Popularly referred to as the headquarters of pilgrimage tourism in Kerala, Pathanamthitta, the land of temples was carved out of Idukki, Alappuzha and Kollam districts in 1982. This district, with its close proximity to the Western Ghats is endowed with scenic landscapes comprising of low undulating hills, extensive stretches of lush forests, rivers and charming countryside. Known for its exuberant festivals and traditions, this land is a true representation of the deeply rooted cultural heritage of the state.
Pathanamthitta welcomes a large number of, both domestic and international tourists every year, a major part of which is attributed to pilgrimage tourism. The Sabarimala temple alone receive 3 to 4 million pilgrims during the festival season. Having said that, the district is nowhere behind in the number of nature lovers flocking here.
Here are some of the best places to visit in Pathanamthitta:
St George orthodox church
The St. George orthodox church or the Chandanapally valiyapally is one of the biggest churches in south India and is situated at Chandanapally village in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. Founded in 1810 the church is named after Saint George the slayer of the dragon snake. The church was renovated in 1875 and consecrated by his holiness Mar Abdullah, the Later Patriarch of Antioch. It attained its present form in the year 2000. Indo-Sarsanik art of sculpture was used in its construction complete with Christian, Hindu and Muslim style sculptured art, gothic pillars and Persian style roof.
The Chembuduppu festival celebrate here has a special place in the cultural history of the state. It is celebrated as the commemoration of how the local Hindus selflessly fed hundreds of voluntary labourers, about two centuries ago when the old church was first being built. The festival is held every year on the 7th and 8th May and it attracts thousands of devotees from all walks of life irrespective of cast, cred and religion.
Konni elephant training centre
Elephants have always been a very integral part of the cultural, religious and social set up of Kerala. Once considered as a status symbol, they still capture the imaginations of the people of the land and those from afar.
If you are an elephant lover and want to experience their magnificence from up-close, then the Konni elephant training centre is the right place for you. Once inhabited by wild elephants, this is an ideal destination for you to observe them from close quarters.
Locally known as Aanakoodu, the biggest attraction here is the massive wooden cage which can hold up to three- four elephants at a time. One can also go on elephant safaris and trekking expeditions here. A fun place to be with family and kids, is a must visit destination if you are an animal lover.
Situated about 3,400 feet above sea level, Gavi is a scenic little village near Thekkady, at of 14 km southwest of Vandiperiyar. Located inside the Ranni reserve forest, the picturesque Gavi, a buffer zone on the fringes of the 925-sq.-km Periyar Tiger Reserve is a destination where nature displays its magnificence.
Enveloped by tea plantations and pristine forest this quiet and beautiful haven is blessed with a wide variety of flora and fauna. Gavi gained much popularity through the Malayalam film “Ordinary” but its true claim to fame was the recognition as one of the eco-tourism centres and one of the must-see places in the country by ‘Alistair International’, the world acclaimed tourism major.
Endangered species, including the Nilgiri Tahr and Lion-tailed Macaque, are frequently sighted here. With more than 260 species of birds including the great pied hornbill, woodpecker, and kingfishers, Gavi is a heaven for birdwatchers. This must visit spot for nature lovers and those seeking peace and tranquillity offers its visitors a variety of activities like trekking, wildlife watching, night safaris, and outdoors camps.
Aranmula is a temple town on the banks of river Pamba at about a distance of 15kms from Pathanamthitta. Deriving its name from the famous Aranmula Parthasarathy temple, the place has been recognized as a global heritage site by the United Nations.
The Aranmula Parthasarathy temple is a renowned temple with Lord Krishna as the presiding deity, in the form of Parthasarathy; the charioteer of Arjun. The temple walls are adorned by paintings dating back to the 18th century. Every year on the last day of Onam festival, the Aranmula vallamkali is organized, where the snake boats move in pairs to the rhythm of the singing of traditional boat songs. Snake boat races are also held during the vallamkali. The famous Valla Sadya is held thereafter. Valla sadya is a unique mass feast with strong devotional moorings, given to the crew of Palliyodams (snake boats) which the devotees consider a divine vessel of Lord Krishna, presiding deity of Aranmula temple.
