Sabarimala is a
Hindu pilgrimage centre located at the Periyar Tiger
Reserve in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta
Perunad grama panchayat in Kerala. It is one of the largest
annual pilgrimages in the world with an estimated 45-50 million
devotees visiting every year. Ayyappan's temple is situated
amidst 18 hills. The temple is situated on a hilltop at an altitude of
1260 m (4,133 ft) above mean sea level, and is surrounded by
mountains and dense forests. The dense forest, (Periyar Tiger
Reserve), around the temple is known as Poongavanam. Temples exist in
each of the hills surrounding Sabarimala. While functional and intact
temples exist at many places in the surrounding areas like Nilakkal,
Kalaketty, and Karimala remnants of old temples survive to this day on
The shrine at
Sabarimala is an ancient temple of
Ayyappan also known
as sasta and Dharmasasta. In the 12th century, Manikandan, a prince of
Pandalam dynasty, meditated at
Sabarimala temple and became one with
the divine. Manikandan was an avatar of Ayyappan.
Sabarimala is linked to pilgrimage predominantly undertaken by Hindus.
Sabarimala pilgrims can be identified easily, as they wear black or
blue dress. They do not shave until the completion of the pilgrimage,
Vibhuti or sandal paste on their forehead.
In 1991, the
Kerala High Court restricted entry of women above the age
of 10 and below the age of 50 from offering worship at Sabarimala
Shrine as they were of the menstruating age. Presently, the Supreme
Court of India has taken a petition to review the judgment of High
Court and allow entry of women. As of October 2017, the Supreme Court
is referring the constitution bench to make a decision on the
The temple is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja
(approximately 15 November to 26 December),
"Makara Sankranti" (14 January) and
Maha Vishuva Sankranti
Maha Vishuva Sankranti (14 April),
and the first five days of each
1 The pilgrimage
2 Women pilgrims
3 Origins of
9 Makara Vilakku
10 Aham Brahmasmi and Tattvamasi
11 Illumination and Power
12 The history behind the worshiping methods
13 Environmental efforts
15 Other nearby temples
16 See also
18 External links
A sign-board that indicates the direction to Sabarimala. The
multilingual board is written in Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada,
Telugu and English (in that order, from top to bottom)
Crowd management of pilgrims
The devotees are expected to follow a Vratham (41-day austerity
period) prior to the pilgrimage. This begins with wearing of a
special Mala (a chain made of
Tulasi beads is commonly
used, though still other types of chains are available.). During the
41 days of Vratham, the devotee who has taken the vow, is required to
strictly follow the rules that include follow only a
lacto-vegetarianism diet, follow celibacy, follow teetotalism, not use
any profanity and have to control the anger, allow the hair and nails
to grow without cutting. They must try their maximum to help others,
and see everything around them as lord Ayyappa. They are expected to
bath twice in a day and visit the local temples regularly and only
wear plain black or blue colored traditional clothing. Saffron colored
dresses are worn by Sannyasi who have renunciated material life. But,
many devotees still continue to wear saffron colored clothes which
becomes a part of Vedic culture which connects the whole Hindus
Hundreds of devotees still follow the traditional mountainous forest
path (approximately 61 km) from Erumely,12.8 km from
Vandiperiyar and 8 km from Chalakayam, believed to be taken by
Ayyappa himself. The
Erumely route starts from
Erumely to Aludha
river, then crosses the Aludha mountain to reach Karivilam thodu. Now
comes the sacred Karimala crossing, from there to Cheriyanavattom,
Valliyanavattom and finally Pamba River. Then they have to climb
Neelimala and enter into the Ganesha-Bettam, Shreerama-Betta Padam.
Then comes the Aranmula kottaram, which is one of the stops of holy
journey 'Thiruvabharana Ghoshayatra' (the grand procession of the
These days people use vehicles to reach the
Pamba River by an
alternate route. From Pamba, all the pilgrims begin trekking the steep
mountain path of Neeli Mala till Sabari Mala. This route is now highly
developed, with emergency shops and medical aid by the sides, and
supporting aid is provided to the pilgrims while climbing the steep
slope, which used to be a mere trail through dense jungle. The elderly
pilgrims are lifted by men on bamboo chairs till the top, on being
Women in large numbers did not visit the temple, due to the hardship
in reaching the temple. Women pilgrims above the age of 50 would
visit the temple to conduct the first rice-feeding ceremony of their
children (Chorroonu) in the temple premises. On May 13, 1940, even
Maharani of Tranvancore had visited the temple.
