Kerala is very famous for its pilgrimage options. Most of the religious sites are deep-rooted with shades of strong myths, legends and many do have long historical tales of more than 1000 years to tell.
Finding a temple, church or mosque is not a difficult thing, as its almost present in every nook and corner. Some of the popular options are listed below
Sabarimala (in Pathanamthitta) - Hindu holy site. is very famous for its diety Lord Dharmasastha or Ayyappan as commonly called, believed to son of Lord Shiva and Vishnu. The saintly god, is always in meditation, believed to give darshan only for 41 days in a year starting from 1st of Malayalam Month of Vrishickam (16 or 17th of Nov) till last week of December, which is known as Mandalam Pilgrimage. Mandalam Pilgrimage is reported to 2nd largest pilgrimage in the world, with nearly 300 million devotees from all over world reaching here. The appearance of celestial flame in skies on Makara Jyothi day (Mostly on mid of Jan), is one of the most auspicious day, though pulls one of the most heaviest crowd for a glimpse of this mysterious celestial appearance. This is one of the most crowded places in India during the pilgrimage season from November to January. Also, temple authorities do not allow women into the temple grounds, supposedly to avoid tempting the deity, as being the lord considered as a chronic bachelor. The temple is open only on 41 days during Mandalam (Pilgrimage) Season as well as on 1st day of each Malayalam Month. Ideally male tourists can choose the second option, as best time to visit. Ladies above 60 and girls below 12 are permitted in. The temple is well known for its secularist values. A visit to nearby mosque (Vavar Palli), considered to be tomb of Muslim warrior Vavar, believed to Lord Ayyappa's friend, is a must before entering the main temple.
The Temple is located on a hill top known as Sannidhanam (Sacred Abode) surrounded by 7 major hill ranges and 7 minor ranges. Vehicles has to be parked at Nilakkal parking grounds and all pilgrims must trek 4.5 km pilgrim trail route to the Sannidhanam. The temple is located on a raised platform, above 18 golden steps, each believed highly sacred. Certain rituals have to be followed before visiting the shrine, which could be consulted with any local priest in any neighbourhood temples. All pilgrims must take vows (Vritham) for 41 days, by abstaining from all worldly pleasures such as wine, sex, beauty etc and adopt ascetic lifestyle during the period.
Guruvayoor - the Sree Krishna temple here is one of the most important pilgrimage centres in India. One of the 108 Maha Vishnu temples of India, this temple is believed to constructed by Deva Guru (Guru of Gods) as well as Lord Vayu Deva (God of winds) on orders of Lord Krishna, during his death time. The temple do have the deity worshiped by Lord Krishna during his lifetime in Dwaraka (Gujarat) and brought to Kerala, after Dwaraka was taken over by seas. One of the most sacred temples, its extremely famous for its murals and sculptures. Non-Hindus are not allowed inside and foreign tourists, who are Hindus, must show certificate of Hinduism (if converted) to enter inside. However a visit to this temple town is really worthy, to see the grandeur of the temple. The lord of Guruvayur is believed to be the owner of Largest number of Domesticated Elephants in the world, having more than 65 elephants in its stables. A visit to Punathur Kotta (Elephant Fort), is a must for any tourist, to get awestruck seeing the luxurious lifestyle of these elephants in a large Palace courtyard, exclusively for them. The best time is to visit during Monsoon season, when the elephants gets one month long Ayurvedic treatments and pleasure massages, something really amazing for most of the tourists. The temple is also famous for its arts. Every evenings, a special dance unique to the temple, called Krishnanattom (Dance of Krishna) stages outside the temple. The Elephant race held prior to Temple festival, is also an interesting sport for any tourists.
