>> Temples in Kerala - Alappuzha

Aruvakkad Devi Temple

Aruvakkad is located 8-km south of the town. The deity is Devi. A fascinating story backs up the deity. The idol has different forms such as, Saraswathi, Parvathi, Laxmi. After killing evil-force Daruka, she washed her sword in the pond of this temple. According to the ancestors, she is the sister of the Devi of Kanachikulangara and Kodungallur. The deity here is also known as Aruvakkad Amma. 10-day festival in the month of Meenam (March/April) is a great event. Thiripidutham (holding of lighted wicks) is an important ritual during the festival. In this ritual thousands participate, resulting the entire region divine lighted. Deeparadhana (praying to light) is yet another ritual. Deeparadhana is on the Chuttambalam (four sides of the outer portion of main temple). The process is lighting of thousands of oil lamps on the Chuttambalam. This is on the last day of the festival. After witnessing and praying Deeparadhana the devotees go for a dip in the temple pond and come back with wet (including cloths) and again pray for the well-being. At this point of time the Poojari (priest) gives a lighted oil lamp with which the devotee circamambulate the temple to have the blessings of Devi. Pongala is also performed as offering in Makaram (January/February). The women-alone Pongala is a great event of thousands attending. As in other temples here too have Upadevatas (sub-deities). Shiva, Subramanya, Gosala Krishna, Kodum Kali and Saraswathi bag sub-deity titles.

 

 Ambalappuzha

Ambalapuzha is 14 km south of Alappuzha town.Ambalapuzha’s fame is attributed to this temple. The 16th century-built temple is very famous in South Kerala and its prasadam (deity’s food given to devotees as a token of blessing), Palpayasam (milk kheer), more commonly known as Ambalapuzha Palpayasam is mouth-watering and very famous throughout Kerala. The deity of the temple situated on the banks of Ambalapuzha River is Sri Krishna. Ambalapuzha itself means the river of temple (ambala means temple and puzha means river). The birth of this temple is twined with fascinating stories. The Champakasseri King, Moolam Thirunal Devanarayanan, and his mentor Vilwamangalath Swamiyar while cruising in a boat in Ambalapuzha river heard music tune of a flute from the bank. They shored the boat and moved forward towards the music emanting point when they noticed a beautiful boy playing the flute sitting on a branch of a peepul tree. The religious stalwart Vishwamangalam concluded that this child is none other than divine Krishna. Both, the king and the mentor, prostrated before the child after circumambulating the tree. When they rose from the ground the child was not there. Vishwamangalm lost no time to advice the king to build a temple for Sri Krishna at the spot. A temple thus soon came up there.
There is a conflicting story behind the installed idol. The king ordered idol was not installed as the priests noticed some inaccuracies in the sculpting. Instead, an idol was borrowed from a temple and installed. This is one version. The other version is that the inaccuracies of the king orderd idol was corrected and installed the same. Let it be either way. The idol is of a smiling naughty boy. The idol was brought by a boat and the Chambakulam Boat Race in June/July is in commemoration of this. The 3 ft high idol is always seen covered in sandalwood paste.
King Devanarayanan placed his crown at the feet of Lord Krishna in this temple and dedicated his kingdom to the Lord. The last king of Devanarayanan’s dynasty placed the keys of his granary and treasury before the Lord after his defeat by Travancore.
The walls around the sanctum sanctorum are beautiful with paintings of Dasavathra (ten incarnation of Vishnu).
The main festival of the temple is the 10-day Arattu Utsavam in Meenam (March/April). Processions by several caparisoned tuskers accompanied by vadya-melams (percussion instrument musics) and performances of Velakali, a martial art form, are the main attractions. The procession ends with enchanting fireworks. During the festival devotees are offered a feast and the diners are treated with utmost honour. It is believed, Lord Krishna presents incognito to dine along with the devotees.
 