In 1991, Justice K Paripoornan and Justice K Balanarayana Marar of the
Kerala High Court in their ruling against the
Board, banned entry of women between ages above the age of 10 and
below the age of 50 from offering worship at
Sabarimala Shrine during
any period of the year stating that such restriction was in accordance
with the usage prevalent from time immemorial. In addition, the
Justices of the High court directed the Government of Kerala, to use
police force to ensure the order to ban entry of women to the temple
was implemented and complied with.
Aiyyanar with Poorna and Pushkala. From Historical Museum of Rajendra
Chola, Gangaikondacholapuram, Peramablloor District, Tamil Nadu,
The worship of
Sastha forms part of the very ancient history of south
India. At Sabarimala, the deity is worshiped as
Ayyappan and as
Dharmasasta. The shrine of
Sabarimala is an ancient temple. The prince
Pandalam dynasty, an avatar of Ayyappan, meditated at Sabarimala
temple and became one with the divine. The place where the prince
meditated is the Manimandapam.
There are many
Sastha temples in South India and across the globe.
As per the temple history, the
Sastha temple at
Sabarimala is one of
Sastha temples founded by Lord Parasurama. The other Sastha
temples in this group of five includes the
Ayyappan Temples: at
Kulathupuzha, where the
Sastha appears as a Balaka or child; at
Aryankavu where the Lord appears as a Brahmachari or young man; at
Achankovil Shastha Temple, where the lord leads the Grihastha Ashrama
life here and depicted along with his two wives - Purna and
Pushkala; at Sabarimala, where the lord is depicted in the
Vanaprastha or form of renunciation; at Poonambala Medu the Lord
appears as a yogi and where the "makaravilaku' is lit.
. .
After the installation of the temple, it was mostly unreachable for
about three centuries. In the 12th century, a prince of Pandalam
Dynasty, called Manikandan, rediscovered the original path to reach
Sabarimala. He had many followers with him, including the descendants
of the Vavar (a Muslim warrior whom Manikandan defeated) family. This
Prince is considered an Avatar of Ayyappa, and is believed to have led
a pack of Tigers to his Palace with Vavar and then later disappeared
Sabarimala temple. The temple was then renovated.[citation
In 1821 AD, the kingdom of
Pandalam was added to Travancore. 48 major
temples including the
Sabarimala temple were also added to Travancore.
The idol was erected in 1910.
See also: Pathinettampadi
Sabarimala Picture gallery
The Sannidhanam (main temple) is built on a plateau about 40 feet
The temple was rebuilt after a fire in 1950, In 1950, the temple was
suspected to be set on fire by radical Christian extremists which
destroyed the entire temple and had to be reconstructed. and
the earlier stone image of the deity was replaced by a panchaloha
idol, about 1 and half feet, made from an alloy from five metals.
The temple consists of a sanctum sanctorum with a copper-plated roof
and four golden finials at the top, two mandapams, the belikalpura
which houses the altar. In 1969, the flag staff (dhwajam) was
The shrine of Kannimoola ganapathi prathishta is south-west to The
Sreekovil of the Sannidhanam. Devotees offer part of the broken
coconut (Neythenga) to Sri Ganapathi in the fireplace (Azhi).
Ganapathi homam is the main offering.
The shrine of the Lord of snakes, Nagarajav is placed adjacent to the
sreekovil. Pilgrims after the Darsan of Lord
Ayyappa and Kannimoola
Ganapathi, make their darsan and give offerings to Nagarajav.
