As in most of the places and renowned cultures, religion has played a crucial role in Kerala's culture as well. People belonging to different cultures and nationalities have visited the place and some even conquered it. Several faiths were practised here, and many peacefully co-exist even today.
There are mainly three religions observed here - Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. The other Indian religions like Buddhism, Jainism have left their influences. The various communities celebrate a myriad of festivals and rituals with great pomp and splendour. One of the unique features of Kerala is inter religious harmony. This is one part of India where fundamentalist forces have virtually no public support.
::::::::: CHURCHES :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
St. Andrew's Florance Church at Arthunkal
St. Andrew's Forane Church at Arthunkal is famous for the celebration in connection with the feast of St. Sebastian from January 9th - 20th every year. The grand celebration attracts large congregation of pilgrims. A minor feast called Ettamperunnal is celebrated here on the 8th day after the principal feast.
St. Mary's Florance Church at Bharanamganam
St. Mary's Forane Church at Bharanamganam is a major attraction of the place. It is one of the oldest churches in Kerala. Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (9th of November) and the Feast of St. Sebastian (20th of January) and the grand celebrations connected with it attract people from far and wide.
Edappally church at Kochi
This church at Edappally is one of the most famous one in Kochi. There is a popular celebration at the famous Edappally church. The perunnal is a festival of the Christians. The event celebrated annually begins on 23rd April. The 'Forty hour devotion' marks the commencement of the festival.
St. George's church at Edathua
The St. George's church at Edathua is famous for the feast of St. George. It is celebrated every year from 27th April till 7th of May. Though the festival lasts for 11 days the last couple of days are celebrated on a grand scale.
St.Mary's Church at Kallooppara
St.Mary's Church at Kallooppara is a beautiful structure.
There are two granite slabs with inscriptions in Pali language on its eastern and western
wings. The perunnal (major feast) celebrated on January 15, and the foundation day of the
church commemorated on July 5 are events attended by believers from all over South India.
St. Thomas shrine at Malayattoor
St. Thomas shrine (located atop a hill nearly 2000 feet high) at Malayattoor is believed to be one of the most ancient shrines in Kerala. The apostle himself is believed to have built the first church on this historic site. It is one of the seven and a half churches the architect apostle raised in Kerala. The chief festival of this premier pilgrim centre is generally celebrated in the month of April or at times in the last week of March. There is another popular celebration on the following Sunday.
The church at Manjinikkara is the site where the sacred body of the late Ignatius Elise III, the holy patriarch of Antioch and the Entire East was interned. The Church has hence become a popular centre for pilgrimage. The feast at the church is a highly regarded festival.
Niranam has a prominent place among the Christian pilgrim centers in Kerala. It is one of the churches built by St. Thomas. The famous festival at this church is the one celebrated in honour of the Mother Mary. This falls on August 15. The birthday of St. Mary (8th September) and feast of St. Thomas (3rd July) are grandly celebrated here.
St Thomas church at Thumboly
This famous church is also dedicated to Virgin Mary. The church that is much noted for its beautiful architecture is also known for the grand feast that is held in December. The celebration in honour of Mother Mary is one that lasts 11 days, and attracts people from different parts of the state.
The Vettuakad Mathre de Deus church in Trivandrum is well known for the grand celebration in connection with the feast of Christ, the King. This feast is observed for eleven days ending on the last Sunday of October.
::::::::: TEMPLES :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple
This temple is one of the most famous Vishnu temples in India. The Arattu of the temple is well known. This is a ceremonial procession of the Lord and a feast to the eye. The caparisoned elephants, their brilliant ornaments, the pretty peacock fans, the bright lamps, nagaswaram and drum, all paint a vivid picture in one's mind. Of the two such festivals in a year, one takes place in October-November and the other in March-April. The procession ends at the Sanghumugham beach. Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple but there is quite a lot to see and savour around the massive temple complex.
Sree Krishnaswamy temple at Ambalapuzha
The temple is a famous landmark of the place. The Arattu festival held at the temple every Meenam (March- April), commences with the flag hoisting ceremony. The famous Ambalapuzha Palpayasam (a milk pudding of exceptional sweetness) a much-loved offering of the temple is prepared especially during the festival.
