Said to be created by a warrior sage Parasurama, Kerala is indeed what they call it to be ‘The Land of Gods.’ This southernmost state is a land full of legends and tales, which also has some of the oldest temples that act as evidences of authenticity. Replete with a large number of temples that are as old as 2000 years and are mostly dedicated to state’s beloved Lord Ayyappa along with Lord Shiva and Vishnu, Kerala makes an incredible religious tourist destination in India. If you are seeking a tour in India that can greatly fill you with spiritualism and the feeling of divinity, then Kerala is the right destination to head to. Here are some of the most famous temples in Kerala that are absolutely worth paying a visit:
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Thiruvananthapuram
One of the most famous temples in Kerala, Sree Padmanbhaswamy Temple is situated in Thiruvananthapuram. Done up in Dravidian style of architecture, the temple is dedicated to Hindu God Vishnu and dates back to 8th century. This eminent shrine is situated in the East fort in Thiruvananthapuram and it is amongst those 108 Vishnu temples or Divya Desam. Undoubtedly, one of the finest specimens of Dravidian architecture, Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple is the most famous temple in Kerala. The presiding deity here is Lord Vishnu who is seen reclining on Anantha, the hooded Serpent. It is reckoned that the foundation of the temple is so old that it has been mentioned in holy Hindu sculptures like Skanda Purana and Padma Purana. Infact, the city Thiruvananthapuram have got its name from the presiding deity of this temple (Anantha).
Best Time to Visit: The Alpashy festival (October/November), Panguni festival (March/April).
Sabarimala Sastha Temple, Pathanamthitta
Probably one of the most popular temples in Kerala, Sabarimala Sastha Temple is situated near Periyar Tiger Reserve. It is also one of those places where pilgrimage is performed on a very large scale. It is believed about 50 million pilgrims visit here annually. Sabarimala is reckoned to be the place where Hindu God Ayyappan meditated after destroying demoness Mahishi. The pilgrimage performed in Sabarimala is distinct from other sacred journeys. The pilgrims to Sabarimala wear blue or black dresses, smear Chandan (sandal) on their forhead and remain unshaven until the journey comes to an end.
Note: Only men are allowed to enter the temple, women in menstruating age group are prohibited.
Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, Thiruvananthapuram
Situated at short distance of 2kms from Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Attukal Bhagavathy Temple is another famous place of worship in Kerala. The presiding deity of the shrine is Goddess Kannaki (incarnation of Goddess Parvati) who is considered the Supreme Mother, the creator of all living beings. Attukal Bhagavathy Temple has a Guinness Book of World Record for holding the single largest gathering of women for religious activities. Those who visit Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple make sure that do not miss out this another sacred place of worship in Thiruvananthapuram
Best Time to Visit: Attukal Pongal (Feb/March)
Ambalapuzha Srikrishna Temple, Ambalapuzha
Built in 17th century, Ambalapuzha Srikrishna Temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna. Devotees come here to worship the Unni Krishna (the child form of Lord Krishna). Due to a beautiful legend attached to the temple, Palpayasam is served as an offering here, which by the way is extremely scrumptious. The temple is also known for the deity that has been brought from Guruvayoor during the reign of Tipu Sultan in order to be safeguarded from the raid taking place then.
Best Time to Visit: The Amabalapuzha Temple Festival (July), The Aaraattu festival (March-April)
Chottanikkara Temple, Chottanikkara
Chottanikkara Temple is one of the most popular temples in Kerala when it comes to the architecture of the Hindu shrines. The presiding deity of this temple is Chottanikkara Devi who is worshipped in three different forms (as Saraswati in the morning; as Lakshmi at noon; draped in crimson; and as Durga in the evening) at three different times of the day. Lord Shiva is also worshipped in this temple. On the east side of Chottanikkara called ‘Keezhkkaavu’ temple, the Guruthi Pooja held every evening to invoke the Goddess is a quite a thing to witness here.
