Religious Places in Kerala
Kerala’s rich history and its premier role in transforming the economy and culture of the country in a big way has never been in question. It is one of the earliest states to come into contact with foreign cultures and civilizations, each one unique and colourful, thus, weaving myriad colours into the already vibrant social milieu of the state. From the earliest Arabs, Greeks and Romans to the modern Portuguese, Dutch, French and British connections of the state, Kerala’s religious identity is shaped to a great extent by the mix of all faiths that pervades the state. While certain pockets of the state are markedly known for religious majorities like Kottayam and Christianity, Malappuram and Islam, the three main religious segments are Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Large followers of Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism and Sikhism are also prevalent in the state. Kerala has a large number of religious places and destinations that are not just places of worship but renowned landmarks and monuments of cultural and historical significance.
Temples in Kerala
Ayyappan Temple in Sabarimala
Famous for the deity of Lord Ayyappan, believed to be the child of Shiva and Vishnu (in the female form of Mohini), this hill-top temple surrounded by seven hill ranges on the Western Ghats is open only for certain periods in a year, usually Mandalapooja from November to December, Makaravilakku in mid-January and Chitra Vishu between April and May. Pilgrims and followers wishing to have a darshan (view of the deity) perform abstinence from worldly pleasures for 41 days before travelling to Sabarimala. The closest point enroute is Pamba from where the pilgrims reach the hill temple by a 5-km trek uphill.
Sabarimala is in Pathanamthitta district which is well connected with other areas.
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram
One of the most sacred and popular temples for Hindus, the Padmanabhaswamy Temple is located in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram. The city received its name through the popularity and historical relevance of the temple. Sree Padmanabha was a 16th century Travancore Maharaja who was crowned Emperor; all the rulers of Travancore who came after him took the title Padmanabhadasa and ruled the state. The temple belongs to the Travancore Royal Family, who are ardent followers of Vishnu and this temple is considered one among the 108 temples dedicated to the worship of Lord Vishnu. The beautifully engraved pillars, sculptures, art and stone works depicting various scenes and happenings from Hindu legend and folklore are highlights of the temple.
The distinction of the temple is the deity, Lord Vishnu, who appears in a sleeping posture (Anantha sayanam meaning endless sleep) guarded by the serpent Aanantha; hence the name Anantha Padmanabha to the presiding deity.
The prayers and rituals are carried out under strict supervision of the Royal Family; Navarathri or the nine-day Hindu festival is one of the main celebrations at the temple.Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple Address:
Fort, Thiruvananthapuram 695023, Kerala
Tel: +91-0471 245 0233Timings
Open from 3.30 am to 7.30 pm all days of the week. Darshan timings are subject to changes in special poojas and festive occasions.
Sree Krishna Temple in Guruvayoor
One of the 108 temples consecrated and dedicated to the worship of Vishnu, the Krishna deity in the temple is thought to have been brought to Kerala from Dwaraka when it was swallowed by the seas, hence, considered the ‘Dwaraka of the South’. Krishna is worshipped as Guruvayoorappan here. The temple is visited throughout the year and elaborate rituals and prayers are conducted every day. On festive and special occasions, the entire temple is lit up with oil lamps giving it an ethereal look. The Krishnanattom (Dance of Krishna) is performed every evening outside the temple and is a great favourite among the locals. The Sree Krishna Temple has a large herd of elephants maintained very well in a palace courtyard, referred to as the Punathur Kotta (fort) and is a must visit for every tourist. An elephant race is conducted prior to the temple festival each year.
Guruvayoor is 29 kms from Thrissur. There is a railway station at Guruvayoor and a few trains connect the town to other major towns and cities via this station and from Thrissur. Private and state buses also ply; taxis and cabs can also be hired.
