Pathanamthitta which is popularly called as the ‘Headquarters of Pilgrimage Tourism’ has a number of fairs and festivals. There are numerous temples and other religious places in Pathanamthitta which are visited by millions of devotees. The main temples here include Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple, Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple etc. Since the population of Christian community is large in Pathanamthitta, there are a large number of churches in this district which includes Paliakara Church, Parumala church, Niranam Church, Nilackal Church etc. The famous Maramon Convention which is the largest religious gathering of Christians in the World is held from this district. Some of the main pilgrim centers of Pathanamthitta are given here.
Temples in Pathanamthitta
Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple
Sabarimala is a very famous temple of Ayyappa which is situated amidst 18 hills. This temple lies on top of a hill which is surrounded by dense forests and mountains. This temple is visited by millions of devotees a year and is one of the largest annual pilgrimages in India. In order to enter the temple, one has to climb 18 steps called as the Pathinettampadi. These 18 steps are now made of Panchaloham. The devotees to this temple have to observe a Vratham for 41 days.
Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple
Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple is situated in Aranmula in Pathanamthitta district. This temple lies on the bank of river Pamba. The deity in this temple is Lord Krishna in the form of Parthasarathi and the idol has chakra in its hand. The architecture of this temple is in the traditional Kerala style. The building is round in shape. Aranmula is famous for the snake boat race and the Aranmula mirror.
Rektha Kanda Swamy Temple
Rektha Kanda Swamy Temple is located in Omallur and is on the way to Sabarimala. The annual festival of the temple is conducted in the Malayalam month Medom and is very famous. This festival lasts for 10 days and is conducted by 10 Karayogams of this place. There are many stone carvings in this temple which are very beautiful. Some of the main carvings include Kallunadasvaram and Kalchangala.
Sreevallabha Temple is located in Thiruvalla and has Lord Vishnu has the main deity. It is an important pilgrim center of all Vishnu devotees in India. A single granite pillar with a Garuda’s image carved in Panchaloha on top of it is kept as the flagstaff here. It is around 60 feet in height and its bottom touches the water table. Earlier ladies were not permitted inside the temple but now they can enter the sanctum sanctorum. There is a natural lake in front of the temple. There are mainly two annual festivals held here. The art form Kathakali is performed here daily at night.
This is an ancient temple and is believed to be built more than 7 centuries ago. The details of this temple are given in Unnuneelisandesham. The deity here is Bhadrakali and there are two idols of Devi. The mural paintings on the temple are very beautiful.
This is another ancient temple and is a Shiva temple. Even though there is no evidence it is considered that this temple was present during the beginning of Christian era. There is a 4 feet long bull stone carving in the temple which is very attractive. The Poojas in this temple are mainly done for this bull unlike in any other Shiva temple.
Thrikkaviyur Siva Temple
Thrikkaviyur Siva temple which is popularly called as Kaviyoor temple has a great historical and architectural background. The main idol of Shiva in this temple was believed to be consecrated by Lord Rama himself on his return to Ayodhya after the Ramayana war. The temple structure was built in 10 century which was then renovated in 17th century. There are legends behind the installations of the Shiva idol of this temple. Even though Shiva is the main idol, Lord Hanuman is considered to be more powerful.
Kadammanitta Devi Temple
Kadammanitta Devi Temple is a Devi temple in Kadammanitta in Pathanamthitta. The deity here is Goddess Devi in her calm form. Some other sub deities here include Shiva, Yakshi, Nagaraja etc. The annual festival is conducted during the Malayalam month Medam. The ritual Padayani is performed as part of this festival and it lasts for 10 days.
Valia Koickal Sree Ayyappa Temple
This temple is attached to the Pandalam palace. The Thiruvabharanam of Lord Ayyappa is kept in this temple on the 28th of Malayalam month Dhanu. It is from here that the Thiruvabharanam is taken to Sabarimala. An unbelievable thing that happens at this time is that a Krishna Parunthu (White kite) appears above the temple and follows during the entire Thiruvabharanam procession until it reaches Sabarimala.
Nilakkal Mahadevi Temple
Nilakkal Siva temple is located on the way to Sabarimala and lies in the forest of Lord Ayyappa. The temple is an ancient one and Poojas are conducted completely. Since it is located in forests, in order to prevent the entry of wild elephants to this area, the surroundings are safe guarded by trenches.
This temple is located near Mallappally on the banks of the river Manimala. The main deities here are Siva and Parvathi with equal importance and are housed in one Sreekovil. It is an ancient temple and is believed to be around 1600 years old.
A main convention held from the banks of River Pamba is the Ayiroor Cherukolpuzha religious convention. It is a convention of the Hindus and is conducted in February annually. Thousands of people attend this convention and it is conducted by some of the main religious leaders.
