Aranmula Temple in Kerala
Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple is situated in Aranmula, on the banks of holy river Pamba, in Pathanamthitta district. The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The deity of this temple is fondly known by the name Parthasarathy.
Lord Krishna has played the role of Arjuna's Charioteer in the epic Mahabharata and hence he got the name Parthasarathy. As per the legends, the idol of Parthasarathy was brought here in a raft made with six (aru) pieces of bamboo (mula), and that's how the temple was known as Aranmula. Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple is built in typical Kerala style of architecture. It is regarded as one of the "Divya Desams", the 108 temples of Vishnu revered by the 12 poet saints or Alwars located near Aranmula, a small village in Pathanamthitta District. Aranmula is renowned for its unique metal mirror, Aranmula Kannadi and is also famous for the annual Snake Boat Race held in the River Pamba nearby.
According to the legends, the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple was originally built near Sabarimala. This temple is mentioned in the famous Tamil classic, Divya Prabandha which dates back to the 6th to the 9th century. This temple is believed to be one among the 5 temples built by the Pandava brothers in Chengannur. They are Thrichittatt Maha Vishnu Temple built by Yudhishthira, Puliyur Mahavishnu Temple built by Bheema, Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple built by Arjuna, Thiruvanvandoor Mahavishnu Temple built by Nakula and Thrikodithanam Mahavishnu Temple built by Sahadeva. All these temples house an image of Lord Krishna. These temples were built when the Pandavas arrived at the banks of River Pampa after leaving their capital city, Hastinapur for pilgrimage.
It is believed that Arjuna built this temple as a penance of killing Karna. It is also believed that it is the place where Lord Vishnu provide information to Lord Brahma about creating the world.
The image of Parthasarathy present at the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple in the Vishvarupa pose depicts a story from the Mahabharata. The story goes like this, Lord Krishna was angry with Arjuna as he did not want to fight against Bheeshma during the great Mahabharata battle. Being displeased with Arjuna, Lord Krishna took up his discus and seeing this Bheeshma surrendered. This image of Parthasarathy with the discus is known ad Vishvarupa pose. It is also believed that this image of Parthasarathy was brought on a raft which was made of six bamboo pieces. Hence, people call the temple as Aranmula which means six bamboo pieces.
Aranmula is renowned for its metal mirrors known as Aranmula Kannadi. The story of these mirrors is related to the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. As per legends, the Travancore king brought eight families of experts in temple arts and craft from Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu to undertake the works in the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. The King once decided to donate a crown to Lord Krishna of the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. So he ordered the craftsmen from Tirunelveli to make the crown. While working with bronze to make a crown for the presiding deity of the temple, they accidentally stumbled upon a unique reflective property of an alloy comprising a rare combination of copper and lead. The craftsmen later tried different compositions, which eventually led to the standards of making the metal mirror which is popular as the "Aranmula Kannadi". The unique composition of this metal mirror is still kept as a guarded secret.
There is another myth regarding the boat race of Aranmula. After HIS long penance, when Arjuna was returning with Lord Krishna’s image, there was a huge flood. At this time, a low caste Hindu gave him a raft of six bamboo pieces to cross the river. Hence, the annual boat race of Aranmula commemorates the help of the low caste Hindu.
- Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple shows Kerala architectural style which is similar to the Ettumanor Mahadeva Temple structure. The whole temple stands on a raised platform and the devotees need to climb 18 steps to reach the eastern tower of the temple. And one has to climb 57 steps to reach its northern tower. The deity is enshrined in the Sreekovil which is the main part of the temple.
- Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple is mentioned in the Tamil classics and is one of the 108 Vaishnava temples in India.
- There is a sub-shrine dedicated to Lord Balarama in the temple complex.
- The entire structure of the temple is made of laterite and the base of the central temple is of granite. The temple has a conical roof that represents terracotta art. There is a copper kalasam at the temple.
- There are four towers over the gateways on the outer wall of the temple. The gopuram of the temple is double storied. There are wooden trails and a hall, known as Kottupura on the upper part.
- There is a metal flag post, known as Dwajasthambam and a light post, known as Deepastamba inside the temple complex.
- The outer pavilion to the temple is known as the Chuttuambalam. The main temple and the hall is within a rectangular structure known as Nallambalam. The Namaskara Mandapa is a square platform and its roof looks like a pyramid.
- On the left of the Namaskara Mandapa is the kitchen, Thevrapura of the temple. There is also an altar known as Balithara which is used to make offerings to demigods during festivals.
- Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple is also well-known for its mural paintings that belong to the early 18th century. The doors of the temple are adorned with the paintings of Dwarpalakas.
- The pillars of the temple have beautiful carvings that display the stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. These are stucco and wooden carvings.
- Sastha, Yakshi, Nagaraja and Erangavil Bhagavathy Balarama are the sub-deities of this temple.
- Ashtami Rohini: Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple celebrates Ashtami Rohini, the birthday of Lord Krishna with great pomp and grandeur. This temple is famous for organizing a large feast on this day (Ashtami Rohini), known as 'Vallasadya' which is one of the largest vegetarian feasts in the world. The Sadya contains 64 types of dishes. Aranmula Boat Race, known Aranmula Vallam Kali is another interesting part of this festival. During this festival, a special boat known as Palliyodam, look like snakes sails over River Pampa. Locals believe these boats are vehicles of the deity of Aranmula, hence they worship the boat with flowers before the race starts. 100 rowers and 25 singers take part in the race. As the boats sail on the river in pairs, they sing songs and the people play music.
- Procession: During the Meenam month, a large procession on the Garuda Mount to the Pampa River takes place. Lord Parthasarathy of the Aranmula Temple is taken out for the procession and the Goddess Bhagavathy who comes from the Punnamthode temple also participates in the procession.
- Khandavanadahanam: This festival is celebrated during the Malayalam month of Dhanu. Devotees create an artificial forest using dried plants, leaves and twigs at the temple front. After building the forest, they will lit a bonfire in the memory of the fire that took place at the Khandavana forest which is illustrated in the Indian epic, Mahabharata.
- Fasting: This is a two-century-old tradition that takes place during Thiruvonam, after the boat race. At this time, three Brahmin families in Aranmula perform fasting. As per legends, a Brahmin vowed to Lord Krishna that he will feed one pilgrim every day. Lord Krishna was very pleased with his vow. And it is believed that Lord Krishna came to bless the Brahmin and he was very happy and started to conduct the feast every year.
- 4 Am to 11 Am.
- 5 Pm to 8 Pm.
Devotees are requested to wear traditional wear while visiting the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. Men have to be in dhoti and are not allowed to wear shirts while entering the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. Women can wear a saree, salwar kameez and half saree.
Way To Reach
Air Cochin International Airport and Trivandrum International Airport are the nearest airports to Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple which are at a distance of 124.2 Km and 116 Km respectively. On reaching the airport, one can hire a taxi or bus to reach the temple.
Train Chengannur Railway Station is the nearest railway station to Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple which is situated at a distance of 11 Km. On reaching the railway station, one can hire a taxi or bus to reach the temple.
Road Many state transport buses and private buses are easily available from major cities like Chengannur, Pathanamthitta, and Pandalam to Aranmula.