Guruvayur, PIN 680 101, Thrissur, Kerala
Email - admingd.ker(a)nic.in, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com Timings
Open from 3.00 am to 12.30 pm. 4.30 pm to 9.15 pm
Subrahmanya Swamy Temple in Haripad
One of the sacred pilgrimage spots in South India for the worship of Lord Subrahmanya (also known as Karthikeya and Murugan, son of Shiva and Parvathy), this is the oldest Subrahmanya temple in Kerala referred to as Dakshina Palani (Palani of the south). The presiding deity, Murugan is shown with four arms in warrior pose; two arms sport the Vel (spear) and Vajrayudh (armour) while the third is pressed against the thigh ready for combat and the fourth faces outwards blessing those who come to pray. The image is among the biggest deities, standing at well above 8 ft in height.
Built in the splendid and ancient temple architectural style of Kerala and originally believed to have been worshipped by Parashurama, the warrior prince, this temple celebrates regular festivals and occasions with great pomp and offerings to the Lord.
Haripad is in Alappuzha district; it is located between Kollam and Alappuzha on NH 47. Alleppey is the closest railway station.
Haripad P O, Alappuzha District, Kerala
Tel: +91-0479 241 0690
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Timings
Open from 4.30 am to 12.00 noon, 5.00 pm to 8.00 pm
Kurumba Bhagavathi Temple in Kodungalloor
There are many legends surrounding this temple dedicated to the worship of Bhagavathi, the Mother Goddess also known as Saraswathy, Lakshmi, Devi, Bhadrakali and Durga. The image of the goddess, known as ‘Kodungallor Amma’ is shown with eight arms, holding an anklet, bell, sword, the head of an asura etc. This depicts the kind heart of the goddess who blesses all her devotees; at the same time, she is the fierce Kali or Durga who will wreak havoc on anyone who disturbs her peace or those of her worshippers. It is believed that her rage would only subside with offerings of blood (the colour red) and for centuries together, animal sacrifice was a part of the rituals conducted at this temple by followers to receive her blessings. However, in recent years, with the ban on animal sacrifice by the government worshippers’ offer clothing dipped in red dye as appeasement to the goddess.
The reference to the anklet is probably on account of the heroine Kannagi of the famous Tamil epic, Silapadhikaram, where Kannagi burns down the city of Madurai in rage after her husband is falsely implicated and executed by the Pandya king. On her return, it is supposed that she prayed to the Devi who embraced her and subdued her anger. The temple was built by emperors of the Chera dynasty around the 1st century AD when Kodungalloor was a sea port, the capital city and an important trade centre for the Chera dynasty with the ancient Greeks and Romans.Sree Kurumba Bhagavathi Temple Address
: Kodungalloor, Thrissur District, Kerala
Open from 4.00 am to 12.00 noon, 4.00 pm to 8.00 pm
There are many other prominent temples and pilgrimage spots in Kerala and all of them are worth a visit to see fascinating imageries of the deities and the worships conducted as well as the architectural and sculptural wonders.
Ettumanoor Mahadeva temple
, 10 kms from Kottayam – a celebrated Shiva temple. This is part of a trio of temples all within a 25 km radius from each other. Vaikom and Kadurthurty are the other two; the temple at Vaikom is famous as a landmark for Kerala’s renaissance movement to abolish caste distinctions and untouchability.Rajarajeswara temple, Taliparamba
, 25 kms from Kannur in north Malabar district – also a Shiva temple.Thiruvanchikulam Shiva temple
, near Kodungalloor. Established during the 4th century BC by the Villuvar Chera tribes of Kerala, before they set up the Chera Dynasty that ruled over this area for many centuries.Mannarasala Nagaraja temple
, Haripad near Alappuzha. This temple within a natural forest with dense covering of trees and creepers is the most famous and the only religious spot where the snake God, Vasuki Nagaraja and his consorts Naga Yakshi and Naga Rani are worshipped. This temple was built by the locals as they believed that the snakes gave up their land to mankind for habitation and survival. Worshipping here is a kind of thanksgiving as well as invoking blessings for fertility and curing blindness. Sree Krishna Temple, Ambalapuzha
, 20 kms from Alappuzha. A celebrated Krishna temple where the idol is in the image of baby Krishna whose childhood pranks and anecdotes contributed to the well being and happiness of the people in Mathura
and Gokul. Krishna’s love for milk and cream is legendary; the Pal Payasam (Milk Kheer) distributed to devotees at this temple is unsurpassed in taste and richness. Lokanarkavu Temple, Perinthalmana
. Associated with many legends and myths, principally with the legendary heroism of the Thacholi family of knights during the feudal battles of the north Malabar. Goddess Durga is seated in a war form waiting to go into battle.Sree Parassinikadu Muttappan Temple, Kannur
– A unique temple without the form or image of any deity. Muttappan is held to be the form of Lord Shiva in a non-brahmanical stature enforcing the concept of ‘universal worship and eternal unity’. The customs and traditions followed set it apart from other temples. Regular forms of ‘theyyam’ or dances of Shiva are a feature here.Kalady – the birthplace of Adi Shankara, the pioneer of Advaita philosophy, Kalady has a huge Sharada Devi temple and many ashrams.Thirunavaya banks
– a large river bank along the Nila River, this place is associated with the ‘Mamankam’ a Hindu festival similar to the Kumbh Mela of north India. The temple dedicated to Brahma is second only to the Pushkar in Rajasthan. For long associated with several historic deeds and tales about the valiant soldiers of the Malabar region who fought against their oppressors, today this river bank witnesses post-cremation rituals for the dead.
