The Divya Desam Shrines of Kerala
Kerala boasts of a hoary temple tradition. The temples of Kerala - among the best maintained in the subcontinent, are simple in construction, relying greatly on timber - a bounty of the rich forests that adorn this southern state, unlike the collossal granite structures of the neighboring state of Tamilnadu. Historically, there has been a strong link between the two southern states. A good illustration of this link, is the existence of eleven temples in the state, with a strong link with the tamil hymns of three of the Alwar Saints , of the 1st millennium CE.
The Alwars: Sri Vaishnavism is one of the pre-eminent traditions of Hinduism. An unbroken lineage of teachers, (the Acharyas) and a wealth of literature in Tamil and in Sanskrit and the Vishishtadvaita philosophy form the backbone of the Sri Vaishnava religion. Twelve saint (poet) devotees - the great Alwars lived their lives dedicated to expressing their devotion to MahaVishnu - considered to be the supreme manifestation of Divinity in the Vaishnava system of beliefs. These saints composed verses in chaste tamil, and revitalized the religious spirit of the region, sparking off a renewal of devotional worship in what is generally referred to as the Bhakti movement.
Divya Desam: The poems of the Alwars address Vishnu enshrined in 108 temples and celestial abodes. 106 of these shrines are located all over the subcontinent, the majority of them being in Tamilnadu, from where the Alwars hailed. Eleven of these temples are in Kerala. These temples range from the well known Anantapadmanabhaswamy temple at Trivandrum in southern Kerala to in Northern Kerala. Each of these temples is over 1200 years old. Renovation efforts in the past millennium have altered the appearance of these temples, as in the Tiruvanandapuram temple, where much of the renovation is the result of the patronage by the Royal Travancore Maharajas. However, it remains a fact, that each of these shrines existed during the period of the Alwars, and are still flourising centers of worship.
Here are the eleven Divya Desam temples of Kerala.