Sivagiri Temple- The Sanctum of Enlightenment and Eternity
Besides the spellbinding beauty of Varkala, people visit this place as a pilgrimage. The Sivagiri Temple is one of the holiest spots of the city. Also people call this temple as the Sivagiri Mutt. In earlier days, this place was also called the southern Benaras. The shrine is also serene with cool breeze flowing through from the Trivandrum- Shornur canal.
History and Legend of Sivagiri Temple
Many myths revolve around this small temple of Varkala. He was a popular social reformer and saint of Kerala.
- Sri Guru came to Varkala in 1904. He liked the beauty of the Sivagiri hill. Therefore, he made a hermitage on its top. He got the surrounding lands as gifts from the Travancore government and from other people. Hence the Sivagiri Mutt or temple was built.
- Sri Narayana Guru attained enlightenment here. He preached Oru Matham. The principles are one caste, one religion and one God. The followers of Sri Narayana Guru have a unique name. People call them Ezhavas.
- Sri Narayana Guru built the Goddess Saraswati temple within the complex on full moon. He also stopped all customs like, oil bathing and offering food. He abolished these customs at the Saraswati temple at the Mutt.
- Sri Narayana Guru was also a poet and writer. He wrote Janani Navaratna. This poem was in praise of Goddess Saraswati. Still, devotees recite this verse at the shrine while worshipping the Goddess.
- Sri Narayana Guru breathed his last at this temple in 1928.
- Along with Sri Narayana Guru, Dr. P. Palpu and Kumaran Asan built the Mutt. Kumaran Asan is another popular Malayam poet. Eminent personalities, like Rabindranath Tagore came to visit this Mutt.
Significance of the Sivagiri Temple
The Sivagiri Temple has an important place in the lives of the locals.
- At first an elementary school was built here. Besides this, there is also a night school here at present. Furthermore, the night school is for the illiterate people who belong to the untouchable caste.
- The temple has a small museum where you can find the belongings of the Guru. This museum was earlier the home of Sri Narayana Guru.
- There are many pictures and writings that explain the life and work of Sri Narayana Guru. Therefore, it is a great place to learn about the ancient social system.
- One of the prime features of the Mutt is that there is no idol inside it. People from all religions can enter this temple.
- The temple is pure white in colour. It shows modern built. Also, the temple has water taps, windows and bathrooms.
- The Mutt has a shrine inside the complex. The shrine worships Goddess Sarada. Though the Mutt does not have any idol, this temple has an idol of the Goddess. The idol is pure while in colour. It is on a white lotus. This posture of the Goddess, seating on a white lotus is also symbolic. It means knowledge blossoming on purity. Locals also call her as Goddess Saraswati. She is also popular as the Goddess of knowledge and music.
- The roof of the temple is unique. It rises in steps, resembling a gopuram.
- Sivagiri Temple is octagonal in shape. Sri Narayana Guru himself planned the temple.
Sivagiri Temple Timings
- The Sivagiri Temple opens early morning. It is open from 5.30 am to 12.00 pm.
- The temple remains close in the afternoon. Again it opens from 4.30 pm to 6.30 pm.
Sivagiri Temple Food Timings
Devotees can eat lunch after Guru Pooja. You can get this lunch only for Rs 50.
Dress Code at Sivagiri Temple
During festivals devotees come in yellow colour dress. At other times, people can come to the temple in any kind of traditional attire.
Tourists cannot take photos within the temple complex.
Festivals celebrated at Sivagiri Temple
The Sivagiri Temple celebrates many religious festivals.
- Sivagiri Pilgrimage: On this occasion pilgrim come to visit the tomb and resting place of Sri Narayana Guru. The festival takes place from 30th December to 1st January. During these time devotees come in yellow dresses to visit the place. The yellow dress shows that the devotees are willing to follow the path shown by the Guru. Also, community feasts are held at this time. Public meetings and group weddings are other parts of the festival.
- Guru Deva Jayanti: The Guru Deva Jayanti is the birthday celebration of the saint. This festival takes place every year in August month. Colourful processions take place on this day. People debate on spiritual topics during this festival. Many people also take part in seminars and cultural shows.
- Samadhi Day: This is the death anniversary of the sage. Many people also visit the place on this day. This takes place in September.
Poojas and Rituals at Sivagiri Temple
The customs of the Sivagiri Temple are different from that of other Hindu temples in Kerala.
- The Mutt does not allow Nivedyam at the shrine. Hence, devotees do not offer food to the Goddess here.
- Abhishekam is another popular custom that people do not follow here. it means people do not pour ghee and oil on the Goddess.
- Devotees recite hymns in front of the Goddess.
- Aarti is very famous at the Sivagiri Temple. It takes place in the evening.
How to Reach: Road, Rail and Air
By Air: The closest airport to the Sivagiri Temple is the Trivandrum International Airport. This airport is at 46 km from the shrine.
By Rail: The Varkala Railway Station is closest to the Sivagiri Temple. This railway station is 3 km from the Varkala beach. There are daily trains from the different cities and other states of India to this railway station. The temple is 41 km north to Trivandrum.
By Road: The Sivagiri temple is only 3 km from Varkala. Varkala is just 53 km from Trivandrum and 37 km from Kollam. There are regular buses that ply between these cities and Varkala. Every bus stops at the Sivagiri Temple junction. You can visit the temple on tuk tuk. It is an easy way to reach Sivagiri Temple from the Golden Island.
Hotels in Varkala: Where to stay
You can get both premium and economical hotels near the Sivagiri Mutt. Hill Top Beach Resort, Cliff House Beach Resort and Blue Marine Beach Resort are just 1.8 km from the Sivagiri Temple. Hindustan Beach Retreat, Blooming Bay and Vedanta Wake Up- Helipad North Cliff are within 2.9 km from the Mutt.
Where to eat
Varkala is also popular for its Ayurveda treatment. Hence there are lot of eat outs throughout the place and also near the Sivagiri Mutt. The Funky Art Café, Little Tibet, Shiva Garden Kerala Restaurant, Reena Bakers and Eden Restaurant are some of them. You can get both authentic local cuisines and continental dishes at these food courts.
Varkala has many important temples. Some of these temples are very near to the Sivagiri Mutt.
- Janardhana Swamy Temple: This temple is 2000 years old. The main deity here is Lord Vishnu. The temple depicts beautiful Kerala architecture. Arattu is the main festival here. People celebrate this festival during March or April. The temple is open from 5.30 am to 12.00 pm. This temple is only 2 km from the Sivagiri Temple.
- Sarkara Devi Temple: This temple is also very close to Varkala. This temple worships Goddess Bhadrakali. Kaliyoor is a popular festival of this shrine. This 9 days’ festival is a drama form. It shows the conflict of Goddess Bhadrakali and Darika. While Goddess Bhadrakali represents good, Darika represents evil.
- Kaduvayil Juma Masjid Varkala, Kerala: This is a Muslim pilgrimage. This mosque honours Kaduvayil Thangal. Also, people come here to solve their problems as it is said that Kaduvayil Thangal has miraculous powers. Moreover, people from all religions come to visit this mausoleum.
Sri Narayana Guru is popular for his social works. Thus even today people praise him for enhancing the education system of the backward class of Kerala.