Beyond the backwaters – Exploring the spiritual side of Kerala

Kerala, a land known for its enchanting allure, evokes images of serene backwaters, graceful houseboats, tantalizing cuisine, and vibrant streets. However, amidst its captivating beauty, the spiritual essence of Kerala often remains concealed and undiscovered. Yet, Kerala embraces a hidden and extraordinary world of spirituality. Deep within its soul lies myriad temples in Kerala, each with its sacred legends and captivating tales. 

Savaari set out on an incredible road trip with travel enthusiast Swati Mukund and her parents to uncover the mystical and spiritual side of Kerala. Swati booked a Savaari and was armed with the local expertise of our chauffeured driver. We ventured into the heart of Kerala, exploring these sacred temples that reverberated with the echoes of ancient myths and legends, unlocking the secrets of the past and immersing ourselves in the rich spiritual heritage of this extraordinary land. Swati’s words vividly depict her encounters with divine architecture, where intricate carvings and vibrant colours adorn the sacred walls. With awe in her voice, she describes the palpable energy emanating from the sanctum sanctorum, enveloping visitors in tranquillity and spirituality.

The road trip unfolds like a tapestry of stories, with Swati delving into the rich mythological tales associated with each temple. As she narrates these ancient legends, the deities come alive, and the cosmic battles unfold before their eyes. Swati shares her remarkable experiences of travelling through Kerala, bringing her itinerary to life with the vibrant threads of her journey.

From inspiration to exploration: Roadmap to spiritual bliss

Swati Mukund

Since childhood, the Guruvayur temple in Kerala has been very close to my heart. It’s a temple my entire family has been visiting for years, and being there fills my mind with joy, peace and great memories. Inspired by this deep connection, I embarked on a journey to Guruvayur and the temples in Kerala with my family, captivated by the allure of these temples and their enthralling stories. Experiencing these tales firsthand proved to be an intriguing adventure for me. 

Planning the trip can feel overwhelming, given the abundance of remarkable temples in the state and the challenge of deciding where to begin. We initially explored temples we were already familiar with and researched others online. As we delved deeper into our readings, we organized our itinerary based on the temples we were most eager to visit, considering factors like accessibility and travel time.

Divine odyssey: Discovering Kerala’s sacred temples 

The day of the road trip was truly captivating and filled with anticipation. I started my day by waking up early, eagerly preparing for the adventure ahead. As I stepped into my comfortable and reliable hired vehicle with my parents, the chauffeur patiently awaited our arrival. With a well-planned itinerary in mind, my goal was to explore the enchanting cities of Trivandrum, Kochi, Guruvayur, and Pallakad, each known for their remarkable temples and spiritual significance.

Considering the many temples to visit, I realized that more than relying on an auto-rickshaw or other local transport would be necessary for such an extensive journey. Therefore, I opted to book a Savaari, allowing my family to travel conveniently and comfortably. Here’s the itinerary for those embarking on a road trip to uncover the spiritual essence of Kerala.

Day 1: Thiruvananthapuram

We started our road trip with Savaari in Thiruvananthapuram by visiting the renowned Padmanabhaswamy temple. It holds international prominence as one of the wealthiest and most prestigious temples, governed by the Travancore Royal family, the ruling house of the Kingdom of Travancore. Just a short walk away, we discovered the Pazhavangady Ganesha temple.

Attukal Bhagavathi temple

Within a 10-15 minute distance, we marvelled at the Attukal Bhagavathi temple. Attukal Bhagavathi, also known as the Sabarimala for women, made it into the Guinness Book of World Records twice for its grand Attukal Pongal festival, where countless women actively participate. 

Spiritual destinations along the way that cater to different faiths:

  • Madre De Deus Church: A beautiful church known for its captivating architecture and religious significance, attracting worshippers and visitors alike.
  • Lourdes Syro Malabar Forane Church: A church that holds a prominent place in the Syro-Malabar Catholic community, with its grandeur and religious celebrations drawing devotees from far and wide.
  • St. Thomas Roman Catholic Latin Church: A revered Roman Catholic church that honors St. Thomas the Apostle, offering a place of worship and spiritual solace for Catholics in the region.
  • Kovalam Juma Masjid: A significant mosque known for its tranquil atmosphere and religious importance, providing a space for Muslims to gather for prayers and contemplation.
  • Beemapally Masjid: a renowned mosque situated in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. It holds cultural and religious significance, particularly during the annual Urs festival, when devotees gather to commemorate the saint buried there.
  • Palayam Juma Mosque: A historic and revered mosque known for its architectural splendor and serving as a center for Islamic worship and community activities in the city.

