Sacred groves, ancient temples, spellbinding rituals like theyyam... Kerala's northern district of Kannur has them all to capture a culture enthusiast's attention. The magnificent art form of theyyam is something that draws people from far and wide to the region, during the season that begins towards the end of October, up to May. Theyyam devotees also visit many well-known temples in the region that can also interest tourists who love mythological stories and history. Here are a few temples you can pay a visit to:
The picturesque Kottiyoor Temple
There are several legends and myths surrounding the Kottiyoor Temple, where a unique festival is celebrated during the heavy rainy season. Kottiyoor is also related historically to other well-known temples such as Thirunelly in Wayanad. The area where the Kottiyoor Temple is located is quite picturesque. While the Bavali River flows gently beside the temple, huge trees aged hundreds of years provide a cool canopy to the shrine. After starting the journey from Wayanad, a traveller can negotiate the Palchuram Ghat Road to reach Kottiyoor. From there, the path flanked by a thickly wooded area with massive trees leads to another popular temple, dedicated to Muthappan at Parassinikadavu.
The variety of rituals at Parassinikadavu
The deity Muthappan offered solace to people belonging to the lower strata of society who were not allowed by people of the higher classes into their shrines. Sections of the society such as ‘Parayan’ and ‘Pulayan’ were warmly welcomed by Muthappan and they built ‘madappuras’ in his honour.
Even in the present day, thousands of devotees throng the ‘madappuras’ with offerings such as ‘theyyam’, ‘vellattam’ and ‘thirayattam.’ Numerous boats conduct services in the nearby Valapattanam River and they range from small pedal boats to large houseboats. Apart from praying to Muthappan, a visit to Parassinikadavu provides visitors with an opportunity to enjoy a boat ride.
Sacred groves or 'kavus' of Kannur
‘Kavus’ or sacred groves proclaim the belief that nature itself is God. While most sacred groves in other parts of Kerala have all but disappeared, Kannur still maintains the tradition of preserving the ancient ‘mini forests.’ Among the several sacred groves in Kannur, a well-maintained and popular shrine is Neeliyar Kottam. Also referred to as Pachakkattilamma, the shrine observes rituals only on special days. On such occasions, the deity Pachakkattilamma would rush out of a thickly wooded area wearing a headgear extending to almost 25 feet in height. The person, who adorns the deep red-coloured attire of the deity, would mingle with the devotees and, as per belief, get transformed into God. For the devotees, it is a moment when man becomes God and vice-versa.
After taking part in the rituals at Neeliyar Kottam in the evening, a traveller can head to Vaidekam Niramaya Retreat Centre for the night’s stay. Built on a hilltop at Morazha, the centre offers panoramic views of the countryside. Vaidekam Centre also offers facilities such as Ayurveda therapy, music therapy and yoga.