The Pathinettu thripadikal or the 18 sacred steps is the main stairway
to the temple. As per the custom followed, no pilgrim without
"Irumudikkettu" can ascend the 18 sacred steps. In 1985, the 18 steps
were covered by panchaloka and later covered with gold. The stairway
in northern gate is open for those who do not carry an
The temples of Lord Ayyappan's trusted lieutenants Karuppu Sami and
Swami are positioned as his guards at the foot of the holy 18
The temple of Malikappurath Amma, whose importance is almost in par
with Lord Ayyappa, is located few yards from Sannidhanam. It is
believed that the Lord Ayyapan had specific instructions that he
wanted Malikappurath Amma, on his left side. Prior to the fire
disaster, there was only a Peeda Prathishta (holy seat) at
Malikappuram. The idol of Malikappurath Amma was installed by
Brahmasree Kandararu Maheswararu Thanthri. The
Devi at Malikappuram
holds a Sankh,
Chakram and Varada Abhya Mudra. Now the idol is covered
with a gold Golaka. The temple also was reconstructed in the last
decade and now the conical roof and sopanam is covered with gold.
Manimandapam, is the place where
Ayyappan Jeeva samadhi[Arya kerala
Sabarimala temple complex include Pampa Ganapathi temple, Nilakal
Mahadeva temple and Palliyara
Bhagavathi temple. The Nilakal Mahadeva
temple and Palliyara
Bhagavathi temple is as old as the
and the deities are worshiped as the parents of Lord Ayyappa.
Ganapathi temple at Pampa has Pampa Maha Ganapathi and Athi Ganapathi
(lit. old ganapathy), sreekovil where the idol from the first
Ganapathy temple is worshiped. Sabari Peedam blessed with the
footprints of Sri
Rama has a temple of Sri
Administration and legal duties is managed by
Board, an affiliate authority of Government of Kerala. Thazhamon Madom
is the traditional priest family who has powers over the religious
matters to be decided in
Tantri is the highest
priest and is the head of the temple. It's the duty of the family to
decide on religious matters relating to
Sabarimala shrine. Tantris are
to be present in all ceremonial Poojas and functions to be held at
temple premises and functions associated with temple. The installation
of idols of the temple was also done by
Tantri of this family.
Currently Brahmasri Kantararu Maheshwararu
Tantri is the head priest
of Sabarimala. The other famous family members include Kandararu
Rajeevararu, Kandararu Mohanararu and Kandararu Mahesh Mohaner.
The prasadam at
Sabarimala temple is Aravana payasam and Appam. These
are prepared by using rice, ghee, sugar, jaggery etc. The rice needed
to prepare the prasadam at
Sabarimala temple is supplied by
Devi Temple, the second largest temple under the
Devaswom Board situated at Mavelikkara. The Chief
Devaswom Board said that the board has
appointed Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore as a
consultant for providing technical guidance to ensure the quality of
Appam and other prasadam preparations at Sabarimala
Harivarasanam is recited before closing the temple door every night.
Harivarasanam prayer, which is sung at
Sabarimala is a
Urakkupattu. It is composed by Sri Kambangudi Kulathur Srinivasa Iyer
in Sanskrit. It is said that Srinivasa Iyer used to recite the
composition after the Athazha Puja, standing in front of the shrine of
Ayyappa in the main temple. With the efforts of
it came to be accepted as the lullaby by the
Tantri and Melshanthi.
The composition has 352 letters, 108 words in 32 lines in 8
Though there have been many versions of this song sung by many
renowned vocalists, the temple plays the rendition by K. J. Yesudas,
composed by the renowned music director G. Devarajan, which is in the
Madhyamavathi raga of Indian Carnatic music.
This significant ritual involves pouring sacred ghee brought by
pilgrims in their Pallikettu or Irumudi (A two compartment bag made of
handwoven cotton cloth used to carry the offerings for Sabarimala
Temple carried on their heads) on the idol of Lord Ayyappa. It
symbolically means the merging of Jeevatma with the Paramatma. While a
red-colored irumudi is used by a pilgrim on his first journey as a
Ayyappan to Sabarimala, others use navy blue till third year and
thereafter saffron colored irumudi.
Main article: Makaravilakku
Rama and his brother
Lakshmana met Sabari, a tribal devotee, at
Sabarimala. Sabari offered the Lord fruits after tasting them. But the
Lord accepted them gladly and whole-heartedly. The Lord then saw a
divine person doing tapasya. He asked Sabari who it was. Sabari said
it was Shasta.