Day 2: Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi

The following day, we travelled from Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi in our Savaari and visited the Chottanikkara Amman temple, a mighty Devi/Bhagavathi temple near Kochi. It possesses curative powers for mental illnesses. Legend has it that Shankaracharya, in his quest to establish the worship of Saraswati/Devi in Kerala, meditated in Kashmir and persuaded the Goddess to accompany him to Kerala for the benefit of the people. We also explored the Eranakulathappan Shiva temple in Eranakulam.

Distance: 5 hr 17 min (199.3 km) 

Spiritual destinations along the way that cater to different faiths:

  • Vallarpadam Church: Vallarpadam Church is a renowned pilgrimage center dedicated to the Virgin Mary and known for its miraculous healing powers and annual feast.
  • Malayattoor Church: A popular Christian pilgrimage destination, believed to be the place where St. Thomas, the Apostle, prayed and left his footprints.
  • Paradesi Synagogue: Paradesi Synagogue is one of the oldest active synagogues in the Commonwealth and is famous for its exquisite architecture and antique treasures.
  • Calvathy Juma Masjid: A mosque with a rich history, serving as a place of worship for Muslims and attracting visitors with its unique architectural style.

Day 3: Kochi to Thrissur

This day held a special sentimental touch as we journeyed to my maternal grandfather’s village and sought blessings at the Ganapathy temple on the way. Village temples embody benevolence and grace, safeguarding those who have migrated to larger cities for better livelihoods. We then made our way to Kalady, the birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya, where we were captivated by the mesmerizing murals and the serene ambience.

Kalady, the birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya

In the evening, we immersed ourselves in spirituality by visiting Guruvayur, one of the most prominent Krishna temples worldwide. According to legend, King Janamejaya conducted a sacrificial ritual to eliminate all snakes, including Takshaka. However, the sacrifice is interrupted by a Brahmin named Astika, saving Takshaka’s life. Janamejaya, afflicted with leprosy due to his actions, sought a cure and was advised by Sage Atreya to seek refuge under the feet of Krishna at Guruvayur.

Following the sage’s advice, Janamejaya worshipped at the Guruvayur temple for ten months and was miraculously cured. Inspired by this experience, he built a temple at Guruvayur, which later became a renowned pilgrimage centre in Kerala. The temple is dedicated to Krishna, worshipped as Guruvayurappan. 

Guruvayur temple

Over the years, the Guruvayur temple has endured significant destruction due to invasions. In 1716, the Dutch launched a raid on Guruvayur, resulting in the looting of precious treasures and the burning of the Western Gopuram. The temple was subsequently captured by Hyder Ali of Mysore and later by Tippu Sultan. Despite these adversities, the temple has demonstrated remarkable resilience. It has been rebuilt to its former glory, standing as a testament to its enduring spirit. If you are travelling from Kochi to soak in the spiritual marvel of Guruvayur, I recommend booking a taxi for a comfortable commute. 

To complete the pilgrimage, we paid our respects at Mammiyur, a neighbouring Shiva temple, as it is believed that a devotee’s journey to Guruvayur remains complete with this visit. Our day concluded with visits to Paramekkavu Bhagavathi and Vadakkumnathan Shiva temples, two of Thrissur’s most popular and revered temples.

Paramekkavu Bhagavathi temple

Distance: 2 hr 49 min (84.0 km)

Spiritual destinations along the way that cater to different faiths: 

  • Our Lady of Dolours Basilica Syro Malabar Church: A magnificent basilica known for its Gothic architecture and is one of the largest churches in South Asia, attracting pilgrims and tourists alike.
  • St. Antony’s Forane Syro Malabar Church: A prominent Syro-Malabar Catholic church dedicated to St. Antony of Padua, renowned for its religious significance and architectural grandeur.
  • Cheraman Juma Masjid: Believed to be the first mosque in India, dating back to the 7th century, and holds historical importance as a testament to the region’s rich Islamic heritage.
  • Kokkala Juma Masjid: A notable mosque known for its serene ambience and religious gatherings, providing a place of worship for the Muslim community in the region.

Thrissur has a lot of places that hold plenty of spiritual significance, so it is recommended to book hourly car rentals in Thrissur, so you can take your time out and explore these locations. 

