PILGRIMAGE OF KERALA
Sabarimala (Malayalam: ശബരിമല, Kannada: ಶಬರಿಮಲೆ , Tamil: சபரிமலை, Telugu: శబరిమల) is a pilgrimage centre in Kerala located in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Kerala in Pathanamthitta District. Lord Ayyappan's temple is situated here in the midst of 18 hills. The area is in the Sahya ranges of Kerala. The temple is situated on a hilltop at an altitude of 914m/3000 ft above mean sea level, and is surrounded by mountains and dense forests. Temples exists in each of the hills surrounding Sabarimala. While functional and intact temples exist at many places in the surrounding areas like Nilackal, Kalaketi, and Karimala, remnants of old temples survive to this day on remaining hills. Sabarimala is believed to be the place where Ayyappan meditated after killing the powerful demon, Mahishi.
Sabarimala is one of the most visited piligrim centres in the world with an estimated 4.5 - 5 crores devotees coming every year. The world's second largest annual pilgrimage (after Hajj in Mecca) is reported to be to Sabarimala.
The pilgrimage to Sabarimala is a singular example of one where pilgrims, without consideration of caste, creed, position or social status, go with one mind and one mantra dreaming constantly of the darshan of the presiding deity at the Holy Sannidhanam. Vehicles can go up to Pamba River. However no girls/women between the age of 12-50 are allowed to visit this temple. This temple is very popular amongst all South Indians. The devotees are expected to follow a vratham(41-day penance), i.e. during this period they are to refrain from meat, fish, alcohol, tobacco, sex, using foul words, refrain from hair cut, shaving and should visit the local temples regularly and wear a special Mala( A garland made of Rudhraksha or Tulasi beads) and only black coloured dresses. Presently the conditions for Vratham are not as strict as it used to be earlier.
There is a place near the temple (east of Sannidhanam), dedicated to the Vavar, a Muslim who was the disciple of Ayyappan, called "Vavarunada". The temple is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja (November 15 to December 26), Makaravilakku (January 15) and Vishu (April 14), and the beginning of every month in the Malayalam calendar. Sabari was a devotee of Lord Rama. Her devotion is widely attributed to that of an ideal devotee. Lord Ayyappa wanted his pilgrims to honour the same attributes as that of Sabari and hence the hill on which the temple is situated is known as Sabarimala.
Vehicular traffic cannot go beyond Pampa, situated on the Pampa river valley and the last five kilometres to the shrine can be best reached by trekking. However, porter carried chairs (called as doli locally) are also available for the aged and handicapped pilgrims.
Thereafter, pilgrims have to follow a path approximately four kilometres up a steep hill. The path, now fully cemented, with shops and medical aid by the sides, used to be a mere trail through dense forest.
When to go:
Throughout the year, monthly poojas are held at the temple, usually during the first week of each Malayalam month. The shrine is open only for the first five days of each month and for the pilgrimage season, between mid-November and mid-January.
Millions of Ayyappan disciples visit the famous temple of Lord Ayyappan every year from all around India. The main pilgrimage season is from November to January. Women between the age of 10 and 50 are not allowed to visit the Lord Ayyappan Shrine. A number of feminist organizations have tried to persuade the Travancore Devaswom Board to revoke this age old tradition, but to no avail. Many reasons are cited by the Board in support of the decree; these include the 41-day penance imposed on pilgrims (which include abstinence from sex, non-vegetarian, and rajasic foods, wearing a unique black outfit (shirt and dhoti) with beads around the neck, practicing utmost cleanliness, not uttering any curses, etc.), the arduous trek up to the shrine, and the fact that the Ayyappan worshipped at Sabarimala is supposed to be a celibate hermit.
The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) has insured the Sabarimala Ayyappa shrine for a value of Rs 30 crore ($7 million) and also introduced a free-of-cost accident insurance project for pilgrims visiting the holy place. The pilgrims' insurance scheme offered up to Rs 1 lakh to the devotees suffering injuries or death at a stretch of about 18 km from Nilakkal to uphill Sannidhanam where the temple is located. The compensation for TDB and government employees on duty at the area would be up to Rs 1.5 lakh. An estimated 5 crore (50 million) pilgrims visited the temple last year during the main season from November to January and it is estimated that Sabarimala is providing 10,000 crore rupees to the Kerala economy.