Rama walked towards him. Shasta stood up and welcomed
the Prince of Ayodhya. The anniversary of this incident is celebrated
on Makara Vilakku day. It is believed that on Makara Vilakku day, Lord
Dharmashasta stops his tapasya to bless his devotees. The day is also
called Makara Shankranthi
Aham Brahmasmi and Tattvamasi
The important message written at the temple facade is one of the four
Advaita or the non-dualistic school of philosophy. Tat
Tvam Asi, the 3rd of four Mahavakyas which in sanskrit translates to
"Thou Art That" is the principle philosophy that governs the temple
and pilgrimage. As the pilgrimage is symbolic for the journey to
self-realization that all living beings possess the essence of
Brahman, pilgrims refer to each other as Swami, acknowledging their
It means, in short, you are part of the
Paramatma which is the
Illumination and Power
In this remote hill shrine the
Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB)
is shouldering the task of providing sufficient illumination in base
camps, trekking paths and the Sannidhanam, the shrine spot. KSEB
installs and maintains around 15000 electric lamps of various types
here. Power is brought here through Kochu Pampa and Thriveni
substations. Through uninterrupted supply and well maintained lights
KSEB has been able to maintain good reputation in the recent
The history behind the worshiping methods
The customs of the pilgrims to
Sabarimala are based on five
worshipping methods; those of Shaivites, Shaktists and Vaishnavites.
At first, there were three sections of devotees – the devotees of
Shakti who used meat to worship their deity, the
devotees of Vishnu who followed strict penance and continence, and the
Shiva who partly followed these two methods. Another name
Ayyappa is Sastha. All these can be seen merged into the beliefs of
pilgrims to Sabarimala. The chain the pilgrims wear comes from the
Rudraksha chain of the Shaivites. The strict fasting, penance and
continence is taken out of the beliefs of the Vaishnavites. The
offering of tobacco to Kaduthaswamy can be considered to be taken from
An information signage near Nadappanthal, Sabarimala, inviting all to
join hands in making
Sabarimala free from plastic and other wastes.
The waste disposed by the visitors to
Sabarimala is threatening the
wildlife of the region and the evergreen forests.
Efforts are on to make
Sabarimala free from pollution and waste. High
Kerala has directed that 'Irumudikkettu' should not contain
plastic materials. Projects like "Punyam Poonkavanam" has been
initiated under the aegis of governmental departments. Hindu
organisations such as Art of Living and
Mata Amritanandamayi Math
Mata Amritanandamayi Math has
been regularly contributing to keep
Sabarimala and its precincts
clean. While cleaning Pamba river Sabarimala
Sanndidhaanam clean is their primary objective, the broader vision
is to spread the message of greenness and cleanliness beyond
Some of the salient aspects of "Punyam Poonkavanam" project
Not using soap and oil while bathing in the holy Pamba River. No
throwing any material, including clothes in the holy river.
To prepare irumudikkettu without using any plastic and using only
To devote at least one hour in cleanliness activities at Sabarimala
Sannidhaanam, River Pamba and surroundings as part of the pilgrimage.
Dolly service in Sabarimala
Nearest airports are
Thiruvananthapuram International Airport
Thiruvananthapuram International Airport (170
kilometres (110 mi)) and
Cochin International Airport
Cochin International Airport (160
kilometres (99 mi)).
Kerala cabinet gave in-principle approval for setting up a greenfield
airport to be named as Sabarigiri International Airport. Among 5 sites
of which 4 in Pathanamthitta, the first preference goes to Cheruvally
Kottayam District given the strong soil, topography and
other factors per the US consulting firm. The Sabarigiri International
Airport will give wings for the growth of VIP and foreigners visits
and make may it the most revenue generating temple in India. It will
change the life and property value of many people in the nearby areas.
A new airport has been planned to be set up near Cheruvally which is
about 50 km from Sabarimala.
Sabarimala Heliport is situated in
Perunad about (40 kilometres
(25 mi)) from pampa, which is also known as
And Chipsan Aviation Pvt Ltd, being the sole chartered operator.