Day 4: Thrissur to Palakkad

Parakattu Bhagavathi temple
Parakattu Bhagavathi temple

We continued our explorations by visiting my paternal grandfather’s village temple and the Mangottamman Kaavu and Parakattu Bhagavathi temples in the vicinity. Later in the evening, we headed to Nelluvai to witness the divine healing powers of the Dhanvanthri temple, dedicated to the God of medicine. This temple is famous for its miraculous healing and even offers a divine medicine known to cure various ailments.

Distance: 1 hr 25 min (68.6 km)

Spiritual destinations along the way that cater to different faiths: 

  • Holy Trinity Syro Malabar Catholic Church: A prominent Syro-Malabar Catholic church known for its vibrant religious services and community engagement.
  • Nithya Sahaya Matha Town Church: A revered church dedicated to Mother Mary, offering spiritual solace and hosting various religious activities for the Catholic community.
  • Pattambi Mosque: A mosque is known for its architectural beauty and serving as a place of worship and community gathering for Muslims in the region.
  • Urdu Jamma Masjid: A renowned mosque is known for its historical significance and serving as a prominent center for Islamic education and religious practices in the area.

You have the flexibility to begin your temple exploration from Thrissur and travel by road, which adds convenience to the journey. As we embarked on this road trip, we cherished the unique allure of every temple we visited. Each step we took immersed us in a serene atmosphere, embracing the profound spiritual essence. I assure you that by following this well-planned itinerary, you will have a fantastic time, creating unforgettable memories.

Tales of divine miracles: Fascinating legends from Kerala’s temples

During our temple visits, we discovered captivating stories and legends associated with each of them. One example is the Shree Padmanabhaswamy temple, known for its intriguing treasure doors adorned with a snake logo. Sealed and unopened doors reveal a glimpse of the temple’s immense wealth.

Shree Padmanabhaswamy temple
Shree Padmanabhaswamy temple

Inside the temple lie several sacks filled with a dazzling array of golden artifacts. This includes necklaces, diadems, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, gemstones, and precious metal objects. The treasury also holds unique items. It includes gold coconut shells embellished with rubies and emeralds and a collection of 18th-century Napoleonic-era coins. 

Additionally, the temple is home to hundreds of thousands of gold coins from the Roman Empire. It also has an astonishing 800-kilogram (1,800 lb) hoard of gold coins dating back to the medieval period. These treasures pique our curiosity as they testify to the temple’s historical accumulation of wealth. Contemplating how the earnings from wars and gifts bestowed by other kings made their way into the temple’s possession, where it preserves them as sacred offerings, is fascinating.

Sacred rituals: Temple etiquette and practices

Kerala boasts distinct temple-related customs and traditions exclusive to the region’s sacred sites. Here are some of the etiquettes and practices to keep in mind while visiting these temples: 

Mahadeva Temple, Ettumanoor
  • Kerala temples have various types of Vazhipaadu, which are offerings by devotees. These offerings can include crackers, special concoctions, leeches (used for medicinal purposes), or ghee.
  • Temples in Kerala strictly enforce dress codes, even for children. The dress code requires men to wear dhotis and angavasthram (a garment draped over the shoulders), while shirts and pants are prohibited. Women must wear sarees, skirts, or ghagras; salwar kameez and pants are generally not permitted.
  • It’s important to be mindful of the dress code while visiting temples in Kerala. Some temple complexes may even sell dhotis for those who must wear the required attire.
  • Many major temples in Kerala prohibit the entry of mobile phones and bags. However, they typically provide clean, secure cloakrooms where visitors can safely store their belongings.

Respecting and following these customs and regulations while visiting Kerala’s temples to ensure a pleasant and meaningful experience is essential.

How a road trip unlocked Kerala’s spiritual treasures

The road trip greatly enhanced our overall experience of delving into the spiritual side of Kerala. The temples in Kerala carry centuries-old traditions, beliefs, and captivating stories. From the magnificent architecture to the rhythmic beats of Chennai (drums) and the enchanting sight of hundreds of Diyas (oil lamps) illuminating the temples, the experience never ceased to amaze us.

Embarking on this journey with Savaari, winding along the picturesque roads of Kerala, added an extra layer of magic to our exploration. Road travel allowed us to discover more places, immerse ourselves in local cuisines and delicacies, and make delightful pit stops at interesting locations. It also allowed for flexibility, enabling us to deviate from our planned itinerary if we stumbled upon something exciting.

