Kerala Temples -an overview

The temple worship is closely associated with the evolution of mankind. The early tribal settlements had a leader and he had conceived a form of God which they believed to give protection and such conceptions were based on nature and environment. This attitude led them to worship sun (Soorya), rain (Indra), fire (Agni), animals, birds, trees, plants etc. In the course of time, the mode of worship developed to the concepts of ancestor worship, spirits of animistic origin, spirits of Indian mythology and legendary or historical heroes who gave up their lives for society and attained divinity.

There is no recorded history to know as to when and by whom the temples of Kerala were built. Many ancient temples are believed to have been consecrated by Lord Parasurama. It is believed that almost all ancient temples are more than 5000 years old. The earliest form of worship was the worship of Lord Siva and Lord Vishnu. During Sangam period (1st to 5th Century AD) the favorite deity was Kottavai (Durga), Naga worship was also there. The Bhakthi movement propagated by Syvacharyas known as Nayanaars and Vyshanavacharyas known as Alwars of Tamil Nadu created a positive impulse in establishing several temples in Kerala. Efforts of Sri Sankaracharya donated much for the promotion of Hinduism and establishment of several temples in Kerala.


Though the temples of Kerala existed even before pre-Christian era, recorded history of the temples is available only from 8th Century onwards. The Architectural Survey of Temples of Kerala gives three distinct phases of temple construction. They are (1) Early period from 800 – 1000 AD; (2) Medieval period from 1001-1300 AD; and (3) Late period from 1301-1800 AD.

In olden days, there were about 24000 temples in Kerala, the boundary of which spreads from Kanya Kumari in the south and Gokarnam in the north. These temples were managed by the local rulers of different native countries or by Yogathiris, Ooralars or Kariakkars . Historians opined that majority of the Mahakshethras (major temples) of Kerala were constructed between 11th and 14th Century. During 16th and 17th Centuries, many temples were constructed or renovated. The insolent and egoistic attitude of their successors gradually affected the proper maintenance of the temples and in some cases resulted in total ruin. Further the foreign incursions accelerated its peril easy. Assets in several temples were plundered and in several cases the temples itself were destroyed. The British who established their supremacy over Kerala during 17th Century had, however, religious tolerance and respected temples and its customs.

Kerala temples were not merely place of worship but were also centre of excellences and cultural institutions. Popular art forms like Silpakala (Sculpture), Chithrakala (Drawing, painting), Koothu, Koodiyattam, Mohiniyattom, Krihnattom, Kath Kali, Thullal, Padakom ec. Were born and brought up in temples. Anustanakalas (ritual art forms) like Kalamezhuthu, Brahmanippattu, Theeyaattu, Sopanasangeetham etc. also came under temple arts.

Durga Temples Siva Temples Sastha Temples Tali Temples Thirupathies Cave Temples Dasavathaara Temples Panchapandava Nalambalam Sacred Groves


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