See also: Sabari railway line
Chengannur (82 kilometres (51 mi)),Kayamkulam Junction (102
kilometres (63 mi)), Sasthamkotta (100 kilometres (62 mi)),
Kottayam (120 kilometres (75 mi)) and
Kollam Junction (129
kilometres (80 mi)) are some of the closest accessible railway
stations from Sabarimala.
The main trunk road of about 70 kilometres (43 mi) to Sabarimala
is Pathanamthitta-Pamba, which passes through, Mannarakulanji,
Vadasserikara, Perunad, Lahai & Nilakkal.
Kerala State Road
Transport Corporation operates regular daily bus services from
Ernakulam and Kumili. Direct Bus
services to Pathanamthitta, Erumeli and Pamba are operated from
Chengannur railway station.
Other nearby temples
Valiyakoikkal Temple, Pandalam
Nilakkal Sree Mahadeva Temple, Nilakkal, Pathanamthitta
Sreevallabha Temple, Thiruvalla
Devi Temple, Vallamkulam
Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple
Rektha Kanda Swamy Temple, Omallur, Pathanamthitta
Orippurathu Bhagavathy Temple, Thattayil, Pathanamthitta
Sree Mahaganapathi Temple, Kottarakkara
Chakkulathukavu Temple, Alappuzha
Mannarasala Temple, Harippad
Devi Temple, Mavelikkara
Chengannur Mahadeva Temple, Chengannur
Swami Temple, Changanacherry
Ettumanoor Mahadevar Temple, Ettumanoor, Kottayam
Vaikom Temple, Vaikkom, Kottayam
Oachira Temple, Oachira, Kollam
Puttingal Temple, Paravur
Sasthamcotta Sree Dharma
Kunnekadu Sree DDharmasastha Temple.East Othera.Thiruvalla
Ready To Wait campaign
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Devaswom Board " History of Temple, Sri Chithirathirunal
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Maharani and Diwan of
pilgrimage to the temple on May 13th, 1940.; Source:  (accessed
Saturday June 25, 2016)
^ Asian MythologiesYves BonnefoyUniversity of Chicago Press, 15 May
^ "Shrines for Sastha, in eight forms". The Hindu. Retrieved
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Sabarimala prasadom". 6 August
Harivarasanam History and meaning of harivarasanam.
Harivarasanam Songs & Lyrics, KJ Yesudas Harivarasanam
Song Lyrics". www.ayyappatemple.in. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
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Temple arson in
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Sabarimala review meeting held". The Hindu.
^ "ശബരിമലയില് ചത്ത
^ "Going green? Kerala's
Sabarimala temple rules against the use of
plastics - Firstpost". Firstpost. 2016-01-15. Retrieved
Kerala High Court seeks probe into deer death".
http://www.deccanchronicle.com/. 2016-01-07. Retrieved
2016-12-02. External link in newspaper= (help)
Sabarimala and Periyar eternal yet threatened". Times Of India
Blogs. 2014-06-22. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
^ "'Irumudikkettu' should not contain plastic materials: HC".
Mathrubhumi. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
^ Vijayan, P. "'Punyam Poonkavanam' to cleanse Sabarimala".
Mathrubhumi. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
^ "sabarimala Amala Bharatam അമലഭാരതം".
e.amritapuri.org. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
Sabarimala clean-up: 35,000 bags of garbage collected". NDTV.com.
^ Kuttoor, Radhakrishnan. "200 foreigners take part in cleaning drive
at Sabarimala". The Hindu. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
^ "Clean-up drive at holy
Pamba River in Sabarimala: 27 tons of litter
removed so far". Retrieved 2016-12-02.
^ Correspondent, Special. "Pampa to be included in Punyam
Poonkavanam". The Hindu. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
^ "Welcome to Official Site of Punyam Poonkavanam".
www.punyampoonkavanam.org. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sabarimala.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Sabarimala.
Official Website Of Sabarimala
Sabarimala news and update (Non-official portal)
Makara Jyothi in keralas ayappa swamy temple is man-made - temple
Website of Punyam Poonkavanam Project
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