 Chakkulathukavu Bhagavathy

  Chakkulathukavu is 18 km from Ambalapuzha on the Thiruvalla Road. The temple is in Neerattupuram, near Chakkulathukavu. The deity is Devi. This temple has a peculiar ritual performed once in a year. On this day, the first Friday of Dhanu (December/January) the priests wash the feet of female devotees who have undergone 10-day fast. This system is stemmed from the belief the female devotee visiting on this particular day is the incarnation of Devi. After washing the feet flower is showered and camphor aarti is given. As a gimmick for popularity, recently the temple authorities have started inviting female VIPs on this day.
All Fridays are important here. Every Friday the female devotees bring their relatives addicted with alcohol, drug or gambling. Once they swear, touching Devi’s sword, to renounce the habit, they automatically clutch the habit, the experienced confirm.
  The elder priests here do a peculiar astrology- pronouncement based on seven betel leaves and two arecanuts brought by the devotee. The devotees stun by the accurate predictions. The priests also prescribe remedy for the ill-effects daunting the devotees.
The Pongala offering is supposedly prepared jointly by the devotees and Devi.
The Pongala is prepared by females. It is prepared in earthen pots on temporary brick stoves and deadwood pieces are used as fuel. The Pongala food is prepared by unboiled rice – either as rice kheer or as rice preparation with coconut adding no sweet agents. There will be thousands and thousands of stoves stretching out to several kilometers around the temple. The stoves are positioned in lines on either side of the roads and pathways.
  The main festival is Pongala on Thrikarthika day in Vrichikam (November/December). The Ponkala literally means food offering to the deity. There is a great fascinating story behind the Ponkala. In the dense forest the temple was created by a Vedan (a tribal) and his family. They could not prepare their food in time as they were busy in temple work. Undeterred, they prayed before the Devi, and moved out to prepare the food. When they reached the spot of food preparation, they could not believe their eyes as they found the utensils full of prepared food. They realized, the food was prepared by the worldly powerful Devi. The amazed Vedan and the family prayed deeply to save them from all evils. At this moment an incognito voice pronouncing Makkale (children) the food is prepared by me, the Amma (mother), for you; I am extremely happy with your ardent devotion to me and am extremely happy; I shall always be there with my devotees.
As a finale there is a ritual of burning of Karthika stambam (pillar). The stambam is made of dried leaves of coconut tree, banana, elanhi (a tree usually found in temple compounds) and old attires and crackers.
The Pongala festival is attended by lacs and the arrangements are elaborate

 

 Chettikulangara Bhagavathy Temple

The temple built in Kerala architecture is said to have established by Parasurama. Another version is that it was established by Padmadar, a disciple of Adi Sankara. In popularity this temple ranks 3rd in Kerala, the first and second being Sabarimala Ayyappa temple and Guruvayur Sri Krishna temple. Its giant multi-tiered kalluvilaku (stone lamp) occupies number one position in India. This stone lamp can hold 1001 wicks.
The black granite idol in the sanctum sanctorum and a small idol at its base look smiling. In the outer courtyard there are several small shrines with different deities. A pampu-kavu (snake grove), a champakam tree and a black palm in the compound are also worshipped for different reasons. The devotees believe a Yakshi (female demon) dwells on the palm tree and other evil spirits on the champakam tree. The devotees, therefore, do not go to this area during noon time when, it is believed, devils are in striking mood. Temple tuskers are also not taken to this area for fear of haunting.
In Makaram (January-February) there is a 41-day festival. The main festival, however, is Kettukazhchas in Kumbam (February/March) during which there is a ritual called Kuthiyottam (a mock enactment of human sacrifice which was prevalent in ancient times). For both the festivals a sizeable crowd gathers.

 

 Haripad Subramanya Temple

Haripad is 15 km away from Ambalapuzha. The temple built in 16th century was eaten by a fire many years later. The idol was spared by the fire. The temple was rebuilt by the Travancore king with additional shrines for some other deities in the courtyard.
This temple is very famous and attracts a good number of pilgrims. There is an interesting story surrounding the idol. A Brahmin in the village had a dream to the effect there is an idol of Subrmanya in the nearby Kandaloor lake. The Brahmin along with the village chieftain traveled criss-cross in a boat in the lake to locate the idol. Ultimately they spotted a flower scattered spot where, they guessed, is the idol. Divers searched the spot and located a four-armed idol. The idol was brought to the shore and installed it after constructing a temple. The event of bringing the idol from the lake is celebrated annually with a boat race in the Payippad River on the 4th day of Onam in Chingam (August/Septrember). The temple celebrates two festivals – Chithira festival in April and Avani festival in August/September. Both the festivals are larger crowd pullers

