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Kalady, Kochi Overview

In God's own land, the birthplace of one of the greatest Indian philosopher lies. Kalady is a famous pilgrim centre which became famous as Adi Sankaracharya’s birthplace. Located near Cochin in Kerala, Kalady is dedicated to Sankaracharya and his memory. Kalady is a place that celebrates knowledge and culture. It gives utmost importance to its history and has established itself as one of the most important destinations for pilgrims. There are two major shrines located in Kalady, dedicated to the memory of Adi Sankaracharya.

The only son of Sivaguru and Aryamba, Sankaracharya is said to have completed the study of Vedas at the age of 16 itself. He also evolved the philosophy of Advaita, one of the two principals of the Vedantic school asserting the sole existence of Brahma. Out of the two shrines at Kalady, one is devoted to him as Dakshinamoorthi, while the other is dedicated to Goddess Sharada and is looked after by the Sringeri Mutt, which is believed to be situated exactly at the same place where Adi Sankaracharya's house once stood.

Kalady is also surrounded by a lot of important temples like Manickamangalam temple, Sri Krishna Temple, Sri Adi Sankara Keerthi Mandapam to name a few. These are a bonus to pilgrims as they get the best religious experience out of Kalady. Kalady also has a lot of Ghats. With river bodies flowing through it and pilgrims around, it is a place to attain peace and forge it. The air of Kalady is filled with culture, history, religion, and spirituality making it a perfect pilgrimage.

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History of Kalady

Kalady was earlier known as Sasalam. There is a heartwarming story behind this name. One day Aryadevi, mother of little Sankaracharya, fainted while walking the 3 km stretch for her daily bath in the Poorna River. Sankaracharya asked his favourite deity, Lord Krishna for aid. The Lord blessed him saying, "River will flow where your little feet marks." As young Sankaracharya marked his little feet on the ground, the mighty Periyar River took its new course following his feet. That time onwards, Sasalam came to be known as Kalady, meaning 'Feet'. 

This place is believed to have been founded by Rajasekara, a chieftain. Legend says that Rajasekara's dreams were influenced by Hindu god Shiva. His dedication towards Lord Shiva is shown very evidently as he built a Shiva temple and arranged a settlement for Brahmins. The renowned temples Sringeri Mutt and Kanchi Mutt have branches of their temples in Kalady. The Adi Sankara Kirti Stamba Mandapam was built by Kanchi Mutt under the guidance and support of Chandrasekarendra Saraswati, a well-known sage. Kalady is very proud of its association with Sanskrit and also has a Sanskrit University that is currently run by the Sringeri Mutt.

The Legendary Ghats in Kalady

Kalady Kadavu is the place where the river took its turn and Kalady was born. It is also the place where Sankara performed the first river bath (Aaraattu) of his ancestral deity before installing it at its current location. The tradition continues during the festival at Sree Krishna Temple. 

Muthala Kadavu or Crocodile Ghat is where Sankara took Sanyas. Initially, his mother had disagreed with his desire to become a sanyasi. However, one day when he was bathing in the river Poorna, accompanied by his mother, a crocodile caught hold of his leg, and Sankara used this opportunity to convince his mother in his favour. 

Ghat of the Post-Funeral Rites of Mother Aryadevi is where Sankara performed his mother's last rites. Now, this Ghat is within the temple compounds of Sree Sringeri Mutt.

All of these ghats now lie adjacently west to east in a chronological manner.

Temples Near Kalady

Sri Adi Sankara Keerthi Mandapam is an eight-storey memorial built by Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt, whose walls feature relief paintings that tell Adi Sankaracharya's story. Devotees can have a splendid view from the top of fringed palm tree all around the temple complex. The entrance of the memorial adorns two elephant statues, leads to the Paduka Mandapam were the wooden sandals of the sage are placed. The shrine is open to all people irrespective of their caste and religion.

Sri Krishna Temple is to the west of the Sringeri Mutt and dedicated to Lord Krishna, the ancestral deity of Sankara. This is the only temple to have been reinstalled by Sri Sankaracharya himself. He is believed to have been lying before the Devi under the banyan tree that falls in the front of this temple after he performed his mother's last rites.

Manickamangalam Temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga. According to legends, Sivaguru, the priest of the temple, could not go there himself and sent Sankara instead with a measure of milk as an offering to the Devi. Sankara noticed that even after the offering, the measure of milk remained unchanged and hence, he started crying. The Devi took pity on him and drank the milk.

Nayathodu Sankara Narayana Temple is a Shiva temple, where Sankara prayed to Lord Vishnu. After he prayed, both the deities began to reside in the temple's idol. Thereby, once all the offerings are made to the idol for Lord Shiva, they are removed are reoffered for Lord Vishnu.

Aryadevi Samadhi Mandapam is dedicated to Aryadevi, as she was cremated here. The temple was maintained, and lamps were lit daily by Kapilly Mana, one of the two Namboothiri families that assisted in the cremation of Sri Sankaracharya's mother.

Festivals Celebrated in Kalady

Every year, Sankara Jayanti is celebrated for five days in April or May. Navaratri is celebrated in September or October with music and rathostavam (a chariot festival). The annual festival of the Lord of Kalady, Lord Krishna, falls on 6th January, where one performs, river bath of Lord Krishna on the holy ghat, where Kalady was born.

How To Reach Kalady

The nearest airport is Nedumbassery airport at a distance of 6 km from Kalady, while Angamali is the nearest railway station at a distance of 10 km. One can hire taxis or use buses to reach Kalady from the airport as well the station.

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