambadi Sri Krishna Temple, Bhagavathy temple at Paramekkavu , the Sri Rama temple at Thiripayar and several other temples in the neighbourhood.
2. Dolors Basilica
Thrissur is also home to one of tallest and most imposing churches in Asia – Basilica of our Lady of Dolours based on Gothic Architecture. Tall beautiful towers, a chapel with 15 altars, and the 8 musical bells from Germany are architectural highlights of this church dedicated to Mother Mary.
Lourdes Cathedral, Martha Mariam Church (built in 105 AD) in Kuruvilangad and the St. Thomas Forane Church at Palayoor, Niranam Valiyapalli and 1000-year old Bharananganam church in Kottayam are but a few other important churches in Kerala.
3. Cheraman Juma Masjid
This mosque in Kodungallur reportedly is the first one built in India (629 AD), and second in the entire world! The external structure resembles that of a temple. Surprisingly this is an east-facing mosque with a large bronze oil lamp lit inside the prayer hall, and priests also use incense inside the mausoleum. People from different faiths offer oil or monetary donations to keep the lamp lit during special occasions!
4. Beema Palli
Beema Palli consecrated in the name of a pious Islam follower Bee Umma is sacred place of worship located in Thiruvananthapuram. The lady was believed to be blessed with spiritual powers. Annual Urz celebrations here draw several pilgrims on a regular basis.
5. Anantha Padmaswamy Temple
Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, this temple is a landmark site for pilgrimage being one among the 108 Divyadesams or Kshetras of Vishnu. The main deity is sculpted in a reclining position over Adi –sesha, the serpent. The imposing and beautiful 100-foot Gopuram at the entrance commands respect and awe. Strict dress codes must be observed – men must wear dhothis (no clothes above the waist) and women must be clad in sarees. Entry is restricted to Hindus. Casual Tourists get to admire the intricately sculptured Gopura without entering the premises.
The Attukal Bhagavathy temple close to the Padmaswamy Temple is an integral part of the trip to this Vishnu Kshetra. The Bhagavathy temple is also popularly known as the Sabarimala for women. The Pongal festival during February-March here is bound to draw record number of (nearly over a million) women (also featured in the Guinness World Records). Plan your trip suitably!
6. ChottaniKara Bhagavathy Temple
This is a divine abode that cures all mental ailments. The divine mother, Adi Parasakthi is worshipped in three forms during the day – as Saraswathi in the morning, Lakshmi at noon and Durga in the evening. The main sanctum houses idols of several deities on the same pedestal – Lakshmi, Narayana, Shiva, Brahma, Ganesha, Subramanya and Sastha. This temple complex also houses separate shrines for other gods as well. It is important for those visiting this temple to be prepared to come face to face with people in different mental states.
Kalady (birthplace of Adi Sankara), Vaikom Mahadeva Temple, Thirunelly Temple (off Wayanad), The Mattanchery Synagogue and Matha Amrithanandamayi Ashram also make great additions to the travel itinerary. There’s no dearth of religious sites in Kerala. Take time to plan your holiday to visit the ones you prefer or simply opt for a suitable Pilgrimage Kerala Tour Package with a reputed tour operator. Custom tours can also be arranged.