Aranmula is also famous for the Aranmula Kannadi (Aranmula Mirror) is a handmade metal-alloy mirror. The metal alloy combination and technique of making the mirror is a family secret passed down from generation to generation. The Aranmula palace which is more than 200 years old is another attraction of this little town. Its spiritual, religious, cultural and historic significance makes it a popular destination among tourists.
Aruvikkuzhy waterfalls is an enchanting sight in the district of Pathanamthitta located 7km from Kozhencherry and about 2km from Thadiyoor. The falls are located in the midst of a rubber plantation and is a 100 feet high falls. The word Aruvikkuzhy means “a water stream with depth” in the Malayalam language.
Often confused with the Aruvikkuzhy Waterfalls in Kottayam, this is an ideal picnic spot and emerging movie location.
Pandalam palace is situated on the banks of the Achankovil river at a distance of 10 kilometres from the town of Adoor. The palace is home to the Pandalam royal family who is believed to be the descendants of the Pandya kings from Madurai. It’s believed that the Pandalam kingdom was established around 903 AD. Though most of the ancient buildings have been destroyed in fires and floods, a few structures still remain.
The palace is not just historically and culturally significant to the state of Kerala. It is believed that the Sabarimala Ayyappa is the son of the Pandalam Raja. Every year during “makaravilakku” festaivals the sacred ornaments of Sree Ayyappa are taken in a procession from Pandalam to Sabarimala. It is hence a popular pilgrim destination as well.
Muloor Smarakam situated in a small village of Elavumthitta at a distance of 12 kilometres from Pathanamthitta is a memorial dedicated to the famous poet and pre-independence social reformer and orator, Muloor S Padmanabha Panicker.
This ordinary Kerala house once inhabited by the poet himself was converted into his memorial by Department of culture of Kerala State Government. Panicker was born in the year 1869 to Sankaran Vaidyar and Veluthakunj Amma. He initially studied Sanskrit, Ayurveda, kalari etc. from his father Muloor Sankaran Vaidyar. Later he came to be known as a humorous poet or Sarasa Kavi.
His major works include: “Nalacharitham”, “Krishnarjuna Vijayam”, “Kiratham” , “Asannamarana Chintha Sathakom” (a poem that won a Bhashaposhini award) etc.
Frequented by literature lovers and history buffs Muloor Smarakam is a noted destination in Pathanamthitta district.
Kaviyoor Rock- Cut Temple
Now a protected monument under the Archaeological Department, Kaviyoor rock-cut temple also known as the Kaviyoor Thrikkakkudi Cave Temple is located at Kaviyoor, at a distance of 7 km from the city of Thiruvalla.
Constructed in the Pallava style architecture the temple carved out of rock is said to be dated back to the 8th century. The engravings here are among the earliest specimens of stone sculptures in Kerala. The temple is one of the 3 rock cut temples in Kerala. The presiding deity here is Lord Shiva and a three feet high Shiva Linga is enshrined here along with Lord Ganapathi, Maharshi and Dwarapalakas.
Apart from offering peace and spiritual guidance to its devotees, it is a place of great archaeological and historical importance.
The name Perunthenaruvi is derived from the two Malayalam words Perunthen (great honey) and aruvi (stream). Just as the name suggests this is a very scenic and enticing spot frequented by tourists. Situated 36 km from Pathanamthitta on the banks of the Pamba river, these beautiful falls are one of the best waterfalls in Kerala.
This is a natural fall, down a rocky path into a ravine about 100 feet deep. A popular picnic spot for families, it is easily accessible by road.
Located at the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta, Sabarimala is a Hindu pilgrim centre visited by 45-50 million devotees every year. Situated amidst 18 hills on a hilltop at an altitude of 1260 meter above sea level. The shrine at Sabarimala is an ancient temple of Ayyappan also known as sasta and Dharmasasta. It is believed that in the 12th century, Manikandan, a prince of Pandalam dynasty, meditated at Sabarimala and hence became the Sabarimala Ayyappan.
Built in Kerala temple architectural style the temple sannidhanam is built on a 40 feet high plateau. Standing tall as a centre of religious harmony, the temple is open to all, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. Every devotee visisting Sabarimala first visits the muslim mosque dedicated to Vavar, who is believed to have been a friend of Lord Ayyappa.
The pilgrims visiting Sabarimala undergo a fast for 41 days to cleanse their body and minds. Transportation is available only till Pamba and the rest of the journey is on foot through the jungle.