Thanks to the Palakkad Gap, a 32km wide pass through the Western Ghats, Palakkad is known as the Gateway to Kerala. Palakkad cannot be easily defined; no label fits and no description is precise. It is a town that would rather be a village, making way for chariots during festivals and processions like little villages might, brightening up each morning as the sunlight falls on its golden paddy fields.
The main deity at the Vadakkanthara Temple is Bhagavathi, an incarnation of Kannagi, the heroine of the Tamil epic Silappatikaram, who is an incarnation of Parvati. This temple has some interesting and unusual customs, the most notable of which is that every day at 6.00am and 6.00pm, 101 crackers are burst within the temple complex, as a motif for driving away evil spirits. Most rituals performed here are connected with driving away negative influences:
The Manapullikavu Temple is believed to be an ancient temple constructed on the banks of the Bharatapuzha River. The main deity here is the Bhadrakaali version of the goddess, also thought to be a female incarnation of Paramashiva. Legend has it that the goddess came here to protect the temple from an asura called Neelan, and upon defeating him, she showered all her devotees with prosperity and love. Even now, it is believed that the goddess protects her devotees from evil and grants them all their wishes and desires.
Jain Temple, Jainmedu
This temple, on the Kalpathi River, is believed to have been built about 500 years ago. Many idols are housed here in different divisions of the temple including those of Chandranathan, Vijayalakshmi, Jwalamohini, Rishabh-anathan, Parswanathan and Padmavathi. There is a marked aura of austerity about the place, no less emphasised by the unadorned nature of the main alter, only brightened by lamps, and the granite walls devoid of decoration.
This temple is not treated like a tourist destination, and the caretakers of this temple, who live within the compound, will need to be alerted so that they can let travellers in
This is a relatively small, yet impressively built, Shiva Temple. Modelled after the Kashi Vishwanathaswamy Temple of Banaras, this temple building dates back to 1425. It has an imposing kodimaram, or flagpole on which the temple banner flies during the Kalpathi Ther, a chariot festival usually held in November, wherein all temples in the area participate. Traffic comes to a halt during this time. Streets are lined with stalls selling knick-knacks, and people praying and shopping with equal enthusiasm.
The Kumarapuram Temple was once a major centre of Vedic learning. The main deity here is Prasanna Venkatachala-pathy, who is flanked by his consorts, Alamelu and Mangalambal.
The Agraharams of Palakkad
Legends say that a prince of the royal dynasty of Kochi fell in love with a tribal girl and was ostracised for his relationship. He decided to leave his family and settled down in the area to set up the royal dynasty of Palakkad. The Namboodiri Brahmins in the region, who wanted no part in officiating the ceremonies of an ex-communicated prince, left the area. The Palakkad kings sought the help of Brahmins living on the other side of the Palakkad Gap, who graciously agreed. As a result, Tamil Brahmins settled down in Palakkad. The areas where they settled grew into gramams or agraharams.
Along the banks of the Kalpathi River lie the agraharams of Kumarapuram, Ramanathapuram, Ambikapuram and Chokkanathapura. Ramanathapuram (the abode of Ramanathan or Shiva) has three shrines, dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva and Ganesh. Around 35 families still live here following past traditions. The Vedas and shastras are orally passed down from one generation to the other.
Nearest railhead: Palakkad, about 5 km.
Nearest airport: Coimbatore International Airport, about 70 km | Calicut International Airport, about 105 km | Cochin International Airport, about 110 km