Churches in Kerala
One of the first places in India that Christianity reached as early as 52 AD is Kerala; it is believed that St. Thomas, one of Jesus Christ’s apostles came here and introduced Christianity. Soon after, a group of Christian immigrants from Syria came to Kerala to escape persecution by the Jews and Romans, leading to the formation of the Syrian Christian sect of followers; even today Kerala is one of the leading strongholds of this orthodox sect of believers in the Christian faith. Over the following centuries, other European and Jewish missionaries arrived bringing with them European colonization and spread Catholicism in Kerala. Thus, Kerala has a medley of intermingled beliefs and sects within the Christian faith proven by the presence of thousands of churches all over the state.
Almost every district and town in Kerala is dotted with churches; major towns and cities have larger churches that are part of a travel itinerary and famous for annual pilgrimages and festivals.
St. Thomas Church in Malayatoor
One of the oldest and most famous churches in Kerala identified with the advent of Christianity in the state dating back to 52 AD, this church is situated on top of the Malayatoor hill, and bears a life-size statue of the apostle, St. Thomas along with imprints of his feet. The belief is that this is the place that St. Thomas escaped to pray when he was attacked by the tribal villagers on his arrival at Kerala’s coast. The main festival celebrated here is around the time of Easter when pilgrims gather from all over. They re-enact the scene of Christ’s crucifixion by trudging up the rocky hill barefoot with a cross on their backs. The religious and historical significance of this spot has been identified by the Vatican as a pilgrim centre for Christians.
Malayatoor is around 50 kms away from Kochi; the closest railway station is Angamaly which is at a distance of 17 kms.
St.Thomas Church, Malayattoor Address:
Malayattoor- 683 587, (Via) Kalady, Kerala, S. India
Tel.: Malayattoor : 2468208, 2468848 2469207, 2468868
Kurisumudy : 2468308, 2283450
Adivaram : 2469230
Email: email@example.comPrayer Mass / Services:
Monday to Saturday – 6.00 am & 5.15 pm
Sunday – 6.00 am, 7.30 am & 9.30 am
Santa Cruz Basilica in Kochi
An ancient chapel originally developed by the Portuguese settlers to Kerala in 1505, it was elevated in 1558 by Pope Paul IV to a Cathedral. It is one among the eight Basilicas of the country and finds a place in the list of historical and heritage edifices in Kerala. The Dutch who followed the Portuguese spared the structure from demolition. The British later demolished the old structure and a new cathedral was erected in 1887 and consecrated in 1905.
The Basilica is rich in artistic and architectural grandeur and is built in the Gothic style. It received the proclamation of a Basilica in 1984 from Pope John Paul II. The Diocese of Cochin, which is the second oldest Diocese in the whole of India, is based out of this cathedral.
Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica Address:
Santa Cruz Road, Fort Kochi - 682001, Kerala
Tel: +91-0484 221 5799
Open Tuesday to Saturday 9.00 am to 5.00 pm
Monday Closed, Sunday 10.30 am to 1.00 pm
St. Francis Church in Fort Kochi
One among the oldest European chapels in India, this church signifies the struggle between various European colonies to set base in India. Vasco da Gama, the first Portuguese explorer to visit India, landed on Kappad beach near Kozhikkode in 1498. He and his followers requested the Raja of Cochin for permission to build a fort in Cochin in 1503 within the walls of which they built a wooden structure dedicated to St. Bartholomew. The later Portuguese Viceroy was given permission to rebuild the structure with bricks, masonry and tiled roof in 1516; the completed structure was dedicated to St. Anthony.
In later years, the church changed hands from the Portuguese to the Dutch and finally to the Anglican Commission of the British. The Anglicans changed the patron saint and named the church after St. Francis. Vasco da Gama died in 1524 during his third visit to India and his body was initially buried within the church; in 1538 his remains were sent back to Lisbon.
In 1923, the church was declared a protected monument and is under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India.
St. Francis CSI Church Address:
Fort Kochi, Kerala – 682001
Tel: +91-0484 221 7505
Open Monday to Saturday 7.00 am to 6.30 pm, Sunday 8.30 am to 6.30 pm
St. Mary’s Forane Church in Kuravilangadu
About 22 kms from Kottayam is one of the oldest churches established around 105 AD. The statue of the Virgin Mother placed in the church is believed to be a unique one carved from granite brought from north India. Legend has it that Mother Mary appeared to a group of children tending to their sheep and asked them to tell their elders about her appearance there and to build a church at the spot from which miraculous perennial waters sprang forth.
Many feasts and festivals are celebrated with great fervour at this church.
St. Mary’s Forane Church Address:
Kuravilangadu P O, Kottayam – 686633, Kerala
Tel: +91-04822 230244
Timings for worship – Holy Mass and Novena are conducted at specific timings; details can be got from website or over phone.
St. George Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church in Kadamattam
This church built in the 6th century AD, is a famous church known for its rare traditions and beliefs which are a mix of Hindu and Christian beliefs, highlighting the harmony between people of the two religions. Legends tell about the Kadamattam Kattanar (priest) whose ancestors were Hindu Brahmins but converted to Christianity and followed the teachings of both faiths. The Holy Cross kept at this church is thought to have been the one gifted to an Assyrian King by St.Thomas and brought to Kerala from Syria after Babylon was destroyed.
St. George Jacobite Syrian Church Address:
Kadamattam P O, Ernakulam District – 682 311
Tel: +91-0484 2765019, 2280333
Saturday: Evening Prayer - 6:00 pm
Sunday: Morning Prayer - 7:30 am, Holy Qurbono - 8.00 am
There are numerous other churches of historical and religious relevance in Kerala belonging to different sects under the Christian faith. Some of them are:
- Parumala Indian Orthodox Church, Pathanamthitta
- Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Niranam
- St. Mary’s Jacobite Syrian Church, Manarkad
- St. Thomas Church, Kokkamangalam
- Lourdes of South India, Koratty
- St. Mary’s Church, Kudamaloor
- Synod of Diamper, Udayamperoor
- Jewish Synagogue, Fort Kochi
Mosques in Kerala
India’s trading relations with the West, particularly Arabia and its neighbouring countries brought Islam to the country in 600 AD. It received a great deal of patronage from the Hindu rajas of the state who believed in communal harmony. The Muslims in Kerala are believed to be a community originally descended from the Arabs and propagated through inter-religious and inter-communal marriages with Hindus; they came to be known as ‘Maapillas’ (sons-in-law). Many Islamic heads were given positions of authority by the local rulers of the state especially the Zamorins of Malabar and, hence, unlike their counterparts in many other states, Muslims are highly educated and hold high positions at many levels. This has raised their stature considerably.
There are many mosques and religious centres of Islam in the state. In Kerala, places of worship of all religions are broadly referred to as ‘pallis’.