Mahadeva Temple at Vaikom
This is one of the most famous and oldest Siva temples in Kerala. The utsavam or festival at the temple is a 12-day celebration during the dark lunar fortnight in Vrischikam, (November-December). Ceremonious processions are a highlight of the celebrations.
Bhagavathy temple at Attukal
This is one of the oldest Bhagavathy temples in Kerala. The most important festival here is Attukal Pongala. It is celebrated for 9 days in the Malayalam month of Kumbhom (February-March). Among other grand functions there are also renditions of thottam paattu sung in praise of the deity. It is extremely popular among the ladies.
Chettikulangara temple is one of the famous Devi Temples in Kerala. Kuthiyottam and Kettukazhcha rituals occur during the Bharani Utsavam celebrated in Kumbham (February-March). The splendid celebrations and festivity are popular among the local people as well as the visitors from afar.
Bhagavathy temple at Chittur
This is one of the most famous Bhagavathy temples. The grand festival celebrated here is also of historical significance. It denotes the victory of Nairs of Chittur over the militia of Konganadu (Coimbatore). This popular festival is celebrated every first Monday after the dark lunar night in Kumbham (February -March).
Siva temple at Ettumanoor
The temple is the wealthiest Devaswom (Temple Management) in Kerala. The significance of the temple stems from the belief that Pandavas (of the epic Mahabharata) and the sage Vyasa used to offer their prayers here. On every Thiruvathira day in Kumbham (February-March), there is a grand and brilliant procession at the temple. The most popular part of the celebrations is the magnificent display on the 8th and 10th day of the festival- that of seven and half elephants made of gold.
Guruvayoor is one of the famous temples in India. A pilgrim centre that attracts believers all year round, the temple also has many festivals and related celebrations. Lord Krishna is the deity of this temple.
Most important of these are
1. Ashtami Rohini in Chingom (August - September)
2. Sukla Paksha Ekadasi in Vrischikom (November-December)
3. Kuchela Day in Dhanu (December-January) the day on which Kuchela visited Sree Krishna with beaten rice.
4. Dhwaja Prathishta day (Erection of flag staff in the temple) on Makayiram Asterism in Makaram (January- February)
5. Vishukkani in Medam (April)
6. The ten days Utsavam commencing from Pooyam Asterism in Kumbhom (February- March).
Sree Subrahmonia Swamy temple, at Haripad
This is one of the oldest and most important temples devoted to Lord Subrahmonia or Murugan. The temple witnesses celebration of three festivals every year. Chithira festival held in Medom (April-May) stands out as the most brilliant one. It is also a chance to get a close look at the spectacular golden peacock throne that carries the deity.
Bhagavathi temple in Kodungalloor
This is one of the popular landmarks of Kodungalloor. It is one of the wealthiest temples in the state. The deity at the temple is Goddess Bhadrakali who was born from the third eye of Samhara Rudra. The Bharani festival celebrated in the temple is to commemorate the Goddess's victory over the demon Darika. The festival is held in Meenam (March-April) every year.
This temple is one of a kind in the state, for it is the only one that has as its deity Sree Bharatha, a half brother of Lord Rama. The temple is also known for its beautiful architecture. Every year the temple witnesses a grand festival that lasts a whole month in Medom (April-May).
Lokamalayarkavu, or Lokanarkavu Bhagvathi temple is one of the most famous temples in North Kerala. Much noted for its stonework and architecture, this temple is believed to have been where Tacholi Othenan, a famous martial art hero of ancient days offered his daily prayers. The grand celebration in connection with the festival Mandalavilakku in Vrischikam (Nov- Dec) is very popular.
This famous temple at Haripad worships Nagaraja (God of Serpents). It is also noted for the skillfully carved figurines of snake-Gods. During the festival at the temple held every Thulam (September- October) one can witness grand processions from the temple to the building where the family who owns the temple resides.
Vadakkumnathan temple of Thrissur by all means the land marks of the district. It is also most famous of all temples of Kerala. The brilliant temple festival Pooram, is such a grand celebration that a considerable percentage of tourists plan their holidays so as to witness the grand finale of the 8 day festival. The festival that includes nine temples in and around Thrisur is held in Medom (April-May). It is in fact a gathering of minor deities before Lord Shiva.