Sree Padmanabha Temple (Trivandrum):- is a popular sacred temple, located in the heart of the city. The city of Thiruvanathapuram gots its name from the Temple and one of the 108 Great Vishnu temples. The Lord, Sree Padmanabha is an unique form of Lord Vishnu, in a sleeping posture which is rarely seen else. This temple holds a very important position in Kerala History, as the Lord Sree Padmanabha was crowned as Emperor of Travancore in 17th century and all the later rulers of Travancore ruled the state in his name and with designation as Sree Padmanabhadasa(servant of lord padmanabha). Thus regality is spread in every air of the temple. This temple belongs to Travancore Royal Family. Its very famous its 108 beautiful craved sculptures pillar, other sculptures, murals, stone works etc. The Royal Crown of Travancore is also preserved inside this temple, though its off-the-limits to public. The Temple is guarded by Palace Guards of Travancore and do have many unique customs and codes, which must be rigoursly followed inside temple, considering the Regal status of the Lord. Non-Hindus are strictly not allowed inside temples. Dress code is very strict. Ladies has to wear Mundu-Neriyathu or Sari and gents have to wear Mundu without shirt. No Camera, baggage, mobiles etc allowed inside. The Travancore Maharaja and his family visits the temple everyday from 8:00 am to 8:45 am, and during his visit, the no body else is allowed inside.
The 2 Royal Arrattus and Navarathiri are main festivals of the temple and its worth to see the festivities.
Ettumanoor-Vaikom-Kaduthurthy Temple:- The Trio Temples located at Ettumanoor, Vaikom, Kaduthurthy temples (all located in same road with a distance of 20 to 30 Kms between each), located in Kottayam district, are popular Shiva temples. Believed established all on same day, its sacred to visit all the temples within a Day. Very famous for its large super imposing structures at Vaikom and Ettumanoor Templs. Ettumanoor Temple is also well known for its Seven and a Half Golden Elephants (Idols) which is taken out during festival. Vaikom Shiva Temple was one the major site of Kerala renaissance movements, where first major protests against untouchability and casteism in Hinduism was organized. Mahatma Gandhi visited this place, as a solidarity for the Vaikom Satyagarh, which finally resulted in opening up of temples for all castes and creed.
Kodungallor Temple- Kodungallor in Thrissur District in NH 17, is a very famous Devi temple, that highlights the historical relations between Ancient Tamil Empires of Chera, Cholas and Pandyas. This temple is believed to have Kannakki (Heroine of Ancient Tamil epic-Silappadikaram) in a fiery form, after destroying Madurai. The temple was built in 1st century AD by Chera Emperors. Hence, many unique ancient tamil customs still followed in this temple. The Goddess is believed to be Goddess of Epidemic and worship helps to control it. The sacred red turmeric of the temple is said to be highly effective against diseases like chicken pox etc.
Kodungallor was one of the oldest ports in the world, known in Greek as Muziris, which was described by Roman Emperor Caesar as Land where silk forms road and milk & honey flowing on it. It was the capital of Chera Emperors, untill its partition in 7th century AD.
Thiruvanchikulam Shiva Temple:- Near Kodungallor Temple. This is one of the most ancient Shiva temples of the country, believed to established during 4th BC by the Villuvar Chera Tribe, much before their accession as Chera Emperors. The speciality of this Shiva temple is that, its the only temple in South India, where Lord Shiva and Goddess Paravati along with their full family reside inside one sanatorium. Due to this form, this temple is famous for couples and marriages. The entire temple was designed as a Palace for the Lord, with Rest Rooms for Shiva and Parvathi, Bed rooms, Guard Rooms etc, which itself is very unique. The temple has largest number of Sub-Idols to worship (around 21) and a tank with waters from Ganges drawn to it was also established. This temple shares a unique relation with Chidambharam in Tamil Nadu and formed basis of the latter. Built in Tamil style, this was re-modified in Kerala style after its destruction during Chera-Chola war. The Capital city of Imperial Cheras referred as Mahodayapuram, was located here and archeological excavations going one, to find traces of the lost Chera Capital city.
