Kottayam is known for its religious harmony. There are over 50 temples and 70 churches including a 1000 year old mosque in this district. Besides, Kottayam is also the gateway to the pilgrim centres of Sabarimala, Mannanam, Vaikom, Ettumanoor, Bharananganam, Erumeli, Manarcad, Aruvithura, Athirampuzha and the temples of Perunna, Vazhapalli and Thrikkodithanam near Changanacherry.
The CSI Cathedral Church, built over 175 years ago, is a monument from the British Era.
The Old Seminary, Marthoma Seminary and Vadavathoor Seminary proclaim Syrian and Roman Christian traditions. The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has its headquarters at Devalokam, Kottayam.
This mosque is dedicated to Vavar, a companion of the deity - Sree Ayyappa - of the Sabarimala temple. The mosque is unique because Hindu pilgrims customarily worship here before their trek to Sabarimala. Festival: Pettathullal (January).
An enchanting landscape formed by a chain of green hills at the Bharananganam panchayat. A shrine dedicated to the Pandava brothers of the epic Mahabharatha is found here. As in the famous temple at Sabarimala, only ghee is used to light the lamps here. Women are not permitted inside the temple.
St. Mary's Church, Bharananganam:
The mortal remains of the Blessed Alphonsa are entombed at this church, which is now a famous pilgrim centre. Thousands gather at this holy shrine during the annual festival: Feast of the Blessed Alphonsa (July).
According to legends, the five Pandava brothers - epic heroes of the Mahabharatha - stayed near this rock, 2000 ft. above sea level and spread over 20 acres, during their exile. The name of the rock is said to be a modified version of the original term Anchupara (five rocks). However, some say that the name owes its origin to the Ayyappa Temple here. This temple has four pillars, which support a flat piece of rock that forms the roof. On one side of the rock is a cave that can accommodate over 15 people. The sunset is beautiful from here. Above all, the cool mountain breeze does wonders to your mind and body.
3 km from Vazhikkadavu is this renowned Christian pilgrim centre where hundreds of devotees from far and near converge during the holy week and after, to climb the hill in faith, carrying small wooden crosses. The peaceful Monastery at the top of the hill, the silence of the hills, the cool mountain air and the lush green landscape are all soothing to the soul.
On the eastern side of the hill is Muruganmala housing a rock cut temple dedicated to Murugan (son of Lord Shiva). The road to Kurisumala offers some real sightseeing opportunities in a European model house and the beautiful artificial lake, both designed by the renowned architect, Laurie Baker.
The mausoleum of Sheikh Fariduddin found here makes this place a famous Muslim pilgrim centre. Nearby is the scenic hill station of Kurathikallu and the beautiful Kottathavalam.
Siva Temple, Thalikkotta (2 km from Kottayam):
The place of worship of the erstwhile Thekkumkoor royal family. Annual festival - ten day utsavam (April-May), Sivarathri (January-February)
St. Mary's Church, Cheriapalli (2 km of Kottayam town):
Built in 1579 by Thekkumkoor Maharajah, this church displays outstanding architecture which is a blend of Kerala and Portuguese styles. The walls are adorned with beautiful murals made in oriental and western styles on biblical and non biblical themes.
Thazhathangadi Valiapalli (2 km from west of Kottayam town):
Built in 1550 AD, this church belongs to the Knanaya Orthodox Syrian Community. The Persian cross, believed to be one of the seven brought here by St. Thomas, and the Pahlavi inscriptions of this church are famous.
Jama Masjid, Thazhathangadi (2 km from Kottayam town):
This ancient mosque on the banks of the Meenachil River is believed to be 1000 years old. It is one of the oldest in India.
Thirunakkara Mahadevar Temple:
In the heart of Kottayam town is this 500 year old temple built by the Thekkumkoor Maharajah. This temple built in the Kerala style of architecture has colourful murals on its walls which are worth exploring. The Koothambalam, the special building in the temple premises used for cultural purposes, is one of the best in Kerala.
St. Mary's Church, Manarcad (8 km from Kottayam Town):
This is one of the most important churches of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christians. The ettunompu (8 day fasting) is the main annual event when devotees from far and wide congregate to participate in the prayers and rituals.
Dharmasastha Temple, Pakkil (3 km from Kottayam town):
This is one of the eight temples established by Parasurama, the legendary founder of Kerala. Annual festival: Sankranti Vanibhyam - a fair of household articles (June/July)
St. George's Church, Puthupalli:
This church is believed to have been built by the Thekkumkoor Rajas. The golden cross in this church is well known. The feast of St. George (Gee Varghese) is the annual event.
Mahadevar Temple, Ettumanoor (12 km north of Kottayam town):
This temple is famous for its murals, especially the painting of Nataraja in the gopuram and ezharaponnana (the 71/2 elephants finished in gold). Festival: Ezharaponnana ezhunallathu (10 days in February/March).
St. Thomas Mount:
This holy place of Christians is located 1200 ft. above sea level and offers a panoramic view of the Vaikom Lake and the surrounding areas.
Shiva Temple, Vaikom (40 km from Kottayam town):
Associated with the legendary Parasurama, this temple is a typical example of the Kerala style of temple architecture. More popular as the Kasi of the South, this temple is famous for its elephant pageants and traditional art performances. Annual festival - Vaikathashtami (November/December)
St. Mary's Church, Kuravilangad:
Built in 355 AD on the high ranges of Kuravilangad town, this church has an old bell which bears an undeciphered inscription.