Thrissur, with its rich history, cultural heritage and archaeological wealth is called the cultural capital of Kerala. From ancient times, this district has played a significant role in the political history of South India. Many rulers and dynasties beginning with the Zamorins of Kozhikode, Tipu Sultan of Mysore and Europeans including the Dutch and the British have had a hand in moulding the destiny of this region. Raja Rama Varma, popularly known as Sakthan Thampuran, was the architect of the present Thrissur town. Today, Thrissur is world famous for its Pooram festival. A cultural centre, the Kerala Kala Mandalam, the Kerala Sahitya Academy and Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy are located here. Thrissur or Thiru-Shiva-Perur is a great pilgrimage centre.
Guruvayur is a very important pilgrimage centre, also known as the Dwarka of the South. The temple here is dedicated to Lord Krishna.
The legend goes like this: The temple dedicated to Lord Krishna was destroyed when the holy city of Dwaraka was submerged under the sea. Guru, the preceptor of the Gods, and his disciple Vayu, God of Winds were entrusted with the job of finding an equally holy spot for a new temple, to install the idol. At the end of a long pursuit, they reached Kerala and met Parasurama, legendary creator of Kerala. He led them to a beautiful lake full of lotuses, the present temple tank, Rudratirtha. The idol was duly placed at this spot and called Guruvayurappan, or the Lord of Guruvayur.
In the 'chuttambalam' or outer enclosure of the temple, is the tall 33.5 m high gold-plated 'dhwajastambham' or flag-post. The 7 m high 'dipastambham' or pillar of lamps is a splendid spectacle when lit.
Wonderful craftsmanship can be seen on the ten pillars that are just near the entrance. Bhattatiri, the devoted 'Bhakta' of Guruvayurappan, is believed to have sat here, composing the famous Narayaniyam, the great Sanskrit poetical work of 1036 slokas, singing the praise of the Lord.
The square, two-storeyed, 'srikoil' is the sacred sanctorum of of the temple, housing the main deity. This idol of Krishna, with four arms carrying the conch, the discus, the mace and the lotus, and adorned with a thulasi garland and pearl necklaces, is made of a particular stone called 'patala anjanam'.
Bharananganam is a famous pilgrimage center near Pala in Kerala, India. It is now nicknamed the Lisieux of India. It is situated along the banks of Meenachil river in Kottayam district. Hardly 5 km from Palai, the place is on Ettumanoor Poonjar state highway. Bharananganam received worldwide attention when PopeBenedict XVI canonised the first saint from an Indian Rite, Saint Alphonsa, on October 12, 2008. The mortal remains of Saint Alphonsa are situated here.
Origin of Place Name:
Bharananganam is also known as Dakshina Guruvayoor (Guruvayoor of South) because of the presence of Sree Krishna Swami Temple. The place name is closely associated with this temple. During their vanavasa (exile) Pandavas and Panchali stayed here for some days. On those days Yudhishtira performed Vishnu Pooja here. Yudhishtira decided to perform Dwadasi Pooja on Shukla Paksha Dwadasi day in the Malayalm month of Kumbham. But he had no idols of Lord Krishna to worship. Understanding the difficulty of His devotee, Lord Krishna gave a beautiful idol of Lord Vishnu to Vedavyasa Muni and Narada Muni and asked them to perform the pooja for Yudhishtira. Narada Muni and Vyasa Muni reached the place on the bank of holy Gauna (now Meenachil) river and installed the idol of Lord Vishnu in a suitable place and performed Vishnu pooja for Yudhishtira.
The sages performed abhishekam with Gauna river water. Pandavas and Panchali conducted the Paranaveedal ritual to end their vratha. They stayed there for some more days and later left to another place. While leaving that place they appointed a local Brahmin to conduct daily poojas and gave him the wealth to construct a temple. On that occasion there were not enough water in the river to conduct daily poojas. So Bhima digged a well near to the Lord's idol using his Gada. Later this place became famous as Paranaaranyam means forest where Paranaveedal was conducted. Paranakananam is the equivalent Malayalam word and later became Paranamkanam and after hundreds of years it became Bharananganam. Since the first abhishekam was conducted using Gauna river water, even today the first abhishekam in the early morning is conducted with river water and later with well water.
Saint Alphonsa's Tomb:
Saint Alphonsa is the first woman saint from India. She lived and died in Bharananganam. The mortal remains of Saint Alphonsa are kept in a chapel next to St. Mary's Church. Pilgrims from different parts of South India, especially Kerala and Tamilnadu, visit the tomb for blessings. The death anniversary of Saint Alphonsa, which falls on the 28th July is an important day for the devotees. Every year on this day, thousands of devotees visit this holy shrine, next to the church where the mortal remains of the saint is preserved, to pray and seek her blessings.