Choothanikara Devi Temple:- 20 Kms from Kochi City, a very famous Devi Temple, believed to have 3 forms of the Goddess in 3 phases of day. Famous during Navarathiri time
Mannarasala -Nagaraja Temple located in Haripad near Alleppy. The most famous Snake temple in Kerala. This is believed to be capital of Snake God- the Vasuki (Naga Raja) and his consorts- Naga Yakshi (Snake Ghostess) as well as Naga Rani (Snake Queen) along with a huge battalion of Snake army. Naga aradhana(worship of snakes) is very unique to Kerala's culture, as its believed Kerala is derived out of Naga Empire and most of the people do worship snakes as a Thanksgiving for lending their land for humans to live. Snakes are believed to keep the vision of eyes as well as preserving fertility of humans. Hence they are worshiped for bestowing children as well as curing blindness. Manarsala temple is a wonderful place, built within a natural forest with trees and creepers covering the area, where snakes live. The only temple, where its a lady priest who worships and do rituals. A special ceremony, by which an Uruli (a brass open vessel used for cooking) is turn up-side down before the sanatorium, to seek bestowing children by childless couples. Its believed that they get conceived within 21 days of time.
Ambalapuzha Sree Krishna Temple:- 20 Kms from Alleppy, is a celebrated Krishna temple. The main diety Lord Krishna is in a Baby form, so very important for children and babies to worship. The baby Krishna is believed to be naughty, so no offerings will be returned back, unlike other Krishna temples. Very famous for its extremely distinctive Paal-Payasam (A sweet Milk dessert made out of Rice with Jaggery in Milk) which has a very unique taste due to an extremely guarded secret recipe and specialty of the Kitchen where its made. Its believed the same cooks, cannot reproduce the same taste using same ingredients, anywhere, due to special blessing given by Lord to his favourite Kitchen. Must try if you are somewhere near to this temple. Everyday exactly at 12:00 Noon, this payasam shall be distributed. Only those who have prior booking, get from temple, though you can get it from the stall just outside the temple.
Lokanarkavu Temple- Perithalmana, Malapuram - very famous temple in Malabar side, having associated with famous Kerala Ballards (Vakkum Pattu), is associated with heroic deeds of Thacholi Family (A knight family during Feudal era).The goddess Durga here, is believed to sit in a War form, eagerly waiting to cry for battle. Numerous of myths and stories exist with the temple.
Thirunavaya Banks:- is a large river bank on shores of River Nila. This river bank hold stories of Biggest Hindu Festival of south India- Mamankam (similar to Kumbh Mela of North), which got extinct in 18th century after annexation of Malabar by British. However the heroic deeds of Malabar soldiers against traditional Suicide squad of Valluvanad and related historical tales, still remain fresh in its air. Due to the tradition of war on its river bank, today its a major place for Post-Death rituals for Hindus as well as for immersing ashes after cremation. Thirunavaya has the only 2nd Brahma Temple in India, after Pushkar in Rajasthan.
Sree Parassinikadu Muttappan Temple- Kannur, is an extremely unique temple to whole of India, where there is NO IDOL to worship, rather a Ritualistic art-form (Muttappan theyam) to worship. The temple is built in concept of Eternal Unity and Universal worship, do have many legends. The Muttappan is believed to be a form of Lord Shiva, in a Non-Brahmincal form, thus making it a general mass figure. Here regular performances of Theyyam is considered sacred and many unique customs are followed.
Kalady - birthplace of Sri Adi Sankara, pioneering Advaita philosopher and place with numerous ashrams and a big Sharada Devi temple.
Subrahmanya Swamy Temple [haripad]link title - This is the oldest and most important of all Subrahmanya temples in Kerala. One of the most prestigious centres of pilgrimage in South India. And an evidence of the excellence of Southern architecture. Subrahmanya Swamy temple is situated at haripad. The image of the deity with four arms is also the biggest of the kind. It is believed to have been originally worshipped by Parashurama.In 1921 A.D a fire destroyed the temple. It was rebuilt with the anakottil (elephants hed), kuttambalam, a big tank etc. Several annual festivals are celebrated in this temple the Avani Utsavam in Chingom (August- September), Markazhi Utsavam in Dhanu (November- December), Chitra Utsavam in Medom (April-May), Kartika in Vrischikam (November- December) and Taipuyam (January- February). Kavadiyattam dance with Kavadi is the most important offering here. Kavadi is a bow-shaped wooden structure decorated with tapestry and peacock feathers carried on the shoulders of pilgrims as an offering to God Subrahmanya.
