Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple
Aranmula Parthasarathy temple is one of the great Krishna temples of Kerala. It is one of the divya sthalams of Sri vaishnavites , as some of the Azhwars(Ministels of God) have sung about this temple. It is a suburb of Kozenchery in Pathanamthitta district. Nearby important towns are Pathanamthitta (10 km), Pandalam (14 km) Chengannur (10 km). The nearest railway station is at Chengannur.There are few stories about the origin of the temple.
It seems that after Parikshit the son of Abhimanyu who was made the king after the Mahabharatha war, it seemd the Pandavas visited Pamba river of Kerala with a view to propitiate their manes. It seems each of them consecrated a temple .While Yudhishtra consecrated the temple of Chengannur , Bheema consecrated Thirupuliyur temple, Arjuna Aranmula temple , Nakula Thiruvamundur temple and Nakula Thirukadithanam temple.
It seems that the temple consecrated by Lord Arjuna fell in disuse and was covered with forest. At that time a man belonging to caste called Chaakans who were rowing down the Pamba river saw a very young Brahmachari Brahmin boy stranded in a forest shore of the Pamba river. When he wanted to go downstream, the boatmen built a raft using six Bamboos (Six-Aaru, Bamboo-mula) and reached the present place of the temple. Seeing the boy with a shining form, the local people received him with hospitality and made arrangements for him to stay in the shore of the river. It seems the boy was Lord Krishna himself and he raised the bank in to a small hill and consecrated the statue of Lord Krishna . which was consecrated earlier by Arjuna. Next day when people came he had vanished and they started worshipping the God there , Since the Boy came in a raft made of Bamboo or possibly because the Bamboo raft came floating in the aaru(river) , the place was called Aaranmula..
There is a belief that the Idol that has been consecrated in Aranmula is that of God as the driver of Arjuna(Partha Sarathy), though like the other usual parthasarathy statues , the idol does not hold a horse whip. There is a belief that , here the idol is of that Krishna who jumped out of his driver’s seat to kill Bheeshma with a discus in his hand. The idol is almost 6 feet tall. While some people say that the idol is made of blue granite yet others feel that it is made of a compound of concentrated jaggery. The idol has four hands. In the hand pointing above there is Sudarsana Chakra, one hand holds the conch and the other hands hold the mace and the lotus flower .In the year 1880 there was a big fire in the temple. Though it destroyed the entire temple , the idol was not affected. In 1883, the Karthika thirunal king rebuilt the entire temple in the way that it is seen now.
The God is facing the east in this temple. He faces the Pambha river from whose shore you have to climb several steps. The temple also houses the temples of that of Dharma Sastha, Bhagwathi, Lord Bala Badhra and the Naga devathas. There are several important festivals in the temple. The main festival starts on the Hastha star in the month of Makaram (January-February) and lasts for ten days and on the tenth day, there is an Arattu(Ceremonial dipping of I uthsava idol in the river), The most important day of the festival is on the sixth day , when God is supposed to come out riding on Garuda. People believe that girls worshipping God on that day would have a very long wedded life.
Another great festival takes place in the month of Vruschigam (November-December) for 12 days is the festival of Kalabham and Vilakku. This is also called “Panthrandu Kalabham( 12 Kalabham) “. It is believed that this was started by the great Marthanda Vema king of Travancore. On these days, the Idol of God Parthasarathy is anointed by sandal paste(Kalabham) In the evening each day the idol is dressed as one of the Dasavatharas.
However the biggest festival of the temple is Aranmula Vallam. Vallam means boat and there is a boat race in the river on the Uthrattathi day(after the Thiruonam day) in the month of Chingam (August-September) Several very long snake boats (more than 100 feet , manned by more than one hundred people participate in this festival. This is the day when the temple was consecrated as well as the birthday of Arjuna. This is not a sports but a religious festival.
In a place called Kattur , which is 9 km away from Aranmula there was a great devotee of the Lord called Mangattu Bhattathiri. He used to wash the feet of Brahmins and feed them on all on Thiruonam day .He used to take meals only after a Brahmin takes food. On a particular Thiruonam day, he could not find any Brahmin to feed. He prayed God and a very pleasant looking great Brahmin came that day and took meals given by him. Charmed by his mein Bhattathiri requested him to come again on next Thiruonam day.Then that Brahmin replied , “It would be difficult but if you come to Aranmula temple on that day, it could be managed., Later the God of Aranumla came to him in his dream and told him that it was he himself who had come as a Brahmin. So on the next Uthrattathi day, Bhattathiri went to Aranmula temple with all the food items that are needed to feed a multitude of people . The boat was a very huge one. His men accompanied him to protect him on two snake boats. With the articles , a great feast was arranged in Aranmula called Valla Sadhya. This continued for a long time. The Bhattathiri family left the place to Kumaranallur entrusting sufficient wealth to continue the custom unbroken. The Coming of the snake boats and a grand feast on that Uthrattahi day continued. One of the very special preparations to that feast is the “Aranmula Varutha erisseri”. This is prepared using Plantains and elephant foot yam , with generous portion of grated coconut fried in coconut oil added to it. There are many stories about the taste of this Varatha Erisseri which is prepared in Aranmula.
Another festival celebrated here is the Gandava Dahanam celebrated in the month of Dhanu (December-January) For this festival, a model of a forest is created in front of the temple with dried plants, leaves and twigs. Then a huge bonfire is lit, symbolic of Gandava forest fire of the Mahabharata.