Cheraman Juma Masjid in Kodungalloor
The oldest mosque in India and second only in the world after the famed Medina in Saudi Arabia, the original of this mosque was built in 629AD to commemorate the conversion of the then Chera Emperor, Cheraman Perumal to Islam. The unique feature of this mosque is that it was built facing East, like all Hindu temples, as the Mecca mosque was not in existence at that time. Since the time of Mecca, all mosques face westward towards Mecca. The original mosque was destroyed by floods in 1341 AD and after several rebuilds, the current one is a recent construction built in the Kerala temple architectural style with many Hindu motifs and murals having pride of place in the interiors. The Royal Lamps from the Chera palaces are still used for lighting inside the mosque.
Edapally-Panvel Highway, Padakulam, Kodungalloor – 680664, Kerala
Tel: +91-0480 2803170
Open all days of the week from 5.30 am to 7.00 pm
Thazhathangady Juma Masjid in Kottayam
Known as the ‘Taj Juma Masjid’ for the similarity of its location on a river bank like the famous Taj in Agra, this mosque is nearly 1000 years old and is classified as one of the ‘heritage zones’. Situated in Kummanam town, the mosque is renowned for its rich architecture and wooden carvings. The Muslim ancestors associated with this mosque settled in Kottayam district from various other parts of Kerala to participate in India’s freedom struggle.
Thazhathangady Juma Masjid
: Alummoodu, Thazhanthangady, Kottayam-Kumarakom Road, Kottayam, Kerala
Open all days of the week from 6.00 am to 8.00 pm
Palayam Juma Masjid in Thiruvananthapuram
One of the most important mosques in Thiruvananthapuram dating back to 1813, the mosque is adjacent to the St. Joseph’s Church and the Shakti Vinayak Temple in the same vicinity establishing the religious and communal harmony of the locality.This mosque was the first to open its doors to women, thanks to the pioneering efforts of its first Imam, Sheikh Abul Hassan Ali, a great orator, writer, social reformer and teacher with a very progressive outlook.
He championed the cause of women’s education and interest-free banking while strong criticizing the practice of dowry in Indian marriages.
The British Indian Second Regiment was posted here in 1813 and some of its officers visited the small mosque for prayers. Later, they purchased the land around it, appointed a Quasi and began regular prayers in the mosque. In 1848, the mosque was expanded with considerable improvement in construction. Through the years, several government leaders and philanthropic businessmen contributed sums of money for the upkeep and renovation of the church, which now replicates true Islamic architecture.
Palayam Juma Masjid
: NH-47, Palayam, Thiruvanathapuram, Kerala
Open all days of the week from 9.00 am to 7.00 pm
There are many other mosques, big and small throughout Kerala although not all of them can be visited. Most are strictly for worship and very few allow women to visit, if at all. Hence, it is considered useful to get information from locals regarding mosques in the area and the various regulations that are in place.
Kanjiramattom Mosque in Kanjiramattom,
20 kms away from Kochi – one of the few in typical dargah style, this place of worship was patronised by the Kochi Maharajahs and some of the rituals and festivities include Hindu traditions.Odathil Mosque, Thalassery
– a 300-year-old Mosque known for the way it was established. The land originally was used as a Dutch sugarcane farm before the East India Company took over and gave it to a Muslim contractor, who built a mosque and used sugarcane stem to make the dome and minaret. Of course, now the dome is covered in gold. Its historic tradition and Kerala style architecture attract many tourists.Pazhayangadi Mosque, Malappuram
– an 18th century structure, this mosque follows the typical Mughal architecture with strikingly beautiful white domes and interiors with intricate and exquisite filigree work.Jamat Mosque, Malappuram
– Built as redemption and repentance for the sufferings inflicted by them upon hapless Muslims by their high-handedness, this 280-year-old mosque was built by the Prana Nambis, a Hindu family who were plagued by losses and illnesses for their bad deeds. Malin Dinar Mosque, Kasargod
– Malik Ibn Dinar was born of low-caste and lived much of his life as a slave but he was a great disciple of Prophet Mohammed and instrumental in the propagation of Islam in India. This mosque, built by him, contains his grave within. The annual Urs Festival is celebrated here with great enthusiasm to commemorate his arrival in Kasargod.