Long lines of richly caparisoned elephants, loud accompaniment of nadaswaram and panchavaadyam (an ensemble of five instruments), and the brilliant fireworks present an inimitable and memorable experience. The festival involves a competition between Thiruvambadi temple and Parammekkavu Bhagavathy temple especially in the pyrotechnics.
This temple is such a popular pilgrim centre that one could call it the Kasi of South India. Tens of thousands of people observe the prescribed vegetarian diet and stringent rituals for over a month, travel great distances and tread over difficult paths, all just to catch sight of Lord Ayyappa (or Dharma Sastha) at Sabarimala.
Nearby is a shrine that worships Vavar, a Muslim associate of the Lord. Pilgrims to Sabarimala stop to pay respects to Vavar as well. People of all faiths along the route treat the pilgrims with reverence and compassion. Apart from being a pilgrim centre Sabarimala is magnificent example of the peaceful coexistence of people of diverse beliefs. It is place, which fills Malayalee minds with legitimate pride.
One of the famous festivals at the temple is the Makara Vilakku. This falls in mid January. It is said that a divine light emerges before believers who then return feeling enlightened and spiritually rejuvenated.
Sarkara Bhagvathi temple
This is one of the famous Bhagavathy temples. There are two well-known festivals celebrated in the temple. One of them, Kaliyoottu in held in the Malayalam month of Kumbham to celebrate the victory of Goddess Bhadrakaali over Darika, or on a larger sense- victory of good over evil. The second festival is Bharani that is celebrated in Meenam (February-March).
Varkala Janardhanaswamy Temple
The Janardhanaswamy Temple is one of the most popular pilgrim centres in South Kerala. The grand Arattu festival celebrated in the temple every year in Meenam (March-April) lasts for ten days. The bright lights, processions, loud accompaniments, all paint a lively and vivid picture in one's mind. Legend has it that the devas or heavenly beings, condemned to be born in the world, sought salvation by undertaking a pilgrimage to Varkala. It is located 64kms north of Trivandrum.
Other Famous Temples
Kappally temple (famous of its Kumbham Thira in Feb-Mar),
Kanathurkavu (famous for its Utsavam in April),
Thiruvarattukavu Bhagavathi Temple (famous for its Kodiyettu Utsavam in Nov-Dec),
Tripunithura temple (famous for its Utram festival in Feb),
Mahadeva Temple of Kottayam (famous for its Thirunakkara Arattu Utsavam in Mar- Apr),
Thrichambaram temple, Kannur (famous for its Kumbhom festival in Mar- Apr),
Kumaranalloor Temple (famous for its Thrikkarthika Utsavam),
Kottuvallikkavu Bhagavathi Temple (famous for its Kumbha Bharani),
Sree Vallabha temple, Thiruvalla (famous for its Uthra Seeveli)
are other famous temples in Kerala.
::::::::: MOSQUES ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Beemapalli in Trivandrum is a shrine dedicated to the hallowed memory of Beema Beevi, a pious and devoted Muslim lady who was gifted with divine powers. The Chandanakudam Mahotsavam celebrated here is a grand festival attended by Muslims from different parts of India. As in the case of many shrines in Kerala, here too people of other faiths also attend the festivities.
Cheraman Juma Masjid
This mosque in Kodungalloor taluk is considered to be the first Juma Masjid in India. The mosque built to honour Cheraman Perumal, a noble and pious man who is believed to have met Prophet Mohammed himself. The nercha or offering there is a ritual that attracts believers from all over the state.
The Jaram (tomb) at the mosque is what has made it a famous pilgrim centre. The Jaram is the site where a great Tangal (priest) of exceptionally divine qualities was buried. There is a grand 'Nercha Festival' celebrated here every year in his memory.
This is one of the most popular houses of worship of the Muslims in the state. Malappuram Nercha celebrated every February is the most important festival at this mosque. This is celebrated to pay tribute to the Muslim leaders who became martyrs in a fight to free an enslaved Muslim chieftain.