The Pandava Temples of Kerala
Chengannur in Alappuzha district of Kerala, has a unique set of five ancient shrines connected with the Mahabharata. These five Maha Vishnu temples are believed to be built by Pandavas, one each. Legend has it that the Pandava princes, after crowning Parikshit as king of Hastinapura, left on a pilgrimage. On arriving on the banks of river Pamba, each one is believed to have installed a tutelary image of Krishna.
These temples are part of the 108 Divya Desams revered by the 12 poet saints, Alwars, and are glorified in the Divya Prabandha, by Nammalwar, who lived 5000 years back.
Thrichittat Maha Vishnu Temple by Yudhishtira
Divya Prabandham refers to this temple as Thiruchengundrur. Perhaps the name of the town Chengannur (meaning red land) originated from this. The deity of Maha Vishnu is referred as Rakthapankajavalli Devathideva Perumal or Imayavarappan.
During Mahabharata war, Yudhishthira, the head of the Pandavas, who never before uttered a lie, lied in one instant to defeat his Guru, Dronacharya. To overcome the sin of the lie, he underwent penace worshipping the lord here. Imayavar(Devas) came to this place prior to Yudhishthira and hence the deity here is referred as Imayavarappar.
Thrippuliyoor Maha Vishnu Temple by Bhima
Divya Prabandham refers to this temple as Thiruppuliyur. The deity of Maha Vishnu is referred as Hemalatha Mayashaktiyutha Swamy Perumal or Maayapiraan.
Gatha, the weapon used by Bheema is believed to be present in the temple.
Thiruvaranmula Parthasarathy Temple by Arjuna
Divya Prabandham refers to this temple as Thiruvaranvilai. The deity of Maha Vishnu is referred as Padmasani Vamana Perumal or Parthasarathy. Parthasarathy is the other name of Krishna on account of his role as Arjuna’s Charioteer in the Mahabharata war.
Lord Krishna presiding here in the Vishvarupa form is considered as ‘Annadana Prabhu’. Per legend, the place name Aaranmula is derived from the word aarin-villai meaning land near river. The temple is famous for boat-race and the feast thereafter.
Thiruvanvandoor Maha Vishnu Temple by Nakula
Divya Prabandham refers to this temple as Thiruvanvandoor. The deity of Maha Vishnu is referred as Kamalavalli Kamalanatha Perumal or Paambanaiappan. The famous Pamba river is near the temple and hence the name of the deity is Paambanaiappan.
Once, Naradar got a curse from Brahmadeva and he came to this place and worshipped Paambanaiyappan. At that time, Sriman Narayanan came infront of him and explained the Naradeeya puranam, that explains about the Gnana explaination. Perhaps this is the reason for the place name (Thiruvan vandoor – where the lord arrived).
Thrikkodithanam Maha Vishnu Temple by Sahadeva
Divya Prabandham refers to this temple as Thirukkadithalam. The deity of Maha Vishnu is referred as Karpagavalli Amruthanarayana Perumal or Athbhutha Narayanan. The temple has Narayana and Narasimha deities with 2 dwajasthambhas on either sides.
The huge distinctive wall around this temple which is very tall and uniquely wide. Also the strange statue of a man (Kazhuvetti Kallu) outside the temple is quite unique, and has many legends associated with it.
Pandavar Kavu Devi Temple by Kunthi
Although situated far away from the pandavanaadu in Chengannur, where the Pandava temples and Pandavan Para are situated, this temple is often visited by pilgrims who visit the 5 divyadesams by Pandavas.
The shrine is dedicated to Goddess Durga and the deity was installed by Kunti, the mother of Pandavas. It is believed that Kunti had created the deity herself using clay.
Pandavan Para Sree Krishna Temple
Hardly a mile from Chengannur town, is the mysterious hill called Pandavan Para with unique shaped rocks. It is believed to have been one of the hideouts of the Pandavas during their days in exile.
The temple on top of the hill is dedicated to Lord Sree Krishna. Behind the temple, there are rocks with unique shapes of lotus flower in various blooming stages and that of a frog.