Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple located in Kerala is a heaven for people seeking peace. Lord Krishna is the main deity of the temple. People call the deity as Aranmula Sree Parthasarathy at this temple. Also, Lord Krishna is Lord Vishnu’s other image. There is also a story behind the name of God. Lord Krishna rode the chariot of warrior Arjuna during a battle. Hence people call Him Parthasarathy.
The place is a world heritage site. United Nations has recognized Aranmula as a global heritage site.
Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple History
As per myth, the temple was originally built near Sabarimala. The famous Tamil classic, Divya Prabandha mentions this temple. This classic dates back to the 6th to the 9th century.
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This temple is out of 5 temples built by the Pandava brothers in Chengannur. The five temples are Thrichittatt Maha Vishnu Temple built by Yudhishthira, Puliyur Mahavishnu Temple built by Bheema, Aranmula built by Arjuna, Thiruvanvandoor Mahavishnu Temple built by Nakula and Thrikodithanam Mahavishnu Temple built by Sahadeva.
After leaving their capital city, Hastinapur for pilgrimage, the Pandavas arrived at the banks of River Pampa. These temples were built at that time. Every temple has an image of Lord Krishna.
As per legends, Arjuna built the temple as a penance of killing Karna. As it is against ethics to kill an unarmed warrior.
Also, here Lord Vishnu provided information about creating the world to Lord Brahma. This took place when Madhukaitaka demons stole the Vedas from Lord Brahma. Lord Vishnu also came in front of Vedavyasa here.
There is also a story behind the image of Parthasarathy that is present at the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. During the great Mahabharata battle, Arjuna did not want to fight against Bheeshma. Lord Krishna was angry and took up his discus. Seeing this Bheeshma surrendered. This image of Parthasarathy with discus is present at the temple. This pose is the Vishvarupa pose.
Another myth states that the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple image was brought on a raft. The raft was made of six bamboo pieces. Therefore, people call the temple as Aranmula. The word Aranmula means six bamboo pieces.
There is also another myth regarding the name. The place derives its name from the word arin villai. This word means a land near the river.
Aranmula is popular for its metal mirrors. The story of these mirrors begins from the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. As per myth, once the Travancore king decided to donate a crown to Lord Krishna. He was looking for a crown of rare metal. At this time, he got a rare combination of copper and lead.
Also, there is a myth regarding the boat race of Aranmula. When Arjuna was returning with Lord Krishna’s image after long penance, there was a huge flood. At this time, he crossed the river on a raft. A low caste Hindu gave him the raft to cross the river. The raft was of six bamboo pieces. This annual boat race commemorates the help of the low caste Hindu.
Significance of Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple
The Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple is important in the Hindu religious history as:
- It is one of the 108 Vaishnava temples of India. Moreover, the temple is mentioned in Tamil classics.
- There is a sub shrine in the temple complex. People worship Lord Balarama in this shrine.
- The temple shows Kerala construction style. It is similar to the Ettumanor Mahadeva Temple structure. The whole temple is on a raised platform. People need to climb 18 steps to reach the eastern tower. The northern tower is 57 steps high. Sreekovil is the main part of the temple that houses the deity.
- The base of the central temple is granite while the entire structure is laterite. The conical roof represents terracotta art. There is a kalasam at the temple which is copper.
- The temple has four towers over its gateways on the outer wall. It has a double storied gopuram. The gopuram is a gateway tower. The upper part has wooden trails. There is a hall on the upper part, the Kottupura. Drum beating takes place during festivals in this hall.
- The outer wall has places for lamps. These lamps are lit during the festivals. Also, there is a rectangular wall around the temple. This wall protects all the temples which are within the complex.
- There is a metal flag post in the temple complex. This is the Dwajasthambam which is at the axial to the temple tower. There is also a light post at the temple. It is Deepastamba.
- There is an outer pavilion to the temple. It is Chuttuambalam. The main temple and the hall is within a rectangular structure. This is the Nallambalam. This hall has pillars and corridors. The Namaskara Mandapa is a square platform. The Mandapa roof looks like a pyramid.
- There are other parts to the temple as well. The kitchen, Thevrapura is at the left of the Namaskara Mandapa. Balithara is the altar used to make offerings to demigods during festivals.
- The temple is also famous for its mural paintings. These paintings belong to the early 18th century. The doors have paintings of Dwarpalakas. They are the guardian deities.
- The temple also has beautiful carvings. The carvings show stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. These intricate carvings are present at the pillars. These are wooden and stucco carvings.
- Besides Lord Krishna, the other deities present at the temple are Sastha, Yakshi, Nagaraja and Erangavil Bhagavathy Balarama.
Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple Timings
- Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple opens at 4 am and closes at 8 pm. The afternoon break timings are from 11 am to 5 pm.
Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple Food Timings
Devotees can get prasadam after the morning Pooja.
Dress Code at Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple
The dress code of the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple is quite similar to the other temples of the state.
- Men have to be in dhoti. Shirts or upper clothing has to be deposited at the temple counter before entering the temple.
- Ladies have to be in traditional dress. Sari, salwar kameez and half sari are some examples.
Festivals celebrated at Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple
The Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple celebrates Lord Krishna festivals with great pomp and grandeur.
- Ashtamirohini: This is the birthday of Lord Krishna. The temple celebrates this festival with great pomp and grandeur. A large feast takes place on this date. This feast also has a name, ‘vallasadya.’ It is one of the largest vegetarian feasts in the world. The festival includes 64 types of dishes. The devotees offer the food to Lord Krishna. Besides feasting, the deities are carried around Aranmula on this day. Another important part of the festival is the boat rides. A special boat, Palliyodam sails over River Pampa. These boats look like snakes and many people ride them. This custom of boat race also has a name, Vallam Kali. People worship the boat before the race starts as locals believe these boats are vehicles of Lord Aranmula. People use many types of flowers to worship the boats. 100 rowers take part in the race. Also, 25 singers take part in this race. They sing songs as the boats sail on the river. The boats sail in pairs. People also play music. The festival goes on from July to October. This is also the time of Onam festival in Kerala.
- Procession: A large procession on the Garuda Mount to the Pampa River takes place during the Meenam month. Along with Lord Parthasarathy, Goddess Bhagavathy also participates in the procession. The idol of the goddess comes from the Punnamthode temple.
- Khandavanadahanam: This festival takes place during Dhanus month. Devotees create an artificial forest at the temple front. People use dried plants, leaves and twigs to make the forest. A bonfire is lit after this. This festival shows the fire that took place at the Khandavana forest. This is also a story from Mahabharata.
- Fasting: This custom takes place during Thiruvonam. Three Brahmin families in Aranmula fast at this time. Brahmin families from Nedumprayar village also fast at this time. This is a two centuries old custom. As per myth, one Brahmin vowed to feed one pilgrim every day. Lord Krishna was pleased with the vow. Thus, He came to bless the priest. The Brahmin was very happy and he started to conduct a feast every year. This feast takes place after the boat race.
Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple Sevas and Poojas
The temple has its own customs, like:
- Only Thantri and Melshanthi can enter the Sreekovil. Thantri refers to the main priest while Melshanthi refers to the second priest.
- Thiruvonathoni: This is a famous custom of the temple. The ritual takes place during the Onam festival.
How to Reach Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple
Aranmula is easily reachable from all parts of the state as it is just 116 km from Trivandrum. Trivandrum is the capital city of Kerala.
Here’s how to reach Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple:
- By Air: The Trivandrum airport is very close to the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. Kochi International Airport is also a choice for the tourists who want to visit the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. Taxis and buses are available from the airport which can directly take the tourists to the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple.
- By Train: The nearest railway station is at Chengannur. Tourists can hire cabs from the railway station. Buses are also available here.
- By Road: Besides planes and railways, you can travel to Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple on roads. There are many buses and other transport available which connect the various cities of Kerala to the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. Chengannur is only 10 km from the temple. Pathanamthitta is 15 km and Pandalam is 14 km from the shrine.
Where to stay nearby
Hotel All Season, Hotel Santhi Palace, Bessota International Hotel, Club 7 Hotel, CGA Elite Continental and Contour Backwaters are just 21 km from the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. These hotels also have all basic facilities.
Where to eat
There are some good eat outs near the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. Favourite, Hotel Aryaas Park, J’ Mart Arabian Restaurant, Khyber Pass Bake & Grill, Union Bakery, Arabian Restaurant and Vensec Kitchens serve delicious food. The eat outs are also clean.
Besides the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple, this temple village has some other shrines and groves.
Pulikkunnumala Mahadeva Temple: This temple is also worth a visit. It is just 4 km from Aranmula. As per myth, this was the worship place for the Pandavas. The Pandavas are the main characters in a great Indian epic. This great epic is Mahabharata. The temple worships Lord Shiva. Kshetra Samrakshana Samiti looks after the temple.
River Pampa flows by Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple and you can spend some relaxing moments sitting on its banks. The village is also famous for its mirrors. These mirrors are metallic. People call these mirrors as Aranmula Kannadi. Hence visiting Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple is just not a pilgrimage but a trip to refresh your inner soul.