Best Time to Visit: Navrathri Aghosham (October), The Vrishchicka Mandala mahotsavam, The annual festival of the temple
Guruvayoor Srikrishna Temple, Guruvayoor
Dedicated to Lord Krishna, Guruvayoor Temple is enlisted as one of the famed temples in Kerala. The central deity is a four-armed standing Krishna carrying the conch Panchajanya, the discus Sudarshana Chakra, the mace Kaumodaki and a lotus with a Holy basil garland. Guruvayoor is many a time reckoned as the Dwarka of the South and thus one can estimate its popularity. In the premises of the temple is a tank, which according to legend was a place where Lord Shiva and his family worshipped Vishnu. Thus this pond is sacred and is often visited by devotees who come to worship at Guruvayoor Srikrishna Temple.
Best Time to Visit: Ulsavam (Feb/March), The Malyali New Year (Mid-April), Kuchela’s Day (Dec/Jan)
Ettumanoor Mahadeva Temple, Kottayam
An ancient temple, Ettumanoor Mahadeva is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This Shiva Shrine is amomgst the few Shiva temples found in Kerala that is known for its rich Dravidian architecture. Mural paintings both inside and outside of the temple are simply commendable, whereas, the frescoes Pradosha Nritham (Dance of Shiva) painted on the walls are considered to be some of the finest in South India. It is believed that famed philosopher, Adi Sankaracharya wrote ‘Soundarya Lahari’ while staying in the temple.
Best Time to Visit: Arattu Festival (Feb/March)
Tali Temple, Kozhikode
Dating back to 14th century, Tali Temple in Kozhikode is known for its exclusive architecture. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is amongst the two Brahmanical royal temples built by Zamorin. The shrine is appreciated for its perfect laterite and wood blend of architecture. The intricate brass-work on the walls of the sanctum sanctorum and brass carvings on the wooden roof indeed catches the eyes of the visitors. Tali Temple is infact one of the most popular places for tourists in Kozhikode.
Best Time to Visit: Revathi Pattathanam (Oct/Nov)
Thirunelli Temple, Wayanad Valley
An ancient Vishnu Temple, Thirunelli or Maha Vishnu Temple is quite popular amongst the Hindu devotees in South India. Many a time, this shrine is reckoned as the Kashi of South. Thirunelli Temple has also been mentioned in the Puranas and thus traces a relatively long history. If the Puranas are to be believed then Thirunelli is built by Brahma himself. What makes Thirunelli special apart from its historical importance is its location. Nestled in the valley up north from Wayanad, this shrine is a must visit in Kerala.
Vadakkunathan Temple, Thrissur
Vadakkunathan Temple is recognized as the National Monument by India under the AMASR Act. This Shiva temple is enriched with exquisite mural paintings and is believed to be the first temple built by Parasuram, the sixth incarnation of Vishnu. The monumental towers, temple’s exclusive architecture and its rich history attract a lot of devotees as well as tourists to this place. The shrine is absolutely an ideal place to soak in the spirituality and holiness.
Best Time to Visit: Maha Shivratri (Feb/March, Aug), Aanayoottu (July), Thrissur Pooram (April/May)
Kaviyoor Mahadeva Temple, Kaviyoor
Locally known as Thrikkaviyoor Mahadeva Temple, Kaviyoor Mahadeva is a sacred shrine in Kerala, where Lord Shiva, Parvati and Hanuman are the presiding deities. The temple is reckoned to be one of the oldest temples in Kerala and dates back to 10th century AD. The legend has it that Lord Rama himself installed Shivling here while he was returning to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana. Kaviyoor Mahadeva temple is perched on a hillock boasts fine Kerala style of architecture making it one of the most appealing temples in Kerala.
Best Time to Visit: The Temple Festival (Dec/Jan), Hanuman Jayanti
Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple, Mallapuzhassery
One of the Divya Desams, Aranmula Parthasarathy makes another important temple in Kerala. In the temple Lord Krishna (incarnation of Vishnu) is worshipped in the form Parthasarathy, which is another name of Krishna on account of his character as charioteer of Arjun in Mahabharat. The temple has found its fame as being one of the stops when the sacred jewels called Thiruvabharanam of Ayyappan are carried in a procession to Sabarimala annually. Also, the Thanka Anki, golden attire of Ayyappa, which were donated by King of Travancore, is safeguarded in this temple. Aranmula is also famous for the annual Snake Boat Race held in the Pamba River nearby.
