Kerala is not just a beautiful place, rather it houses quiet a number of places that have their distinct identity and purpose of existence. These are the pilgrimage destinations of the state. As a pilgrimage destination, Kerala commands an enviable respect from devotees all over the world. The number of religious places all over the state amply manifest the secular ethos that is deeply imbued in the lives of people. A pilgrimage tour to Kerala will introduce you to these places and allow you to understand the values that guide the people in their lives.
This is a famous pilgrimage destination for the Christians and is located at a distance of 52 km from Kochi. It stands on the side of the Periyar River atop a hill known by the name of Malayatoor. The story of the church goes that St Thomas, an apostle of Jesus visited Kodangullar in 52 AD and established the seven famous churches. Later he proceeded for Mylapoor and enroute settled down at Malayattoor. However, he was not given a warm welcome here and he had to flee to the top of the mountain. He stayed there for quiet some time before getting frustrated and praying to God. The rock he touched oozed blood. St Thomas proceeded for Mylappoor and worshipped here. Later, he died a martyr's death. In course of time, the hunting group discovered a divine light coming out of a rock. A little bit of inspection revealed to them a golden cross and footprints of the great saint. It was after this that people in large number started visiting this place. A church was established in 900 AD. Pilgrims can reach here on on foot.
Agastyakudam or Agastya Malai, is a huge peak in the Western Ghats at a height of 1868 m. This mountain forms part of the Kollam and Thiruvanantpuram district of Kerala and Tirunalveli and Kanayakumari district of Tamil Nadu. The range is known as the abode of famous Hindu saint, St Agastya and is therefore a popular pilgrim destination for Hindus. Saint Agastya is regarded by Hindus as one of the seven Rishis of the Hindu mythology who brought Vedic Hinduism to South India. He also introduced the Tamil Language. For devotees visiting the hill, there is a life size statue of the saint at the top which can be worshipped. However, the presence of women in this house of a confirmed bachelor is extremely disliked by the locals. The hill range is also rich in medicinal plants and herbs.
Varkala lies in the Thiruvanantpuram district of Kerala and is famous for 2000 year old Janardhan Swamy Temple by the sea. The temple is dedicated to Vishnu. The legend behind the temple is relates a story when once Vishnu got overtly fascinated by the singing of Narada and thus followed him to the abode of Brahma. Narada was not aware of Vishnu's presence but when he reached Brahma, the latter immediately noticed Vishnu. In respect, he stood up and bowed. However, by this time Vishnu had vanished and the holy mendicants were laughing at the foolishness of Brahma. Enraged, Brahma sent them to earth. The mendicants prayed for mercy and in response Narada threw his valakalam to mark the spot where they were to perform their penance. Vishnu too blessed the land with a pond, Chakratirtham which till today occupy a place in close vicinity of the temple. A holy dip in the sea water here is considered extremely auspicious as it is believed to take away all the sins. Hence the name of the beach, Papnasham. A natural spring, Padmatertham is supposed to have curative properties.
Sivagiri and Aruvippuram
The temples at both these places were established by Narayan Guru, a famous sage and reformer of India who belonged to the middle rung class (which had to bear the brunt of social injustices of the time). In one of his wanderings in the year 1888, he came upon Aruvippuram where the local people requested him to build them a temple. Guru Narayana selected a stone from the nearby river bank and supposing it as the idol of the temple, consecrated it. The Brahmins were enraged at his moves as he did not belong to their caste. Nonetheless, Guru Narayana did not pay any heed to their objections and commanded to place a plaque in the temple with inscription that indicated that the place was devoid of dividing walls, caste or race and hatred of rival faith. Around 1904, the saint decided to settle down at a place known as Sivagiri and began his worship of Amba. Both these places command immense respect from devotees all over the world.
Since 1896, the Marmon convention draws a large number of Christians from far off on the banks of river Pamba. The convention is organized by the Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association and continues for seven days in the month of February. The Mar Thoma Evangelistic Wing is a missionary wing of the Mar Thoma Church located at the banks of river Pamba. Thousands of Christians throng this convention to hear what the reputed speakers from world over have to say about their culture and religion.
This is yet another religious convention, albeit a Hindu one, that has the banks of river Pamba as its venue. The convention is held at Cherukole in the month of February and sees a number of renowned speakers attending it.
This is a famous Muslim festival held at the Jama Al Mosque of Pathanamthitta. A number of Muslims come to this mosque in the month of February to be a part of the Chanadankudam Festival and the feast. Beautifully decorated elephants and sounds of Musical instruments leave a lasting impression on the pilgrims.