Aranmula in Pathanamthitta District,Kerala is world famous mainly because of the Snake boat race held here during 'Onam days'(Aug-Sept) every year in the river Pamba.
Aranmula is one of the 108 'Divya Desams (Holy Places) in India according to 'Vaishnavas' where famous ancient shrines of Lord Vishnu or Lord Krishna of Prime importance are situated.Aranmula Parthasarathy temple belongs to one of these 108 holy abodes of Lord Vishnu.The deity in this temple is Lord Parthasarathy, who is none other than Lord Krishna.Lord Krishna who was an incarnation of Mahavishnu, participated in the 'Kurukshetra War' between Pandavas and Kauravas but he gave only moral support to Pandavas.He did not use any weapons but acted as the charioteer of the third Pandava "Arjuna'.Another name of Arjuna is 'Partha' and 'Parthasarathy' means charioteer of 'Partha'.
The belief is that Arjuna installed the 6 foot tall idol of 'Parthasarathy' at Nilackal, a place near to 'Sabarimala' which is 85 km from Aranmula.Later the Idol was brought to Aranmula in a bamboo raft through river Pamba accompanied by several Snake boats and to commemorate this event Snake boat race is held here.Whatever be the legend, 52 'Karas' (small provinces or places) on the banks of river Pampa is associated with this temple and they all have Snake boats of their own which participates in the Snake boat race here every year.The boat race is held on 'Uthrittathi day' of Onam season but on 'Thiruvonam day'(The most important day of Onam) also a Snake boat performance is held at Aranmula and 'Valla Sadya' which is a grand vegetarian feast is served to the oar men at the temple premises.The feast is served on plantain leaves and more than 40 dishes are served according to the traditional style.
Aranmula Parthasarathy temple which is a beautiful monument is situated on a vast elevated land on the banks of holy river Pampa.There is a flight of 18 steps on the eastern side of entrance where a 'Gopuram'(Traditional entrance gate) is existed.At the northern side 'Gopuram' 57 descending steps reaches Pampa river.
Aranmula is famous for 'Aranmula Kannadi' which is a metal mirror made by craftsmen of this place only.It is made out of a combination of copper and white lead.The manufacturing technique is only known to them.This type of mirror is considered auspicious because of the belief that it was used by Goddess Devi Parvathi.The belief is that it brings luck,wealth and prosperity.
Now-a-days also it is one of the items of 'Ashtamangalyam'( auspicious items kept in a plate or tray) during marriage ceremony etc.
Aranmula is a heritage Village as enlisted by United Nations.Aranmula is a major Hindu Pilgrimage spot and several famous Hindu and Christian shrines are situated in the near by places.
'Vijnana Kalavedi', an institute to promote traditional arts,crafts and martial arts of Kerala which are also taught to aspirant students (local and foreign) is functioning at Aranmula.
Aranmula Kottaram (Aranmula Palace) which is more than 200 years old made up of wood in Kerala style architecture is on the banks of river Pamba.
The annual festival of the Parthasarathy temple is for ten days and 'Kambam festival' is unique here.Children and adults collects palm leaves and burn them together at the temple premises in remembrance of 'Khandava Dahanam' by Arjuna.(Arjuna cleared a forest area 'Khandava' by burning it even though 'Indra' protested is the legend).
Rare rituals (art forms) like 'Mayura Nritham,Arjuna Nritham,Kurathi Aattam,Vela Kali' etc are also performed at this temple during festival period.
The 'Thanka Anki' procession to Sabarimala Temple( the procession carrying gold image of Lord Ayyappa) in December every year starts from Aranmula temple.
The Parthasarathy temple has beautiful murals which are of 18th century.Aranmula is 116 km from Thiruvananthapuram International Airport and 10 km from Chengannur Railway Station.