Best Time to Visit: Arnamula Uttarattathi Boat Race
Sivagiri Temple, Varkala
A sacred pilgrimage centre, Sivagiri Temple is amongst the best temples to visit in Kerala. The temple enshrines the tomb of social reformer and sage Sree Narayana Guru. The Samadhi is of great importance and to such an extent that a pilgrimage is performed each year here between December 30 and January 1. The pilgrims don in yellow attire pay visit to the temple during the pilgrimage days and if the records of to be believed million of devotees throng Sivagiri each year.
Best Time to Visit: Sri Narayana Jayanthi (Aug/Sep), Samadhi day (Aug/Sep)
Vaikom Mahadeva Temple, Vaikom
One of the most revered temples in Kerala, Vaikom Mahadeva Temple is an important part of the trisome made by adding two more Shiva temples, namely, Ettumanoor Siva Temple, Kaduthuruthy Thaliyil Mahadeva. It is a common belief that that if a devotee worships at these three temples before ‘Ucha pooja’, all his wishes come true. Vaikom Mahadeva is also one of the few temples that is visited by both Vaishnavite and Shaivaite cult of Hindus. The presiding Shivling here is believed to have been established in the Treta Yuga and is believed to one of the oldest ones in Kerala.
Best Time to Visit: Vaikom Ashthami (Nov/Dec)
Mannarasala Nagaraja Temple, Haripad
Probably one of the most known Serpent God temples in Kerala, Mannarasala Nagaraja is one of its kinds. It is possibly the largest Serpent God temple in the state and is nestled in a forest area. It is believed that infertile women come to this temple to worship and each of them has been graced with the blessings of Serpent gods. Those women who bore child after performing oblation here also return to pay gratitude. About 30,000 images of snakes along the paths and among the trees are found in Mannarasala Nagaraja and devotees with their wishes fulfilled bring new images of snakes as an offering.
Best Time to Visit: Mannarsala Aayilyam (Oct/Nov)
Sree Parassinikadavu Muthappan Temple, Parassinikadavu
Also known as Muthappan Temple, it is a temple that set itself apart from other shrines in Kerala by its unique rituals. The temple situated on the bank of Valapattanam River does not follow the Satvic Brahminical form of worship. Infact, this holy temple adopted a ritual enactment of both the characters of Muthappan, through a traditional dance known as Muthappan Theyyam. This ritual is practiced two times (Morning and Evening) daily. Also, the offering made to deity is not a regular one; instead fish, meat and toddy are set for oblation.
Best Time to Visit: Muthappan Thiruvoppana Mahothsavam (Feb/March), Puthari Thiruvappana festival (Dec/Jan)
Lokanarkavu Temple, Villiappally
Built by Aryans Vaishnav Brahmins, Lokanarkavu Temple is a complex which comprises of three temples dedicated to Durga, Shiva and Vishnu. The shrine is often referred in ballads of North Kerala as the legendary martial hero Thacholi Othenan (Aryan Vaishnav Brahmin sect) was a devotee of Durga. It is believed that the Aryan Nagriks considered Durga as their family goddess as she had walked with them to Loknarkavu.
Best Time to Visit: Pooram Festival (April)
Thiruvalla Temple, Thiruvalla
Amongst the biggest temples in Kerala, Thiruvalla Temple is a highly orthodox temple. Known for its architectural grandeur, the temple is dedicated to Purusha as Lord Sreevallabhan. The shrine is also one of the Divya Desams and boasts exquisite stone-wooden carvings and fine mural paintings inside the temple. Kathakali is staged in the temple each day and the shrine is considered to have been the biggest educational institutions in ancient time, which largely contributed to the cultural and educational developments of Kerala.
