Kumaranalloor Sree Bhagavathy (also known as Goddess Karthyayani) Temple is located at the heart of the city of Kottayam, north-west of Kumaranalloor Junction. This ancient temple has been identified by Adi Sankaracharya as one of the five important places in the whole of India for Parasakthi worship. Devi here is said to be having both Shaiva as well as Vaishnava effulgence. Hnece Devi is also considered as Vaishnavi. Lakhs of devotees throng here for worship during the annual festival in November-December (Vrischika month) and Karthika which falls on that period, called as Thrikkarthika, is of paramount significance. It is compulsory to have elephants and drums during the spectacular procession of the deity and only female elephants are used for the purpose.
On the Karthika day it is usual to make a nivedyam (offering) in the precincts of the Udayanapuram and Thrissur Vadakkunnatha temples. The story goes that Vadakkumnathan(Shiva) was greatly charmed by the beauty of the Devi returning after her Karthika bath. He came out of the sree kovil, got over the compound wall, and stood there looking amorously at the seductive figure of the passing Devi as seen by Vilwamangalam Swamiyar. Udayanapurathappan(Muruga) will also be waiting to see his mother. Thenceforth, during Karthika, puja is performed over the walls of these temples. The display of lights in the evening, called Karthika Vilakku, is the highlight of this celebration.
The temple faces to the east. A golden flag staff welcomes the devotees who enter the temple through the east gate. The flag staff was erected in 1089 M.E by the local people. The golden top-dome was offered by the Uthram Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the brother of Swathi Thirunal Maharaja in the year 102 M.E. From the gate tower, at some distance to the north, there is a large temple tank and opposite of this there exists the Devaswom palace.
At this temple the kindling of lights for worshipping the deity is conducted not at dusk but only after the supper ceremonial offerings. It is believed that the trinities will also be present on this occasion.
The Legend asserts that there existed more than 2000 years ago a Siva temple at Kumaranalloor. The 'Cheraman Perumal' decided to build a greater shrine here for Lord Muruga(also called as Kumara). At that time, Madurai in Tamil Nadu was ruled by Pandyan Kings and Meenakshi was their principal deity. The gem-studded nose ring of Meenakshi was one day found missing and the king had no doubt that the priest was guilty of theft. He ordered that the ornament should be traced within 41 days, otherwise the priest would be beheaded. As there was no trace of the ornament, the priest was cursing his fate and sought refuge at Meenakshi's feet. On the 40th day, he heard a voice at night asking him to leave the place immediately. He was sure that it was the advise of Madurai Meenakshi. When he opened his eyes, he found a light in his front. He followed the light and ultimately reached the new temple at Kumaranalloor.
The thejus(divine light) entered into the sreekovil(sanctum sanctorum) of the temple. Moreover, it was at the prathista time (suitable time of installation) that the thejas entered the sreekovil. Then there was an ashareeri (an inerporeal and divine voice), ‘kumaranalla ooril', meaning, ‘this place is not for kumara'. Hence got the name Kumaranalloor. The perumal was frustrated and decided not to give any material support to the temple at Kumaranalloor. On the way to Udayanapuram, to install the idol of lord Muruga at a temple which was under construction, in country boats, the Perumal and all others in his troupe became blind due to fog. His minister was wise enough to understand the cause as it was due to the displeasure of Bhagavathy. There the Perumal vowed to give all the land within his vicinity to the Kumaranalloor temple, and poured some water as a gesture. A beautiful hand appeared there, above the water, and received the water poured by the Perumal. The difficulties which he was facing vanished within no time. The place is called "Manjoor" and the place where the hand of Devi appeared is still known as "Thrikkai Kandam".
Later, Perumal returned to Kumaranalloor with the devi's idol and began the preparation for installing it there. Yet another thought striked him that the idol has to be changed. He came to know that an appropriate idol had been lying in water at Vedagiri, a near by place. Perumal brought the idol from Vedagiri. Parasurama had supposedly made and worshipped the idol in the past. At the time of installation, a brahmin sage with matted hair, came and entered the srikovil and installed the idol in a blink of an eye. As soon as the installation of idol was over, he disappeared. To this date people believe that the brahmin sage was none other than Parasurama himself. The brahmin priest, who followed the thejus or the divine energy from Madurai, became the priest of the temple. His residence is known as Madurai illam. His successors worship the devi even today.
Besides the Karthika festival in vrischikam, Navarathri also is celebrated in a big scale. The temple is auspicious for Vidyarambham. All the nine days of Navarathry are important; Mahanavami is the most important day, followed by Vijayadesami, Sivarathri, Vishu etc. Bhagavatha Parayana and discourses on various topics of Bhagavatha are main attractions during Navarathri days. Chathusatham, guruthy, dhara, thulabharam, ahassu (a day's pooja) are important offerings besides pushpanjali and turmeric abhishekam.
Mural paintings in Kumaranalloor temple are precious and rare. The outer walls of the sreekovil are decorated with exuberant paintings showing the different styles of gods, goddesses, and incidents from great epics like Ramayana and Mahabharatha. Natural colours and medicinal plants were used to colour the murals.
The idol at Kumaranalloor is considered to be very much similar to the idol of Guruvayoorappan since both the idols are made of soft 'Anjanam' rock. The idol is said to be radiating a divine bluish hue. Kurooramma, one of the ardent devotees of Guruvayoorappa, came to Kumaranalloor and chanted sacred hymns praising devi and stayed at the temple for some time. Kumaranalloor devi is having raised bosom as well as four divine hands. In two of them she hold a discus and a conch and with the remaining two she shows 'Abhaya - Varada Mudra'. She also wears a crescent moon in her head.