Kerala was one of the first places where Christianity reached, much before it spread elsewhere, including Europe. St.Thomas, the Apostle; came to Kerala in 52 AD to spread the message of Christian and thus established the roots of Christianity in Kerala. The first set of Christian immigrants from Syria who was tormented by the Jews and Romans, reached Kerala soon after demise of St.Thomas and became part of Malayalee culture. They are known as Nasarani (one who follows the Nazareth - the Christ). This lead to formation of Syrian Christianity in Kerala, which is one of the strongholds of Syrian Orthodox Church in the world. Coupled with European colonization and spread of European Missionaries, brought Catholicism to Kerala alone. The Portuguese spread the Latin Catholicism which is more popular than Roman Catholicism came much later. Today Kerala has one of the most native and unique Christianity strongly merged into Malayalee culture and formed its own distinctive trademark across the world. Kerala is one of the few places in the world, where one can find very large number of churches. Almost a chapel or church is bound to see at every 100 m.
Some of the prominent churches are the follwing:
Seven and Half Churches- Ezharapallikal:- St Thomas the Apostle, after landing at Kodungallur in AD 52, established seven and half churches for Christian communities. These churches are known as Seven and Half Churches or Ezharappallikal.
The seven churches are located in different parts of Kerala. The church established at Thiruvithamkode (Thiruvamkode) in Kanyakumari district of Tamilnadu is accorded the status of a half church.
Maliankara- (Kodungallur - Azhikode), 40 km from Trichur: Diocese of Irinjalakuda
Palayoor (Near Chavakkadu & Guruvayoor), 28 km from Trichur: (Arch) Diocese of Trichur
Kottakavu (North Paravur): (Arch) Diocese of Ernakulam - Angamaly
Kokkamangalam (Alappuzha Dt, 5 km from Cherthala) St Thomas Church, This is also headquarters of Archdiocese of Ernakulam - Angamaly
Niranam, Nr Thiruvalla: St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Church, Niranam (Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church)
Kollam: The Headquarters of Diocese of Kollam
Chayal (Nilackal), Nr Sabarimala, Pathanamthitta Dt: Ecumenical Church, Kerala
Malayattoor Mountain Top church; is an important Christanity pilgrimage center near Angamaly. It is believed that St. Thomas held his first sole prayer at this spot after being attacked by some tribes when he landed in Kerala. Due to his meditation, the rock where he sat starts bleeds and a golden cross appeared. Due to this belief, a pilgrimage is considered one of the most holiest among Indian Christians. The most important pilgrimage season is 11 days before Easter, when hundreds of thousands of devotees climb the rocky mountain by foot, with a heavy cross on back, recreating the painful Last Journey of Christ. A kiss on the holy rock is considered as most divine moment. The hilltop church is located 10 km away from the town of kalady.
St Mary's Church, Kudamaloor, St. Mary's church Kudamaloor is one of the ancient churches of the Syro-Malabar Rite. It is a famous Marian pilgrim center and is situated 7 km north of Kottayam town.
The Synod of Diamper:- Udayamperoor- 19 Kms from Kochi city; is a historic church that made Kerala Syrian Christians to declare the affirmity and to the Roman Catholic Church. The Chruch of Diamper (Latin name of Udayamperoor) is the place, where Christians formally renounced their Syriac rites and adopted Latin Rites on Catholic Church formats.
