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Kalady Festival of Kalady

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Map of Kalady

Kalady or Kaladi is a census town located east of the Periyar river, in the Ernakulam district of Kerala, India, not far from Cochin International Airport. It is notable as the birthplace of Shankara, commonly known as Adi Shankaracharya, and is a popular destination for Hindu pilgrims.


Kalady Festival of Kalady

Kalady came to prominence only after its rediscovery in the late 19th century by the then Shankaracharya of Sringeri and the subsequent consecration of an Adi Shankara temple in 1910. The Centenary of Kalady was celebrated in May 2010 and the story of Kalady and its re-discovery a hundred years ago has been documented in a film by the Sringeri Sharada Peetham.

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In the local language, Malayalam, Kalady means "footprint." The village was previously called Sasalam. Almost all traditional and hagographical evidences prove that Kalady is Shankara's birth place. It is situated on the banks of river Periyar. The place is believed to have been found by a chieftian named Rajasekara, whose dream was influenced by Hindu god Shiva. He also built a temple for Shiva at this place and made a settlement for Brahmins. There are two temples in the place - one for Saradamba and other for Shankara as Dakshinamurthi. Sringeri Mutt and Kanchi Mutt have their branches here. A 45 m (148 ft) tall Adi Sankara Kirti Stamba Mandapa was built by Kanchi Mutt under the aegis of its pontiff Chandrasekarendra Saraswati. A Sanskrit University is run by Sringeri Mutt in the place.

Legendary beginnings

Legend holds that one day Aryamba, the widowed mother of Shankara, fainted after walking three kilometers for her daily bath in the Periyar, then known as Purna river. Feeling helpless, Shankara prayed to Lord Krishna. The tears of the child moved Krishna, who blessed him thus: "The river will flow where your little feet marks (കാലടി വരയുന്നിട്ത്തു നദി ഗതി ആവും). The Purna river took its new course in the place marked by the little boy's feet. That place came to be called Kalady.

The Purna river began flowing through Shankara's home garden. Shankara then installed Krishna into the present temple, and marked the occasion by reciting his famous Achyutashtakam.

Thus "Kalady" signifies the love of an innocent child for his beloved mother and the blessings of Krishna.

Shankara Temple

The Shankara Shrine at Kalady, run by the Sringeri Math, is a large, partly open structure situated on the northern bank of the river Periyar. There are two major shrines in the temple; one is dedicated to Shankara and the other to Goddess Saradamba, the main deity of Sringeri. The samadhi (place of death) of Shankara's mother is also located here. A small shrine to Vinayaka is the scene of evening prayers, chanted to the rhythmic ringing of cymbals. The worship in these temples is done by Tamil or Kannada Smartha Brahmins and not by Namboothiris.

Ramakrishna Advaita Ashram

The Ramakrishna Advaita Ashram is a branch centre of Sri Ramakrishna Math, Belur branch. It is located very near the accepted birthplace of Shankara. It has a spacious prayer hall and a shrine modeled on the Sri Ramakrishna temple at Belur Math. The Ashram also runs a school (Brahmanandodayam), a charitable dispensary, and a library.

Sri Adi Sankara Keerthi Sthamba Mandapam

Sri Adi Sankara Keerthi Sthamba Mandapam is an eight-story memorial built by Kanchi Kamakoti Math. The entrance to the memorial, guarded by two elephant statues, leads to the Paduka Mandapam. Two silver knobs represent the padukas, or wooden sandals of the Teacher. The walls of the memorial feature framed relief paintings that tell the story of Adi Shankaracharya. Several large statues of Ganapati, Adi Shankara, and others are also housed in this memorial. Adi Shankara's shrines in Kalady are open to all pilgrims irrespective of religion and caste. Visitors can review the life of Shankaracharya as they climb to the top. The famous Shankara Stupa has 8 sides.

Sri Krishna Temple

To the west of the Sringeri Math temple complex is a temple dedicated to Krishna. This temple is known as the ancestral deity of Shankaracharya. It is mentioned as the kuladevata (ancestral deity) in verse 243 of Shankara's Prabodha Sudhakaram. The temple is under Kalady Devasthanam, in trusteeship of two Namboothiri families who had close associations with the life of Shankara. It is also the only surviving structure from the time of Shankara. The worship in this temple is also conducted by Namboothiris, unlike in the Shankaracharya temple.

Manickamangalam Karthyayani Temple

One kilometre north of Kalady is the Manickamangalam temple, dedicated to Bhagavathi, or the goddess Durga. Shankara's father Sivaguru was the priest in this temple.

According to legend, one day he could not go by himself, so he sent little Shankara with a measure of milk as an offering to Devi. Shankara noticed that even after the offering, the measure of milk before Devi remained unchanged. He was sad and started to cry, so Devi took pity on the boy and drank the milk. References to the deity can be found in Saundarya Lahari.

Mattoor Thiru Vellaman Thulli Siva Temple

Vellamanthulli temple is two kilometres west of Kalady.

