During the monsoons comes the holy month of Karkkidakam or the Ramayana month. The entire month is revered for the Hindus. They read the epic Ramayana every day in this month and visit the Nalambalam. Karkkidakam is considered a frugal month when the monsoon is at its peak and farmers find it hard to survive. The fury of the rain gods sometimes last days together and keep the farmers and laborers off the field without any work. It is the season when diseases are also at its peak. Karkkidakam is called the Panja masam or the frugal month because of these reasons. Two remedies offered are the Ayurveda treatments popular among the affluent and the Nalambalam darsana popular among the devotees.
Nalambalam is like the Char Dham Yatra popular in North India. During the Ramayana Month, the temples of four brothers – Ram, Bharath, Lakshman and Shatrugan are visited. These temples are visited on the same day in the same order. In Kerala, there are 4 sets of Nalambalams in each region. The journey begins early in the morning. The temples are open by 4.30 – 5 am and the devotees start flooding in at the Rama temple first. The next place to visit is the Bharatha Temple, then the Lakshmana and Shatrugna temples in the same order. This is a way of paying respect to the virtuous brothers of Ramayana. All 4 temples have to be visited on the same day in a clockwise direction (Pradakshinam) as they are located.
Special pooja and prayers are offered at these temples during this time. The devotees also spend time singing Bhajans praising the Lord. These temples stay open longer during the entire month, especially the Shatrugna temples. This lets the devotees visit the first three brothers first before visiting the 4th brother, Shatrugna.
These set of 4 temples are located in the Kottayam district.
- Ramapuram Sree Rama Swami Temple located in Ambalathazham, Ramapuram
- Amanakara Bharatha Swami Temple located in Amanakkara, Ramapuram
- Koodappulam Lakshmana Swami Temple located in Ramapuram
- Methiri Shathrughna Swami Temple located in Ramapuram
These temples are located such that after visiting the Shatrugna temple, the devotees pass by the Rama temple again and pay their respects again there before they complete the Nalambalam darshan. This darshan can be within an hour’s time if you go by a private car. Buses and larger vehicles have to take a longer route and may take a little longer.
The 4 sets of temples located in Ernakulam and near Kottayam border are visited by those residing in that area.
- Thirumarayoor Sree Rama Swami Temple located near Kottappuram
- Bharathappilly Bharatha Swami Temple located near Piravom
- Mulakkulam Lakshmana Swami Temple, Mulakkulam
- Shathrughna Swami Temple, located on the border of Ernakulam and Kottayam
This is the most popular set of temples visited for Nalambalam darshan.
- Triprayar Sree Rama Swami Temple
- Irinjalakkuda Koodalmanikya Swami Temple
- Thirumoozhikkulam Lakshmana Perumal Temple
- Payammal Shathrughna Swami Temple
These temples can all be visited in half day if u start early and reach the Rama temple around 5 am. Since the temples stay open longer during this month, devotees will be able to complete the Nalambalam visit conveniently.
In the Malappuram area also 4 temples near the Puzhakkathiri Panchayath are a part of the Nalambalam darshan. But these are very old and in a dilapidated condition. Many devotees in the area consider this as the most revered set of temples to visit during Karkkidakam. One main temple which is very famous here is the Lord Shatrugna temple at Naranath.
The Hindus of Kerala hold high respect for the Nalambalam darshan. Temples and local groups arrange for the darshan tours regularly in the month of Karkkidakam. A medicinal porridge called Karkkidaka Kanji is also served to the devotees during this time.