Five Pandava Temples in Kerala


By editor - 23.7 2018

Krishna Declaring the End of Mahabharata War by blowing the Conch Shell
Folio from RazmNama, Mughal, c. 1598 A.D.


While on pilgrimage, the five Pandava brothers built a five unique Mahavisnu temples in various parts of Kerala state. All five temples were positioned along the banks of the holy River Pamba. Yudhishtira Pandava installed Lord Visnu at Thirichittattu, less than 2 km. north of Chengannur. Bhima build a Visnu temple at Thripuliyoor. Arjuna built the Krishna Parthasaradhy Temple at Thiruarunmula. Nakula Pandava built a Visnu temple at Thiruvanvandoor. And finally, Sahadeva built a temple at Thirikudithanam. The five temples are collectively known as the Pandava Temples.

The Pamba River is the third longest river in Kerala, and is considered to be Dakshina Ganga. The Pamba originates at Pulachimalai hill, very near to Chengannur, and flows towards the coast, merging with the waters of Thottapally (Vembanad) Lake just before arriving at the sea. Chengannur is one of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu on his southern tirtha-yatra.

Pamba River near Chengannur

The history associated with the five Pandava Temples begins following the departure of Sri Krsna from this world, which marks the official start of Kali Yuga. Wishing to pursue spiritual pursuits, and to become purified of the sins of killing family, friend, teacher, etc. during the Kurukshetra war, the Pandava brothers retired from public life. They invested Arjuna's grandson, the young Pariksit, with the King's crown. Taking Kripa as his advisor, Pariksit is known to have performed three aswamedha yajnas under his guidance while serving as a young king, after which he engaged in many famous pastimes as the first king of Kaliyuga. The Pandavas, meanwhile, headed towards the south. Among other stops, they spent considerable time at Kerala, engaged in their temple building pastimes.

Parikrama Map to Five Pandava Temples, Kerala

Like the River Pamba, the Pandava Temple parikrama route takes one winding through three different districts in Kerala: Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha and Kottayam. The Pandava Temples are included among the 108 Divyadesams, or places of worship of Lord Visnu as praised by the 12 Tamil Alvars. Making pilgrimage to the five tirthas is considered highly meritorious, and is to be done in a particular order: beginning in Chengannur, first one must visit Thrichitat Temple, then Thiruppuliyoor, then Thiruvaranmula, then Thiruvanvandoor and finally Thrikkodithanam temple. It is believed to be most auspicious if one visits all five temples on the same day, each one at a particular time of day.

Not surprisingly, the order in which the five temples are to be visited follows the birth order of the five brothers. The first tirtha stop is Thirichittattu, built by the eldest Pandava brother, Yudhishtira.

On an auspicious day when all the stars and planets were favorable. Kunti gave birth to a son born of Dharma. A voice from the heaven proclaimed that this child was the perfect image of righteousness and for this quality he would be famed throughout the world. The child was named Yudhisthera.

The second tirtha to visit is Thiruppuliyoor, built by Bhima Pandava:

A year later the king said, I want another son, so he proclaimed, "When righteousness is supported by strength, nothing can withstand the combination." A beautiful strong son was born to Kunti. The heavens proclaimed, "This child will be the most powerful and most affectionate child." The son was called Bheema.

The third tirtha to visit is Thiruvaranmula, built by Arjuna Pandava:

A voice from the heavens proclaimed, "Your next son will be the conqueror of the entire world. There will be none like him. He will be a hero, invincible. His best friend will be Krishna. Because of these two men the earth will be cleansed of all its poisons which are hurting her." The son was called Arjuna.

The fourth tirtha to visit is Thiruvanvandoor, built by Nakula Pandava, and the fifth and final tirtha is Thrikkodithanam temple, built by the youngest Pandava, Sahadeva:

"These two men will be the most handsome men in the world. They will be famed for their good qualities, their devotion, their bravery and wisdom."

Over the course of the next five segments, we will visit each one of the five Pandava Temples of Kerala, all rich in history associated with the divine brothers' pastimes, and all home to glorious Forms of Lord Vishnu.

The Five Pandava Brothers and Draupadi 
Basholi, Punjab Hills, c. 1740