Note: If you came here expecting information on visiting all 13 Malai Naattu Divya Desams, then read the blog in Tamil here. This blog entry only covers the six dhivya desams bordering Kottayam.
Having completed a visit to the six Malai naadu divya desams over the weekend, adiyEn would like to share some personal experiences and notes that might help devotees who plan to visit in the future. Though adiyEn travelled alone, the recommendations provided here are from the perspective of those who travel with their families. The places covered were as under:
- Thirukkadiththanam – Changanassery, Kottayam District
- Thiruvallavaazh – Tiruvalla, Pathanamthitta District
- Thiruvanvandoor – Thiruvanvandoor, Alappuzha District
- Thiruchengundrur – Chengannur, Alappuzha District
- Thiruppuliyur – Chenagannur, Alappuzha District
- Thiruvaranvilai – Aranmula, Pathanamthitta District
These places collectively represent the kutta naadu divya desams. Although these places apparently look to be spread across three different districts, they are fairly close to each other and can be covered even in half-a-days’ time if we start as early at 6 AM. The places mentioned above are located from top to bottom on the map in the order mentioned. Hence, it makes sense to cover them in that order.
To cover these places, one must pick a Trivandrum/Kollam bound train that goes via Kottayam. All Trivandrum and Kollam bound trains from Chennai go via Ernakulam (Kochi). However, beyond Ernakulam, there are two routes leading to Trivandrum/Kollam – one via Aleppey (Alappuzha) and the other via Kottayam. To visit the six places, one has to take the Kottayam bound train and get down at Kottayam. Bhagavathas travelling from Madurai and nearby places can directly take a bus to Kottayam that goes via Kumili.
Kottayam is a buzzing town, and is easily a vegetarian’s haven in Kerala. Considering the state’s Muslim domination, there are a countable few towns like Kottayam where one can find enough vegetarian dining options. Hence, if tourists are required to stay overnight, they should prefer Kottayam over Changanassery or Chengannur. Alternatively, the tourism department of the Government of Kerala runs a decently-maintained guest house just outside Tiruvalla temple. This place can also be chosen for overnight stay. To cover the divya desams, one can negotiate an auto or a cab from Kottayam/Tiruvalla. Most auto-drivers are aware of the temples and the travel routes to reach them as they have been routinely taking Srivaishnavas around. An auto-ride to all these places is expected to cost around Rs. 700-800.
It is also worth noting that most of the malai naadu divya desams are referred to by different names in Kerala. So it is better to get the local names right before venturing out. As is the norm in other Kerala temples, gents have to adorn a veshti, leaving their upper body part uncovered to gain admission into these temples. Hence, it is always better to carry a pair of them in your travel bag pack.
Almost all these temples have granite slabs in which a select nammazhwAr pAsuram of that kshetram is inscribed. Other than Thiruvalla and Thivaranvilai, which are seats of commercial activity, the other temples in the list hardly had any visitors. Hence, adiyEn was able to spend a long time (full fifteen minutes) enjoying the beauty of emperumAn and thinking of nammAzhwar pAsurams written about the Lord. In the case of Thiruvalla, there were an additional 11 pAsurams of Thirumangai AzhwAr which adiyEn enjoyed in admiration. nammAzhwAr glorifies the sylvan surroundings of these places in his pAsurams and it is a tribute to the people of Kerala that much of it is preserved even today. Especially, nammAzhwar glorifies Tiruvalla as a place where the smoke from vedic rituals adorns the sky. One can feel a divine calm in his/her heart by entering the temple’s prahAram itself. Similarly, in the pond adjacent to Thirukkadithanam temple, adiyEn was witness to ugaLum kayalgaL and turtles attempting acrobatics, which are definitely a treat to the nature lover.
The namboodris in all the temples mentioned appeared to have a lot of respect for Srivaishnavas. That was evident from their fond enquiries and their generous offering of prasAdams (flowers, chandanam and tulasi leaves).
Since adiyEn temporarily resides in Kerala and has covered almost all malai naattu temples now, adiyEn would be more than interested in helping bhAgavathAs out with travel directions. However, adiyEn’s recommendation is avoid these places from November to January as there will be a huge deluge of Sabarimala tourists, limiting one’s boarding/lodging options.