 

 Karthiani Temple, Aroor

Located on National Highway 47. The main deity is Karthiani. Shiva and Ganapathy are accommodated as sub-deities. It is one of the 108 Durga temples. Villwamangalam, the ancient Vedic exponent, en-route to Aroor noticed a light below a Chootha tree. He grasped it is divine and emanated from godly Devi. He lost no time to erect a temple to install an idol of Devi. Later this temple was destroyed by Dutch.
There are conflicting versions about the re-emergence of the temple. The more plausible version is that Kannamkulangara Kaimal rebuilt the temple. He requested the Devi to be there until he returns with a tender coconut. Instead of returning he committed suicide by hanging in order to retain the Devi in the present place. It is believed, Kaimal’s soul is resting in the bottom of the palm tree in the temple compound. This tree is known as Arukola Ammavan and rituals are performed here.
There is a festival prolonging to 8 days in the month of Meenam (March/April) which is attended by several thousands.

 

 Cherthala Karthiyayni Temple
This shrine is located at Cherthala, north of Alappuzha town. The presiding deity is Karthiyayani. Vishnu, Shiva, Ganapathy, Kavudayan, Nagaraja and Yakshi installed as sub-deities.
Villwamangalam Swamiyar once saw seven virgin ladies. Six of them vanished and the seventh one ran on seeing the Swqamiyar who was a great vedic exponent. Swamiyar followed her when she jumped into six ponds one after one on the way. Swamiyar was still in pursuit of her. While she was attempting to jump to the seventh pond he caught hold of her hair and pulled back and commanded in a vociferous voice to sit uttering ‘Iri Puliyadi’ (slang in Malayalam). It is she who the deity here. This is legend.
The festival is in the month of Meenam (March/April). There is a peculiar tradition of devotees carrying toddy pots and singing slang songs to appease the deity. The singing of slang songs is in approval of the uttering of Iri Puliyadi slang words by the deity’s captivator Villwamangalam during the capture process.
The six ponds to which six virgins jumped are Kalikulam, Pallikulam, Cherakulam, Pullamkulam, Kelankulam and Thrippurakulam. The seventh attempted pond is Karappankulam. All these ponds are considered auspicious.

 

MThiruvampady Srikrishna Temple

Thiruvampady is within the town limit of Alappuzha. The deity is Vishnu in the form of Srikrishna. This centuries old temple has a leading position in South Kerala.
The legend of the temple is fascinating. A Brahmin aimlessly came from far away place to Thiruvampady and took shelter under a banyan tree. While sitting he watched the children playing nearby and noticed one of them is hallow. While other boys returned home the divine boy disappeared. Realising the disappeared boy is Lord Vishnu the Brahmin started praying. Vishnu responded to his pray and appeared before him when he (Brahmin) prostrated before the feet of Vishnu and begged for his eternal presence. The Brahmin could not hold to himself what he experienced and utlimately divulged the matter to the people around who promptly erected a temple at the spot where the divine boy disappeared.
The idol is with four hands (grown up form) while in the eyes of devotees the idol is also in the form of a child.
The month of Karkidakam (July/August) is an auspicious month for temples all over Kerala. The new moon day of Karkidakom called Karkidaka Vavu in Malayalam has more importance in the t emple. Ashtami Rohini (birth day of Krishna), Vishu (Malayalam New Year), Thiruonam (first day of Onam) are celebrated with entertaining programmes and rituals.
There is days-long annual festival which ends with aarattu (divine dip) on Thiruonam day of the Vrichikam (October/November).
Balidharpanam (sacrificial ritual) is conducted. Akandanamajapam (Vedically uttering of Lord’s name) is conducted first Sunday of every Malayalam month. Akandanamajapam helps absolve all sins, it is believed.