St.Mary's Forane Church- Kuravilangadu, 22 Kms from Kottayam; One of the oldest churches of Kerala is the St Mary’s Church Kuravilangadu, which was supposed to have been established in 105 A. D. It is believed that Mother Mary's first appearance in the world, was in Kuravilangad. Our Lady appeared to a few children at Kuravilangad, who were tending their flock in the bushes. Mary asked them to build a church at the place from where a miraculous perpetual spring sprouted, a spring which exists even today. The children reported this matter to the elders and a church was built there. The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary kept at the side altar is unique. It is carved from granite and it is believed that it was brought from North India. This is a miraculous statue and the devotees call this statue "Kuravilangad Muthiyamma". The granite cross in a single block of 48 feet in front of the church was erected around 1597. The devotes offer coconut oil in the lamps at the foot of the cross. On first Fridays devotees stand in queue from early morning to late in the evening to offer oil. There is an ancient bell with the engraving in Syriac "Mother of God". Three bells were brought from Germany in 1911. There is a "perpetual" spring, believed to be miraculous. Moonnu Nompu" is the main feast of the church.
Kadamattom Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, 35 Kms from Kochi; is a very famous Church, built in 6th century AD. The church is famous for its rare combination of Indo-Persian architecture coupled with Kerala Hindu style decors and mandapams. The Church is its origins from a Hindu Brahmin family who converted to Christianity, yet maintained their Hindu tantric beliefs and practices. Thus many of its customs are mixture of Christianity and Hinduism. The Church is extremely famous for its legendary Kadamattom Kattanar (Priest) who lived in 10th century AD here, following Hindu Tantric practices to cure those who possessed as well as quell ghosts and spirits. Many Hindu temples were established by the Kadamattom Kattanar nearby, highlighting the level of harmony between Christianity and Hinduism in Kerala. Even today, people irrespective of religions, visit the shrine to seek blessings of the Kattanar. The Holy cross of St.Thomas kept here, was gifted by St.Thomas to an Assyrian King before coming to Kerala, which was brought by first Immigrants from Syria after the fall of Babylon.
There are numerous of other historic churches across Kerala. Check with the Locals to identify some of the best Churches to visit. Kottayam, particularly Pala is extremely famous of Churches. Numerous of Churches dots elsewhere. Kerala has many world-famous Cathedrals, Basilicas, which are primary religious places, though the above are some of best for tourist visit due to its Historic reasons.
Kerala's trading relations with West Asia, has brought Islam to its shores, soon after its formation in Arabia, thro' Arab Traders. Its believed Islam reached Kerala in 600 AD, during lifetime of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). Islam entered Kerala with an official fanfare and patronage from the ruling Hindu Chera Emperor and ever since that, Islam became one of the most popular religions in the state. Unlike other parts of India, Kerala Muslims are mainly formed due to its descendency from Arabs thro' inter-religion marriages between leading Hindu Nair Families, thus are called Mappillas (meaning- Son-in-laws). Unlike other parts of India, Muslims are given high profile rankings in Kerala society by ruling Hindu Rajas and most of them are placed as close companions of ruling elite. This made majority of Kerala Muslims highly forward class of people, unlike their counterparts in India. Most of Muslims are highly educated and placed at very important positions. Kerala's Islam is slightly different from Islam from other parts of South Asia, as Kerala follows Shafi'i School, rather than highly conservative Hanafi school elsewhere.
Due to higher status of Muslims in society, particularly many holding prominent positions in Royal Courts of Zamorin's Malabar, Cochin, Travancore, many mosques are established at prominent places, with lots of grandeur and design. Unlike other parts of India, Islamic Architecture in Kerala, traditionally very much similar to Kerala Temple architecture without much of Persian influence, though recently new mosques are built in Arab Style due to over-growing Arab influence in Kerala society.
Normally in Kerala, Mosques and Churches are referred as PALLI, not masjids as found in other parts of India.