According to legend, as Shankara's mother Aryamba got older, she could not walk to Vadakkunnathan temple in Thrissur to worship. She still wanted to have darshan of the Lord. Shiva appeared in a dream, and he suggested that Aryamba follow a dancing white deer that would appear before her house the next day. Shiva promised the deer would lead her to an idol and disappear, saying she could worship the idol, and not walk the long distance to the temple. This Shiva temple was named Thiru Vella Man Thulli, or "dancing white deer."

Nayathodu Sankara Narayana Temple

Nayathodu Sankara Narayana Temple, 3 km west of Kalady, is an example of [[Advaita] in worship by Shankaracharya. According to legend, once Shankara prayed to Vishnu in this Shiva temple, Vishnu also came to reside in same idol. To this day, after offerings are made to Shiva, everything is removed and offerings are made to the same idol for Vishnu.

Manjapra Karppilli Kavu Siva Temple

Sivasarman Nambudiri, Shankaracharya's father, was the priest of Karpillykavu Shiva temple, just 8 km south at Manjapra.

Thekke Madam

Thekke Madam is just adjacent to Krishna Temple. It was founded by the Trichur Shankaracharya.

As a homage to Shankara, this Trichur Math was given special archana rights at Krishna Temple, the temple of the Shankara's ancestral deity, in year 825. To facilitate this leasehold property (kana pattam), lands were provided by Kalady Devaswom. This Math was given kingship rights in Kalady in 1730, thus marking the area of Sankara Sanketham. This was the only Math of Shankaracharya tradition for centuries that respected Kalady and sanctified it.

In modern times, the area is leased by the Sringeri Math which also runs a Vedic school there.

Aryadevi Samadhi Mandapam

Aryadevi Samadhi Mandapam is dedicated to Aryadevi (Aryamba), Shankaracharya's mother, as the place of her cremation. Shankara performed the cremation of his mother after her death. He was assisted by two of the ten Namboothiri families of Kalady. One family, Kappilly Mana, honoured the location with daily lamps for centuries. It was noticing the daily lamp Nadukaveri Sreenivasa Sastrikal, special envoy of Sringeri Math, identified and accepted Kalady as Shankaracharya's birth place in 1905 .The Raja of Travancore acquired the whole area from Kappilly Mana in 1905 and handed it over to the Sringeri Math which now maintains the Mandap.

Ancient Ghats

The three ghats below are adjacent, and span west to east in chronological order .

Kalady Kadavu (Aaraattu Kadavu)

The Kalady Kadavu is the place where the river took its turn, and where Kalady was born. It was also the place where Shankara had first performed Aaraattu (a river bath of an idol) for his ancestral deity before installing it at its current location. For centuries, during the festival at Sree Krishna Temple, the Aarattu has been carried out at this ghat.

Crocodile Ghat

The "Muthala Kadavu," or Crocodile Ghat, is where Shankara's life turned to sannyasa (ascetic life).

His mother Aryamba did not agree with his desire to become a sannyasin. Legend says that one day, Shankara was touched by a dog and, as per custom followed by the community, Shankara had to take bath. Accompanied by mother, Shankara went to river Poorna to bathe. While in the water, a crocodile caught hold of his leg. The drowning htold his mother that the crocodile would leave him alone if she would allow him to take up sannyasa. Helpless, his mother agreed, and the crocodile freed Shankara.

Ghat of the post-funeral rites of Mother Aryamba

Here is the ghat where Shankara performed the Apara Kriyas (the rituals after death and cremation as per Nambudiri rituals) for his mother Aryamba. Today, the ghat is within the temple complex of Sree Sringeri Math.


Sankara Jayanti is celebrated for five days in April or May every year. The celebration includes several religious rites. Navaratri is celebrated for nine days during September or October with music, the chariot festival, rathostavam, and other festivities.

The annual festival of the Lord of Kalady — Lord Krishna Thrikalady Appan — falls on 6 January. One distinct activity, the Aaraatu of Lord Krishna (the river bath), has been taking place for centuries in the holy ghat where Kalady was born.


The following institutions of learning are located in this region:

  • Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit
  • Sree Sankara College
  • Adi Sankara Institute of Engineering and Technology
  • Brahmanandodayam Higher Secondary School
  • Sree Sarada Vidyalaya
  • St: Joseph's Girls High School Chengal
  • St: Sebastian's High School Kanjoor
  • Anita Vidyalaya Thannipuzha
  • SN Higher Secondary School Okkal
  • St: Thomas Higher Secondary School Malayaattoor
  • SNDP Higher Secondary School Neeleswaram
  • Transport

    Kalady is well connected to all other parts of Kerala. Cochin International Airport, Nedumbassery is the nearest airport, 5 km away from Kalady. Angamaly (8 km away), or Aluva (16 km away), are the nearest railway stations. Buses and taxis are available from Angamaly to Kalady. The Main Central Road starts at Angamali and connects Kalady with important cities in Kerala, including Thrissur, Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad and Kozhikode.

    Places near Kalady

  • Malayattoor (8 km from Kalady)
  • Kallil Temple (22 km from Kalady)
  • References

    Kalady Wikipedia

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