 

 Thrikkunnapuzha Sri Dharma Sastha Temple

The main deity is Dharma Sastha. His wife and son are also there along with him. The idol of Sastha is of 21 inch height. Wife is positioned write to him and the son is positioned in between both as behind. According to archaeological experts such idols are not noticed anywhere else in the world. In the north-east of the temple compound there is a shrine for Sri Subramanya Swamy. Sub-deities too have a prominent position here. Vishnu, Ganapathy, Durga, Yakshi, Nagayakshi and Nagaraja are the sub-deities. The temple has over 5000 years of glory. This shrine is also known as Padinjare Pathinettampadi.
Offering of Balipindam (food offering to the departed soul) in the auspicious month of Karkidakam (July/August) is a great event here. Thousands of people from various parts of Kerala assemble for this ritual. To appease and extract favours from the deity a number of rituals employed. Kalakabhishekam (adorning of sandalwood paste), Appam (favourite food to the deity), Mahaganapathy Homam (bonefire homage to Ganapathy), Bhagavathy Seva (propitiation to Ganapathy), Archana (floral rituals), Panchamrutham (ritual offering of sweet mix made of 5 types of fruits and sweet ingredients) and Dhara (pouring of milk or ghee on the image of the deity) are the rituals.
A 10-day annual festival in the month of Vrishikam (October/November) is a great draw.

 

 Thuravoor Mahakshetram

Thuravoor is situated north of Alappuzha town on NH 47 and 25 kms south of Kochi. This shrine is reckoned as one of the most devout shrines in Kerala. The cardinal deity is Lord Narasimhamoorthy. With equal importance Sri Mahasudarsanamoorthy who is the manifestation of Vishnu is also represented here. Both have separate sanctum sanctorum. The four-walled temple with two attractive flagmasts is spacious but very strict in adherence of customs. The chief priest is ought to be a Brahmachary (bachelor) who is not allowed to leave the temple premises during his priesthood in the temple.
The rituals and worship of Narasimhamoorthy and Sudarsanamoorthy will please all the gods in the universe, it is believed.
Vedic rituals, religious discourses and festivals conducted here attract many people from far and near.

 

 Varanad Devi Temple

Varanad is little away from Chertala. The deity, Devi, is in a riding on Vethala posture. Shiva, Rakteshwari Devi and Kodumkali are sub-deities housed here. The temple precinct is always considered as holy. The imposing flagmast of the temple seems declaring the smoothing, curing and delivering power the Devi possesses. Such a giant flagmast is difficult to be seen elsewhere temples. The old and experienced testify that Varanad Devi has created unbelievable surprises. Incurable diseases get cured; blinds get sight; unmarried girls get married; foes turn friends – are some of the examples. The beneficiaries of Devi’s abundant power are the people from all over Kerala and beyond.
Pongala is one of the celebrations. In this ritual several hundred ladies partake.
14-day Bharani festival conducted in the month of Kumbam (February/March) is a grand affair. On the concluding day of the f estival there is a noval ritual called Garudan Thukam. To witness this ritual several thousand throng and often the crowd becomes unmanageable.
The festival commences with flag hoisting and a community feast follows it. Soon after, the deity goes out to enquire about the well-being of her wards in the surrounding villages. The wards, in return, propitiate the protector, Devi, with Nirapara (a full measure of paddy). This process continues for 13 days. On 13th day the Devi is welcomed back to her abode with procession of 11 caprisioned tuskers accompanied by percussion musics.

 

 Sree Nagaraja Temple, Mannarsala

One of the most important centre of snake worship in Kerala, temple situated 35 Km away from Alappuzha located near Haripad on the Alappuzha-Kollam route. The temple is surrounded by about 16 acres of thick green forest. The King of Serpents is the diety. On the asterism, 'Ayillam' of each Malayalam month, the 'Sarpakalam Pattu' is conducted. This ritual involves drawing the figure of the Serpent God on the floor using vegetable colours.
A two day festival is celebrated by the temple with great religious fervour. On the second day by noon, the 'Ezhunnallathu' (royal outing) ceremony is conducted when the idol of 'Nagaraja' is carried by the priests and taken round the temple in a procession. A large crowd of devotees with 'urili' (vessel) and colourful parasols participate in it. The entire jungle setting of the temple reverberates with the full throated chanting in praise of the Serpent God.

 

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