Some of the important, must visit mosques are
Cheraman Palli (Cherman Juma Masjid), Kodungallor:- India's oldest mosque and World's 2nd mosque built in 629 AD soon after Medina Mosque in Saudi Arabia. This Mosque was built converting Kerala's Chera Emeperor's Palace into a mosque on his orders, after Cherman Perumal's (The Great Chera Emperor) conversion to Islam. Due to traditional relations with Arabia, soon after formation of Islam, champions of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) came to Chera Capital of Kodunagallor (Muziris)and demonstrate Prophet's miracle. This made Chera Emperor to convert into Islam and expressed his desire to meet Prophet. He met the Prophet, married sister of Nejd King and settled at Muscat, where he died and his tomb exists there today. As per his last wish, his royal palace was asked to convert to mosque, which resulted in formation Cheraman Palli. The original mosque was destroyed during Great Periyar floods in 1341, and several later mosques on its same site were destroyed during various wars and raids. However the current mosque was recently rebuilt. The important legacy of this mosque, is its effective harmony with Hinduism and adoption of several Hindu customs into its system. The Royal Lamp used by Cheras are still used inside the mosque and one of the most important highlight. The Mosque is built in traditional Hindu Kerala architecture with lot of murals, hindu motifs etc and several traditional Hindu lamps is used. A white block of Marble blessed by Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) brought here from Makkah. Unlike other mosques which normally faces westwards towards Makkah, this mosque faces towards East (as Makkah mosque was not built, at time of Cherman Mosque as well as following Kerala Hindu system of facing eastwards). Most of Muslim festivals as well as Hindu festivals particularly nearby Thiruvanchikulam Temple festival.
Kanjiramattom Mosque; Situated at Kaniramattom, 20 Kms from Kochi. This mosque is the right example of antique beauty of mazhars and dargahs. This was an official temple classified by Kochi Maharajas and most of the Imams (Priests) are chief scholars at Kochi Raja's court. The annual Chandanakudam in January attracts many pilgrims. During the festival, pilgrims carry pots smeared with sandalwood paste in a procession to the mosque, with caparisoned elephants and percussion musics – both found in temples – form essential parts of the Chandanakudam festival.
Palayam Pally , located in heart of Trivandrum, is the principal mosque of Trivandrum. It is a Juma Masjid (Friday Mosque). The Mosque is one of the largest in Kerala and famous for its regular sermons. The mosque was established with patronage of Travancore Kings.
Thazhathangady Juma Masjid, Kottayam:- is a mosque situated in Thazhathangady, one of the Heritage Zones of Kerala near the town of Kummanam. It is one of the oldest mosques in India and is more than 1000 years old. It is famous for its richness of architecture, wood carvings and the beauty. This mosque is situated on the banks of the Meenachil river. Thazhathangady Juma Masjid is also called as the “Taj Juma Masjid”. The ancestors of this Masjid came and settled in Kottayam, from different parts of Kerala.The Muslims who lived here played an active role in Freedom Struggle and other National Movements. This mosque is known for its intricate wooden carvings and architecture and looks similar to Kerala Architecture.
Chempittapally; West Kochi:- The name "Chempittapally" is derived from the Malayalam word "chemp" (means bronze) and "palli" (means mosque). The roof of this famous mosque was decorated with bronze tiles, hence chempitta pally. The compound has 3 gates; one in west which opens way to Panayapilly, second in south which opens way to Goldenmukku and Kochangadi, and the main gate in the eastern side of compound, which opens way to Angadi, which in turn leads the way to Jew Street and Mattancherry Bazaar towards the north and to Chullickal towards south.
Odathil Palli (Odathil Mosque) Thalassery; is a famous 300 year old Mosque. This land originally belonged to Dutch, who had started a sugar cane farm and a Garden (Odam in Dutch means Garden), which was transfered to East India Company who gifted this land to a Muslim contractor. He built a small mosque, using Sugarcane stem to make a Dome and Minaret. This was the first mosque to have a Dome and Minaret, which was laid by Hindu Zamorin Ruler, marking the great tolerance. This is famous among tourists to visit, as its historic tradition and a mosque in pure typical Kerala Hindu style and a golden dome covering over its original sugarcane dome.
Pazhayangadi Mosque; 5-km from Karipur Airport-malappuram. The Mughal style architectured Mosque has a lovely white dome and intricate filigree work. Amidst the coconut palms in the distance, the Mosque looks highly attractive. I;t is an 18th century creation. The annual festival called Valia Nercha (big offering) is immensely popular near and far.