Best Time to Visit: Thiru Uthsavam (Feb/March), Uthira Sreebali (March/April)
Thiruvanchikulam Shiva Temple, Kodungalloor
Believed to be the only Shiva Thiruppathy in Kerala, this shrine is an important part of Kerala religious tourism. Apart from holding a sacred importance, the temple is a fine example of Kerala architecture. It has some of the finest mural painting which are also recognized and protected by Archaeological Survey of India. The temple is also said to be some 2000 years old and is also believed to be a place where Lord Shiva resided with his entire family. Thus this shrine holds great importance for the Shaivaite cult who is often seeing thronging the temple frequently.
Best Time to Visit: Thiruvanchikulam Festival (Feb/Mar), Shivratri (Feb/Mar)
Pazhavangadi Ganapathy Temple, Thiruvananthapuram
The temple is the part of East Fort, which situated in the heart of the city of Trivandrum. It is a famed Ganpati temple in Kerala with about 32 sculptures of Lord Ganesha in different forms. The temple was once an important place of worship in Kerala for the Travancore Army. Today, devotees throng this temple to seek the blessing of Lord Ganesha before beginning anything new. Breaking of coconut and offering modakam are the ways devotees show gratitude to this Lord Ganesha presiding in this temple.
Best Time to Visit: Vinayaka Chathurththy and Thiruvonam (Aug)
Kottarakkara Ganapathy Temple, Kottarakkara
A Shiva temple interestingly named after Lord Ganesha, Kottarakkara Ganapathy Temple is yet another must visit temple in Kerala. According to a legend, legendary Uliyannor Perumthachan chiseled a sculpture of Ganapti outside a temple while listening to Mantras. When Uliyannor requested the priest of the temple to enshrine the Ganpati sculpture in the temple, he received refusal. Thus, Uliyannor went to another Shiva temple called Kizhakkekkara Siva temple and requested the priest to enshrine the Ganpati idol, to which the priest agreed. The idol was installed here and now is worshipped by many devotees who come here to worship the presiding deity of Lord Shiva.
Best Time to Visit: Vinayaka Chathurthy (Aug/Sep), Ayilyam-Makam
Pandalam Ayyappa Temple, Pandalam
An important Ayyappa Temple, Pandalam Ayyappa or Valiyakoikal Temple is situated close to the Pandalam fort. The legend has it that Lord Ayyappa had his human sojourn as the son of the king in Pandalam. So, when Lord Ayyappa departed to Sabarimala, the king Rajasekhara was overcome by grief. Having received instruction by the Lord, Rajasekhara built a small temple modeled on the Sabarimala Temple. Today, Pandalam is the place from where the famed Thiruvabharana procession starts that ends at Sabarimala Temple.
Best Time to Visit: Makaravilakku festival and Thiruvabharana procession
Chengannur Mahadeva Temple, Chengannur
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Chengannur Mahadeva Temple is amongs the oldest and famous shrines in Kerala. It is a temple complex that has two presiding deities as Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Unlike other temples, there are two main shrines in this temple. In 18th century, the temple was suffered a major fire incident in which many of its murals and artwork were lost. The renovated temple has some fragments of the previous artistic work and the mukhamandapam in front of the temple and other mandapams in this temple gives a fair idea of the then exquisite woodwork.
Best Time to Visit: Thripootha Arattu Festival
Malayalappuzha Temple, Malayalapuzha
A 1000 year old Bhadrakali Temple, Malayalappuzha Temple is amongst famous pilgrims centre in Kerala. People come to this temple with a belief that their wishes will come true; therefore the temple remains swarmed by devotees that visit from all parts of the country. The architecture of the temple is also worth paying attention to, the shrine has some of the finest stone carving and wall paintings to cherish.
Nilakkal Mahadeva Temple, Perunad
Nilakkal is a famous Temple that is situated on the way to Sabarimala Temple. The shrine is said to have been situated in the 18-hilled garden of Lord Ayyappa. The presiding deity her is Lord Shiva who is regareded as Ayyappa, a manifestation of Lord Muruga. Nilakkal temple is one of the halting places for the pilgrims of Sabarimala during the Thiruvabharana procession.