Not so long ago, Karkkidakam (mid July – mid August) was the month of famine and impoverishment. The ingenious Malayalis have reinvented it and how! Today, Karkkidakam is the time for revival – both physical and spiritual.
People from all over the world visit Kerala during this month to rejuvenate their body and mind through Ayurvedic treatment at the numerous spas and health resorts found across the length and breadth of the state. Karkkidakam falls in the midst of the rainy season which is a great time for rejuvenation.
Another common practice is the recitation of the Hindu epic Ramayana. Most Hindu families in Kerala observe this practice religiously. The version that is recited is the ‘Adhyathma Ramayanam’ penned by Ezhuthachan. He is regarded as the father of Malayalam. During each day of this month, a certain portion is recited. The objective is to recite the entire verse in 32 days. There are 32 days in Karkkidakam. Temples also organize Ramayanam recitation during this month. Devotees believe that this recitation will give them the moral strength and courage to face the hardships life throws at them.
Another practice that is becoming more and more popular each year is the one-day pilgrimage to the four temples dedicated to Lord Rama, and his brothers Bharatha, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. This pilgrimage called nalambalam thozhal (visiting the four temples) has become quite popular in recent times. Actually, several Hindus from outside Kerala also undertake this pilgrimage today.
While it is possible to visit one or all of these temples on any day, Nalambalam Tozhal is a ritual performed in the month of Karkkidakam. All four temples (three of them are in the Thrissur district and one is in the Ernamkulam district) should be visited on the same day and in the proper order (Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna).
The pilgrimage begins from the Rama temple in Triprayar and ends at the Shatrughna Temple in Payyammal. It is customary to visit the temples in the order the brothers were born – Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna.
It is believed that a pilgrimage to these temples on the same day in the month of Karkkidakam will wash away the sins and earn the blessings of the God.
Sree Rama Temple at Thriprayar
Kerala doesn’t have many temples dedicated to Lord Rama, but of all the Rama temples here, the one at Thriprayar is the most famous. The temple here has a 6 ft tall idol of Lord Rama. He is seen here in a standing posture facing east. Meenoottu (feeding the fish) is the main offering here.
How to reach
Thriprayar is the middle of Guruvayoor and Kodungallore. If you are coming via Thrissur, proceed westwards from Cherpu to reach the east entrance of the temple. The temple is open for Darshan from 3 am – 12.30 pm and 5pm to 7.30pm. Keep in mind that there are several pujas in between these hours and the temple will remain closed during those times.
Koodalmanikyam Temple, Irinjalakuda
The Koodalmanikyam temple at Irinjalakuda is perhaps the only temple in India dedicated to Rama’s brother Bharata. This temple also has a 6 ft tall idol of Bharata facing east. Another peculiarity of this temple is that it doesn’t have any other deities.
How to reach
Irinjalakuda is about 20 kms from Thriprayar. Take the Kodungallore route until you reach Edamuttam or Moonnupeedika. Divert from here. The temple is open for worship from 3am – 12 noon, and 5pm to 8pm. Important offerings are Thamaramala (lotus garland), Brinjal Nivedyam, Ghee lamp and Meeunttu (feeding the fish).
Moozhikkulam Sree Lakshmana Perumal Temple
This temple is in Ernakulam. It is one of the 108 temples praised by Azhwars. This temple also has a 6 ft tall idol similar to the ones at Triprayar and Kootalmanikyam. This is the third temple to visit.
How to reach
This temple is near the Annamanada Mahadeva temple. Take the Kodungallore route from Irinjalakuda. Reach Mala and then Muzhikkulam. Darshan is possible from 4 am to 11.00 am and 5 pm to 8 pm.
Payammal Sree Shathruknha swaamee Temple
The idol at this temple is smaller than the idols at the other three temples. This is the fourth temple to visit.
If one wants to visit all four temples on the same day, one has to start early in the morning. Devotees from the neighboring Palakkad and Malappuram districts start the journey at 2 or 3 am in the morning. Those coming from other districts or states should make the arrangements to reach Triprayar before dawn.
How to reach
Thriprayar is easily accessible by road or rail. It is about 25 kilometers from Thrissur and Guruvayoor. Kochi (60km) is the nearest airport.
Irinjalakuda is about 22 kms from Thrissur. Kochi (46 km) is the nearest airport.
Moozhikulam is near Angamaly in Ernakulam district. It is about 50 km south of Thrissur. Kochi (15km) is the nearest airport.
Payammal is about 8 kms from Irinjalakuda.
The Shatrughna temple at Payyammal is the fourth temple to visit. Interestingly it is extremely close to the Kootalmanikyam Temple (the second one to visit) at Irinjalakuda. However, the custom dictates devotees to go all the way to the Lakshmana Temple at Moozhikulam before visiting Payammal.