Jamat Mosque; Malappuram-Venkara Road:- Modelled after temple, this 280 years old Mosque has blue doors and snow-white walls to give it a distinction it rightly deserves. It was built under the directions of the Hindu Prana Nambi family. The mighty family had once usurped the properties of Muslims by sheer muscle power. The tears of many affected Muslims had an adverse effect on the Nambi family, resulting in incurable illness to them. To get rid of the trauma they were advised to build a Mosque as repentance. The Malappuram Jamat Mosque is the result of it.
Malik Dinar Mosque; Thalangana in Kasargod:- Malik Ibn Dinar, a slave’s son, was an ardent disciple of Prophet Mohamed. He was the initiator of Islam propagation in Kerala. This Mosque was also built by him. The body of Ibn Dinar was buried within the Mosque. There is annual Urs festival which is celebrated to commemorate the arrival of Malik Dinar in Kasargod. The Urs attracts pilgrims from all over India in thousands.
There are many big and small mosques all over Kerala. Other than a few, most of the mosques are of no value for any tourists to see, as its purely worship areas. However if you are a Muslim tourist and looking for visiting religions sites, do check with locals, to identify other popular options in the locality. Many mosques, donot allow women inside; if those which allows ladies inside, take extra care to dress modesty and all covering. Photographs is strictly NO inside any mosques.
Kerala was once home of largest Indian Jews, with a strong thriving Jew culture, especially in Kochi region. During the Crusade, the fall of Jerusalem, made a large number of Jewish immigrants to Kerala. The Chera Kulashekara Emperor, granted Jews to settle down in Kochi region as well as Kollam area and issued them various grants and privileges. This resulted in formation of a thriving Jewish culture. Unlike elsewhere, Kerala is one of the few places in the world, where Jews lived in peaceful and utmost harmony with Muslim and Christian brothers nearby and with no reported violence against Jews. Cochini Jews became the largest segment of Jews and several famous Synagogues were established, though the first Jewish Synagogue, which was established in 15th century (Commonwealth's oldest Synagogue), is the only remaining one. During Portuguese rule, several Jewish Synagogue was raided and many was demolished, untill Kochi Kingdom officially asked the Portuguese to stop attacking Cochini Jews. This resulted in existence of only 2 Synagogues in Kerala- the Paradesi Synagogue of Mattachery (must see while in Kochi) and a small one in Paravur. Tourists normally visit these two synagogues, as they primarily became tourist spots after mass emigration of Cochini Jews to Israel, making only a few elderly remaining back. However Saturday will be off-the-limit for Non-Jews, being service days.
Jainism reached Kerala during the Maurya period, when the Great Mauryan Emperor Chandragupta Maurya retired to Shravanabelagola near Mysore in 3rd Century BC, though a large number of Jain monks accompanied with him. Jainism became extremely popular in Kerala, with large number of Jain temples, untill 6th Century AD when there was a revival of Hinduism in Kerala. The decline of Jains, made many great temples of Jains in Kerala, to get converted into large Hindu temples. The classic example is the famous Irinjalakoda Bharatha Temple which originally was a Jain temple dedicated to Saint Bharatheswara, a Jain monk, which was converted into a Hindu Temple in 5th century AD as Lord Bharatha (Brother of Sree Rama). Many Jain temples later got demolished during Tipu Sultan's raid. However currently a few temples remain mainly in Wayanad and Palakkad districts, that has a few Native Jain believers. Kochi and Kozhikode has Jain temples, mainly established by Gujarathi Community, after their settlement. Most of the Jain Temples are popular tourists sites, especially in Wayanad area.
Some of them are
Jain Derasar in Mattancherry (Kochi) - This derasar is dedicated to Theerthankara Shree Dharmnath Swamy. It has completed 100 years and has become a Theerth. A sthanak is also there inside the big temple complex. There is a big Jain Community in Kochi. It was built by Gujarathi Community who have settled here for past 200 years for trading. Its more popularly known as Gujarathi Temple. A must visit for any tourist in Kochi, due to its towering North Indian Architecture.
