During what could be seen as the Kumbh festival of the South India, millions of devotees, especially the unmarried youngsters, recently worshiped at the famous Shiva-Parvati temple at Kerala's Thiruvairanikkulam village.
Most of the faithful come here to seek the blessings of Goddess Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva, one of the supreme Gods in Hinduism.
All of them come here during a special period of 12 days, as it is only during this time--'Thiruvathira' in Dhanu month (December-January)--that the sanctum sanctorum of the Shiva-Parvati temple is accessible to devotees.
Spellbound by the din of bells, chants and a mixed odour of incense and jasmine flowers, lakhs of devotees pray at the Shiva-Parvati temple each year which is considered propitious for unmarried men and women.
Hindus in this part of the country believe praying at the temple helps the unmarried individuals suit their match.
This year, the temple was open from January 2 to January 14 for devotees.
"When unmarried boys and girls come here and pray in front of Devi Parvati, they get blessed and by the time the temple gets re-opened the next year, they get married," said the Temple priest Narayana Namboodari adding that after 12 days every year, the temple is closed. Though daily worship is performed round the year inside the temple but it remains closed for devotees.
Legend has it, Parvati the wife of Lord Shiva, one of the supreme Gods in Hinduism, used to worship in the temple that was a forbidden place for others. However, once a curious maid of Goddess Parvati barged into the secluded area.
The breach of privacy enraged Parvati and she decided to leave the place forever. Nevertheless, later moved by the remorseful maid's appeals, she agreed to visit the place once in a year for 12 days.
Hence, the temple has the reputation as a place of redemption from evil spirits that hinder a person's wedding.
"I am having some problem in getting married and we got to know about this temple from someone. