Temples in Kerala are very traditional in Kerala and are simple structures made of wood, brick and laterite stone. Often, from afar, the only sign that marks the presence of old temples is a tall, ceremonial flag-mast. The main sanctum hosting the deities is known as the Sreekovil - and is invariably a single storied building of a circular or square plan. Inside the Kerala Temples, use of oil lamps in contrast to electrical lights lends an air of serenity and mysticism. Walls of the Sreekovil are rarely left bare, and are instead, covered with intricate, beautiful mural paintings or wood carvings.
History of Temples in Kerala:
The Vedic based temple culture of Kerala is centered on ancient Indian epics. Shiva and Vishnu are worshipped in equal devotion in Kerala. Elsewhere it is not so. Majority of the Kerala temples
is cornered by Bhagawati and Sastha and are the most popular of the deities enshrined in temples.
Shiva and Vishnu are worshipped with equal devotion in Kerala, and there are no distinctions based on the sub religions such as Saivism and Vaishnavism as seen elsewhere. In fact, Anantasaayi, or Vishnu enshrined in a reclining posture, is depicted with a Shiva lingam below his extended right arm, unlike in Tamilnadu. The stringent adherence to the ancient practices of worship and the sanctified atmosphere result in the devotees feel they are in a different world when in temple precincts. The oil lamps and their influencing effects on devotees spread an air of serenity and mysticism to the Kerala temples.
TEMPLE DESTINATIONS OF KERALA
Customs in Kerala Temples:
Male devotees entering the sanctum sanctorum are required to be bare-bodied. They can fling their shirt on the shoulder or hand. There is no objection in wearing pants or shorts. Wearing caps is disallowed. Smoking is also there in the prohibited list. Ladies have no restrictions in their wear. No footwear is allowed even inside the outer walls. However, socks have no bar.
In most of the temples the circumambulating path of the sanctum sanctorum and the outer temple are granite-laid. A devotee usually circumambulates the sanctum sanctorum three times, starting from the left. Some finish at one round. In Shiva temples the circumambulation does not take full circle. If a full circle is taken, it is considered as inauspicious which may result in ill-effects. The Shiva Lingam washed water is allowed to flow to the left side and there is a gap in the circumambulating path to flow the washed water.
Non-Hindus are not permitted to enter the area of sanctum sanctorum in majority of the Temple in Kerala. However, in many temples there is no objection for non-Hindus entering inside the outer-walls of the temple. Once inside the outer-walls, standing in the Nadapura (sheltered front path) on can see the deity in the sanctum sanctorum.
Ladies during menstruation period are strictly prohibited entering even the premises of the temples. Likewise, if a death is occurred in the family, the blood relatives of the deceased are forbidden visiting temples during the mourning period of 14 days.