Jain Derasar in Allepey - This temple is located in Allepey (Allappuzha) which is also known as the Venice of the east. It is very calm and quiet temple. Allepey has a very small Jain population.
Jain Derasar in Kozhikode city - There are 2 temples inside the temple complex of which one is over 2500 years old and has 1000 pillars.
There are nearly 12 major Jain temples in Wayanad, with a few still functioning. Some of them are
Puliyarmala Jain Temple, 6 kms from Kalpetta; is a very famous Jain temple dedicated to Anantnath Swami. It is a large temple complex, built in Dravidan-Hoysala style. Tipu Sultan used this temple as an ammunitions storage and stationed a large battery of arms and ammunitions inside this temple, which resulted in naming the city as Sultan Battery. A must see for tourists, with large number of Jain statues and sculptures and many relics in ruins
Hodangadi Basadi (Manathavadi)
Puthiyadam Adeeshwara Swamy temple (Manathavady)
Sri Parshwanatha Swamy temple (Anchukunnu)
Sri Chandranatha Basadi (Puthangadi)
Varadur Sri Anathaswamy te,ple (Panamaram Meenangadi Road)
Hanarudibidi Basadi (Sulthan Bathery)
Santhu natha Basadi(Venniyodu)
Kuthirakkodu temple (Thirunelli)
Edakkal Caves: 25km from Kalpetta, is a very popular tourist spot with lot of religious significance. These natural caves have wonderful paintings and inscriptions belonging to Stone Age and many are well preserved. Many Jain monks have meditate from here, attaining Nirvana, making this place a popular Jain religious area. However its a wonderful spot for trekking, site-seeing as well as understanding the Stone-age civilization here.
Note:- Many Jain temples are not functioning today, though the Kochi and Kozhikode opens are still active. Please check whether the Jain temple is active or not before visiting, as its very important to dress modesty while entering an active Jain Temple. Jains believe in utmost non-violence and donot like even to kill any living organism accidentally too, thus they cover their noses and mouth, least it kills any small mosquitoes while entering mouth. You have to cover your nose and mouth while in temple with a towel and must cover head. Donot take any pictures of Jain monks, as some Jain Monks believe in nudity and taking their pictures is considered offensive. However many temples in Wayanad are no more active and pure tourist enclaves, where restrictions donot apply. Check with locals, before proceeding.
Buddhism was once a very popular religion in Kerala, untill 6th century AD when Hinduism was strongly revived in all parts of Kerala, marking decline of the religion in Kerala. Today the state has a few Buddhist population and almost all famous Buddhist temples in Kerala has been converted into large Hindu temples, some still having Buddhist saints worshiped. The famed Vadakkumnath Temple in Thrissur was a large Buddhist Vihara, which was converted into a Hindu Temple. There are nearly 12 small shrines inside this temple, carrying motiffs of popular Buddhist Monks
The current remains of Buddhist temples are mainly at
Karumadi-Kuttan near Ambalapuzha, which has a small shrine dedicated to Lord Budhha, worshipped by locals as Karumadi Kuttan.
The Statue of Buddha at Mavelikara, in Alleppy district has the largest statute of Buddha, nearly 4 four feet sized. This is the most preserved statute of Buddha in Padmasana posture. A small shrine is constructed around it, though no rites are performed.
Koickalethu Buddhist Temple, Vetticode; located in Alleppy district, is one of the last Buddhist temples in Kerala.Today it attracts a large number of tourists.
International Meditation Society of Wayanad; Kalpetta; has established a small Buddhist Theravada Hall for Buddhist prayers and Meditation along with lectures about Buddhist Philosophy. Ideal for Buddhist tourists to have a meditation and Yoga sessions here
Bhagawan Buddha Faith Mission; Neyyanttinkara; 20 Kms from Trivandrim City, this organization is engaged in spread of Buddhist thoughts and values. It primarily a Buddhist teaching organization with meditation and yoga facilities. Located at Nagarjuna Apartments- 1ST Floor,R.C.Road. Note:- this is a private association.
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