Sree Krishna Swami Temple:
Along with Saint Alphonsa's Church, Bharananaganam is well known for Hindu pilgrimage too. Temple of Sree Krishna in the banks of river Meenachil is one of the major temple of south Kerala. The east facing Sree Krishna Swami temple is located 1.3 km away from Bharanaganam junction in Ettumanoor - Poonjar State Highway
Accesibility, Nearest Cities and Towns:
Nearest Airport - Cochin
Nearest Railway Station- Kottayam
Distance to Cochin/Ernakulam - 75 km
Distance to Kottayam - 32 km
Distance to Pala - 5 km
The Church of Our Lady of Ransom, Vallarpadam is a famous centre of pilgrimage. People from all parts of Kerala and outside, irrespective of caste or creedMary, the mother of Jesus go to the church to seek the blessings of , popularly known as "Vallarpadathamma".
The church was established in 1676 and the famous picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary was erected by Portuguese who brought it from their native land. The picture is believed to have miraculous powers. The Portuguese built the first church on the site of the present church in 1524. It was destroyed in a flood in the late 17th century and a new church was built on the same spot in 1676. It was declared a special church by Pope Leo XIII in 1888 and in 1951 the Union Government declared it a major pilgrim centre.
Vallarpadath Amma is believed to have miraculously saved her devotees several time from violent storms. The feast of Vallarpadath Amma is held every year on September 24 with much fanfare. The celebrations which last for more than a week are accompanied by an unusually big fair.
The Catholic Church has raised the historic Marian pilgrimage destination on the Vallarpadam Island to the status of a National Pilgrim Centre. The documents related to the raising of the status of the Our Lady of Ransom Church on the island was handed over recently to the Archbishop of Varappuzha Daniel Acharuparampil by the President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, Telesphore P. Topo.
Vallarpadam is situated next to Bolghatty Island on the west, and linked to the Ernakulam mainland via the new Goshree bridges. It is about 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) in length in the north-south direction and hosts a population of 10,000 people. Vallarpadam is about one kilometer (½ mile) away from the Ernakulam mainland.
A short history the magnificent and miraculous picture of Mary and Infant Jesus, installed at the top of the main altar of the Vallarpadam Church, was brought by Portuguese merchants under the leadership of Vasco Da Gama in 1524. In 1676 the old Church, which was known as the Church of the Holy Spirit, founded by the Portuguese missionaries, was destroyed by the heavy flood and the picture of Our Lady was found floating in the backwaters. Nobody except Paliyath Raman Valiyachan, the Prime Minister of Maharaja of Cochin, could recover it. The beautiful church at Vallarpadam which you see now is built on the land which was donated by Paliyath Raman Valiyachan. He is gratefully remembered in Vallarpadathamma and his generosity towards the church, by lighting the Sanctuary lamp, which he himself donated and which has been burning day and night from 1676 onwards.
In May 1752, there occurred a great miracle which made Vallarpadam a famous Pilgrim Centre. In Vallarpadam there was a young Nair Lady named Meenakshiyamma, who was a member of a noble family called Palliyilveedu. Together with her son, she was going to Mattancherry in a non-mechanised boat. There arose a storm and the boat capsized. Meenakshiyamma and her son went deep down into the backwater. While they were in danger Meenakshiyamma promised Vallarpadathamma that if they were rescued by her they would be her Adimas (servants) until their death. On the third day, as per instructions in a dream, the parish priest asked the fishermen to cast net in the river, and Meenakshiyamma and her son were rescued. This incident is depicted in the picture mentioned above. From that day onwards, people, especially those who travel by boats and ships, come to Vallarpadam and pray for their safe journey. Meenakshiyamma and her son received baptism and became Christians and were named Mary and Jesudas respectively. They were living in the Churchyard itself adoring the Lord and thanking Our Lady and proclaiming the "good news" to all those who came here. Her family is still living, which is quite near to the church. Due to its spiritual importance, His Holiness Pope Leo XIII elevated its main altar to the status of Altare Privilegiatum in Perpetuum Concessum in 1888.
The Feast of Vallarpadathamma is celebrated from 16 to 24 September every year. Pilgrims, thousand in number, come to Vallarpadam to participate in the Feast, especially on 24 September.
Kaduvayil palli (kaduvayil thangal juma masjid, is one of the famous muslim pilgrimage point in kerala. The kaduvayil pally is situvated between attingal and kallambalam.