Regarding trips, we believe in making plans and setting a route map. Still, we also value the spontaneous joy of embracing everything we come across along the way. With the dependable and trustworthy travel companion that Savaari provided, our journey became even more unforgettable than we could have imagined. The combination of temple visits and the scenic road trip created a holistic and unforgettable experience. It deepened our connection with the spiritual heritage of Kerala while offering a taste of its diverse landscapes, local flavours, and unexpected discoveries.

Divine encounters: The personal and spiritual transformation

The road trip experience in Kerala had a profound impact on me, both personally and spiritually. Exploring new destinations and revisiting familiar ones filled me with joy. It let me to witness the changes and reminisce about cherished memories. Along the journey, I had the opportunity to meet new people, engage in unique experiences, and return home with captivating stories and unforgettable memories.

Spiritually, how Pooja (ritual worship) is conducted in Kerala temples deeply resonated with me. The divine connection I felt during these rituals was unparalleled, evoking a sense of indescribable energy and tranquillity. The ancient temples in Kerala hold captivating stories, folklore, customs, and traditions that further enhance their allure and power.

The combination of exploring the scenic landscapes of Kerala through road travel and immersing myself in the spiritual ambience of the temples created a profound and transformative experience. It enriched my personal journey and left me with a deeper appreciation for Kerala’s cultural and spiritual heritage.

Traveller’s handbook: Expert advice for a spiritual road trip in Kerala

If someone is planning a road trip to explore the temples in Kerala, here is the advice I would offer:

  1. Start early: Kerala temples typically open early in the morning and close around 10-11 am. They reopen in the late afternoon, around 4:30-5 pm, and remain accessible until 6:30-7 pm. Starting your day early will allow you to make the most of your temple visits.
  2. Respect the dress code: It’s essential to be mindful of the dress code specified by each temple. For men, wearing a dhoti and angavasthram is often required, while women are expected to wear sarees, skirts, or ghagras. Avoiding clothing such as shirts, pants, salwar kameez, and jeans will help ensure compliance with the dress code.
  3. Plan: Some temples offer the option to purchase tickets online or at the counter. This allows you to enjoy a quicker Darshan (sacred viewing of the deity). Checking if online tickets are available or purchasing them at the temple counter can help streamline your temple visits.
  4. Avoid festival days: It’s advisable to avoid visiting temples on festival days. These occasions tend to attract larger crowds, which may result in longer waiting times and a more bustling atmosphere. Choosing non-festival days will allow for a more peaceful and intimate experience.

By following these suggestions, you can make the most of your road trip to explore the temples in Kerala. This will also ensure a smoother and more enjoyable pilgrimage.

Why embark on a temple trail with Savaari?

The entire road trip proved to be an extraordinary experience, offering me invaluable opportunities to learn and grow. Each temple we visited became a wellspring of knowledge. It unveiled the secrets of history, architecture, and profound sentiments embedded within their sacred walls. These revered places were more than just pillars of faith. They stood as poignant reflections of the enduring respect and continuity of rituals and traditions across generations.

To go on with your exploration of Kerala’s spiritual side, I recommend downloading the Savaari app. With this app, you can avail yourself of exclusive discounts and great deals. What makes the experience even more special is the presence of a local driver who not only ensures your safe transportation but also serves as a knowledgeable guide, offering insights into the rich history, local beliefs, and captivating folklore that surround each destination.

So, embark on this soul-stirring road trip, and unlock the secrets of Kerala’s spiritual treasures. Let the temples guide you on a transformative journey of self-discovery and enlightenment, leaving you with memories that will endure a lifetime.

Last Updated on January 17, 2024 by Swati Deol

A quick summary
Beyond the backwaters - Exploring the temples of Kerala
Article Name
Beyond the backwaters - Exploring the temples of Kerala
Discover the hidden gems of God’s own country, as we explore the temples in Kerala, often overshadowed by the allure of backwaters.
Savaari Car Rentals

About the author

Shabari, a modern-day wanderer, seeks out the hidden stories within the world's serene landscapes and vibrant cultures. She views each person as a living, breathing tale, a unique signature in the grand narrative of existence. With an insatiable curiosity for local customs and traditions, Shabari explores the rich drapery of humanity wherever her journey leads. Her passion is to unravel the secrets of tranquil temples, scale majestic mountains, and share the ancient wisdom they hold. Join Shabari on her quest for solace amidst the world's quiet corners and let her writing transport you to the heart of these captivating adventures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.