Chirayinkeezhu is one of the four taluks of Thiruvananthapuram District, the others being Nedumangad, Neyyattinkara and, of course, Thiruvananthapuram. Chirayinkeezhu town, the taluk headquarters, is about 33 km north of Thiruvananthapuram city. It comprises of 29 villages and covers about xxx sq kilometers. Chirayinkeezhu is famous for the Sarkara Devi Temple, an ancient and one of the most important Devi temples in South India. The 10-day Sarkara Bharani festival in March-April is a major event attended by devotees from all over, and draws a fair crowd of tourists too. Over the years what has distinguished Chirayinkeezhu taluk has been the fact that it is the birthplace of a host of illustrious personalities like Raja Ravi Varma, the painter among princes and a prince among painters, the great poet and social reformer Kumaran Asan , the practical saint and sanyasin Sree Narayana Guru, Prem Nazir, the great Malayalam thespian and film’s ‘ever-green hero’, still lovingly remembered as an actor and a gentleman, to name just a few.
Varkala Papanasam beach, the choice of the tourist who cannot make it to Kovalam, is less than 10 kilometers to the north and is a favourite tourist haunt. Chirayinkeezh is blessed with a network of backwaters and canals, which is quite typical of Kerala, and many small tourist hideaways dot the area. The town is well-connected by road. Regular bus services link Chirayinkeezhu to Attingal, Varkala and Thiruvananthapuram. Chirayinkeezhu bus stand is quite close to the railway station. The railway station (spelt Chiryinkil) is on the main Thiruvananthapuram-Kollam-Cochin line. Thiruvananthapuram Central Railway Station (33 km) is the nearest major railhead to the south; to the north, Kollam Junction is the major station.
Attingal municipal town on the NH-47 is hardly 8 km from Chirayinkeezhu and about 30 km from Thiruvananthapuram city. Historically, Attingal has been the residence of the women of the Venad royal family. Attingal Palace is a major landmark of this town. The Attingal Government College and Government Polytechnic are the major educational institutions of the town. The town is a busy commercial hub, given its strategic position on the NH-47.
Varkala, a coastal town famous for the Papanasam beach , is around 50 km north of Thiruvananthapuram and 37 km south of Kollam. Once a quiet coastal hamlet, today it is a bustling tourist spot with many resorts that woo the traveler. Places of interest include the Sivagiri Mutt established by Sree Narayana Guru and the ancient Janardhana Swamy temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
According to legend, Sage Narada was approached by a group of mendicants who confessed to having sinned. Narada threw his ‘valkkalam’ (tree-bark which the sages used to wear) into the air, and the place where it landed was subsequently named Varkala. The mendicants were directed by Narada to offer their prayers in the newly created place by the seashore. The place where they prayed for redemption came to be known as the Papanasam (‘destroyer of sins’). Even today, believers say, a dip in the waters here is supposed to cleanse your body of impurities and your soul of all sins. Those with a more ‘earthly’ turn of mind can look forward to the bracing dip in the sea fed by the mineral springs, which have invigorating and curative powers-- an added attraction for the health tourist. Varkala has many resorts that offer traditional ayurvedic cures and rejuvenation therapies.
The Sivagiri Mutt was established by Sree Narayana Guru (1856 - 1928) , a spiritual leader, renowned philosopher and social reformer of Kerala. Presently, the Sivagiri Mutt is the ‘samadhi’ (memorial/ final resting place) of Sree Narayana Guru. The Sivagiri Mutt, built in 1904, is situated at the top of the Sivagiri (‘the mount of Siva’) hill near Varkala. Even decades after the Guru breathed his last here in 1928, his samadhi continues to be visited by throngs of devotees, dressed in yellow attire, during the Sivagiri Pilgrimage days - 30th December to 1st January.
The Sivagiri Mutt is also the headquarters of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Sangham, a religious organization established by the Guru to propagate his concept of ‘One Caste, One Religion, One God'. The Guru Deva Jayanti, the birthday of the Guru, and the Samadhi day, the day of his demise, are celebrated in August and September respectively every year. Colourful processions, debates and seminars, public meetings, cultural shows, community feasts, group weddings and rituals mark the celebrations.
An ancient and one of the most important Devi temples in South India. Tradition accords a remote antiquity to this temple. Its main deity is Bhadrakali. The temple assumed a significant status and rose to historical importance mainly with the introduction of the famous ‘Kaliyoot’ festival by Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the Travancore sovereign, in 1748. In those days, with the Chirayinkeezhu Taluk being directly under the immediate administration of the Attingal Swarupam, the Attingal Ranis where entrusted by the Travancore Raja with the conduct of the elaborate festival of Kaliyoot. The Attingal Rani being related to the Travancore royal family through adoption from the Kolathunad royal family, had enjoyed independent rights in several respects over the neighbouring regions and temples and at times even over the entire Venad. Even when King Marthanda Varma annexed Attingal to Travancore soon after ascending the throne and decided to assume direct control over Attingal 'estate', the Ranis seem to have been allowed to continue in their independent status in many respects. Hence it was no wonder that when the former decided to introduce Kaliyoot festival in the Sarkaradevi Temple of Chirayinkeezhu Division, he entrusted the responsibility to the Attingal Ranis, even though the finances came directly from the Travancore royal treasury.
The Attingal Ranis in turn bestowed the rights to the members of the martial family of Ponnara Panickers (When two princesses were adopted from Kolathunad, some senior members of the Ponnara Panicker family are said to have accompanied them as bodyguards to Attingal, where the former were settled by the Venad Kings. The descendents of the Panicker family still reside there, and have the right of supervising the grand festival.) It is perhaps the only temple in South Kerala where an elaborate Kaliyoot festival is conducted. Another festival which draws the crowds of devotees and tourists is the ten-day Meenabharani festival (also called the Sarkara Bharani festival ) in March-April every year.