Malayalappuzha Devi Temple
Some of the other main temples in Pathanamthitta district are
Anirudheswara temple at Thiruvalla, Thiruvalamthuruthy Bhagavathi temple, Saastham kaavu at Podiyadi, Devi temple at Chathamkari, Kizhakkedath Sree Subramanya temple at Mallappally, Kottangal Devi temple, Kalloor Devi temple, Sree Mahadevar Temple at Perumpetty, Mappati Bhadrakali temple, Thiruverankaavu Devi temple, Rameswaram Sree Mahadeva Temple at Ayroor, Puthiyakavu Devi Temple at Ayroor, Ayroor Madam Sree Subrahmanyaswami Temple, Edappavoor Devi Temple at Ayroor, Bhagavathikunnu Devi Temple at Elanthoor, Ganapathi Temple at Elanthoor, Sree Dharmasastha Temple at Elanthoor, Kotunthara Sree Subramanya temple, Kaippuzha Sree Krishnaswami temple, Sree Siva temple at Thrippara, Sree Padmanabha temple at Thrikkovil, Sree Bhagavathi temple at Uzhuvath etc.
Churches in Pathanamthitta
Paliakara church is located in Thiruvalla. This church is a sacred church and is considered as a holy church by all the people. It is famous for its antiquity. The church is beautifully decorated with architectural works. There are mural paintings as well. The main festivals celebrated here are Christmas and Easter. It is celebrated well and fireworks are conducted.
The Orthodox Church of Mar Gregorious (Parumala Thirumeni) is located in Parumala. It is at this place that the Gregorios Geevarghese who was the declared saint of The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church died. The festival celebrated here is the Ormapperunnal and is conducted during the first and second of November annually. Thousands of people gather at this church during this festive season.
To take the panoramic view of Parumala church, follow the linkhttp://p4panorama.com/panos/parumala/index.html
St. Mary’s Orthodox Church
St. Mary’s Orthodox Church is located in Kallooppara in Pathanamthitta District. It is a very old church ans is one of the renowned churches in Kerala. It is considered as a priced possession of Malankara Sabha. This church is believed to be around 7 centuries old and has a rich cultural legacy. The architecture of the church is excellent and the roof tops are very beautifully laid which is an example of the early Travancore style.
Marthoma Maramon Convention which is the largest religious gathering of Christians in the World is conducted from the banks of the River Pamba in Maramon near Kozhencherry. It is conducted annually in the month of February and was started since 1896. Thousands of people from all over the country gather at this place to attend the convention. This convention is a clear example of the unity between the people from various sections of the churches in Kerala.
Manjinikkara church is located near Omallur on a hill top. This church is named as St. Stephens Jacobite Syrian Cathedral. Mar Ignatius Elias III who was a holy patriot of Anthiod died from this place while on his visit to India. The sacred body of this personality is preserved in this church. This church gained importance due to this holy tomb. At present this church is an important pilgrim canter. The annual festival conducted here called the Ormaperunnal is held during February.
Saint Thomas who was an apostle of Jesus Christ established seven and half churches in India and was called as Seven and Half Churches or Ezharappallikal. One of these churches is the St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Church at Niranam which is popularly called as Niranam Valiyapally. This church was built in AD 54. Even though it was initially built by St. Thomas, this church had undergone several renovations. The church that is seen present is the fourth building that has been reconstructed.
Saint Thomas who was an apostle of Jesus Christ established seven and half churches in India and was called as Seven and Half Churches or Ezharappallikal. One of these churches is the St.Thomas Ecumenical Church at Nilackal. This church is an example of the unity of the Christian churches and also of the communal harmony. The church trust proved that unity among the churches can be maintained and at the same time give respect to the sentiments of the faiths of other religions. The main message which the church provides is of love, peace and fraternity.
The other main Churches in Pathanamthitta are
St George Orthodox Church popularly known as Chandanapalli Valiapally which is devoted to Saint Gee Varghese Sahada, St.Thomas Orthodox Valiyapally also known as Thottamon Church which is the first Orthodox church in Ranni, St. John’s Metropolitan Cathedral in Thiruvalla etc.
Mosques in Pathanamthitta
The main festival of this mosque is the Chandanakkudam festival which is celebrated in February. It is one of the most colorful Muslim festivals of Kerala. A large number of people are attracted to this mosque during this festive season. People take the trouble to attend this festival and to observe the celebration. As part of this festival, bright lights, decorated elephants and music are the main attractions of this festival.
Vavar Shrine at Sabarimala
Vavar was a Muslim friend of Lord Ayyappa and a shrine has been dedicated to Vavaraswami at Sabarimala. An Islamic Masjid at Ayyappa Pilgrimage is a clear example of the religious and communal harmony existing in this area. The legend says that Lord Ayyappa himself has suggested building a shrine for Vavar at Sabarimala. As per Islamic rules, there is no idol but a carved stone is kept which symbolizes Vavar. Muslim priests perform prayers and rituals daily.