St. Mary's Church, Athirampuzha :
This church was built in 1080 AD and was renovated in 1874. The annual feast here celebrated in honour of St. Sebastian is a big event with fireworks and illuminations. Votive offerings of gold and silver arrows set this event apart from other festivals.
St. Mary's Church, Kudamaloor:
This church, 800 years old, was built by Chempakasseri Maharajah. The ritual offering here is a traditional water bag and rope used to draw water from the well. The Kudamaloor Temple is equally famous.
St. Joseph's Monastery, Mannanam (Near Medical College):
This church was built by the blessed Father Chavara Kuriakose Elias. The mortal remains of this saintly priest is preserved here. Thousands of devotees gather here to pay homage to the saint everyday.
Kaduthuruthi Valiapalli (on MC Road between Ettumanoor and Vaikom):
Built in 500 AD, the church has a huge cross-sculpted out of a single stone at the entrance.
This temple built in the Gothic architectural style has a 172 ft. tower, which is one of the tallest church towers in Kerala. The feast is celebrated in December.
St. Thomas Church, Pala:
The church dates back to 1002 AD and was renovated once in the 18th century.
St. Thomas Church, Cherpungal:
Believed to have been established by the apostle St. Thomas, this church was relocated to the southern banks of the Meenachil River with the cooperation of poet Kunchan Nambiar and his family. In 1107, the Valiapalli was built on the original site. Oil poured into lamps and kept before the image of Infant Jesus is the votive offering here - a ritual similar to the devotional practices of Hindus.
Aruvithira Church (11 km from Kottayam):
Believed to be one of the seven churches established by St. Thomas, this is also one of the churches in Kerala which collects the largest amount of monetary offerings during the festival days. The annual feast is celebrated on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of April.
Pazhayapalli, Changanacherry (21 km from Kottayam town):
This 950 year old mosque is one of the most famous ones of Central Travancore. The annual festival, Thangal adiyanthiram, is well known and is marked by a grand community feast. Meat and two tonnes of rice, offered by the devotees, is used to prepare biriyani for the community feast on this day. The Chandanakuddam festival at the mosque is one of the largest crowd pulling events in Changanacherry town.
The famous Chandanakudam is celebrated here in February/December.
Saraswathi Temple, Panachikkad:
This temple, also known as the Mookambika Temple of the South, holds the Saraswathi (goddess of learning and the arts) pooja every year in October/November. Children are initiated into the world of letters at the Vidhyarambham ceremony held here.
Surya Temple, Adityapuram:
The only temple in Kerala dedicated to Aditya, the sun god. The first and last Sundays of the zodiacs Scorpio (November- December) and Aries (April - May) are considered auspicious.
Bhagavathy Temple, Ambalakkadavu:
The Arattu ritual of the Thirunakkara Mahadevar Temple takes place here. Festival: Vishu (April/May)
Festival: Patham udaya mahotsavam. Famous ritual offering: Nadel Thiyattu performance.
Bhagavathy Temple, Manarcad:
Centuries old temple dedicated to goddess Bhadrakali. Main events: Kalamezhuthupattu, Kumbha bharani, Meena bharani, Patham udayam, Mandalam chirappu.
Kavil Bhagavathy Temple, Changanacherry (18 km from Kottayam):
Built by one of the Thekkumkoor Maharajas. Festival: Kavil chirappu (December - January)
Sree Subramanya Swami Temple, Perunna (20 km from Kottayam):
Festival: Pallimetta utsavam (November - December)
Siva Temple, Vazhappalli, Changanacherry ( 17 km from Kottayam):
Famous for its sculptures.
Kalkulathukavu Temple, Vazhappalli:
This temple is famous for its Mudiyeduppu utsavam (festival) celebrated once in 12 years and the rare art forms connected with it. The procession carrying madhu (honey), kulavazha (plantain tree with the fruit), bhairavi purapadu and darika vadha purappadu etc. is a grand affair.
Fairs and Festivals
Mahotsavam at Thrichenganoor Mahadeva Temple: Highlights: Processions, Arattu, Classical and folk arts (December)
Utsavam at Bhagavathy Temple: Highlights: Processions, Velakali, Mayura nritham, Thalappoli, Kathakali, Arattu (November)
Flower Show and Food Fest (Third week of January)
Better Home Exhibition (October 2-6)
Erumeli Petta Thullal (January) Highlights - Chandanakudam at Vavarambalam, Petta thullal at the Sastha Temple, grand elephant pageants, band music, nadaswara melam, other musical ensembles and cultural programmes.
Vaikathashtami (November/December) Highlights - 12 day festival, Ashtami day most auspicious, elephant processions, musical ensembles, fireworks, Kathakali, Ottamthullal, Pathakam, Velakali and other music - dance performances
Ettumanoor Ezharapponnana (February/March) Highlights - Arattu ritual, procession of the ezharapponnana, elephant pageant, cultural performances.
Puthurpalli Chandanakudam, Changanacherry: The 2 day festival that begins on Christmas day. The Chandanakudam procession of five to seven tuskers begins from the Puthurpalli Mosque. Highlights: Cultural performances, musical ensembles, firework displays. Ponadu Chootu
Padayani: Annual festival at the ancient Bhagavathy Temple in Meenachil taluk. Bunches of dry palm fronds (chootu) are lit and carried in procession around the temple before the performances. Padayani performers then hit each other with the burning chootu.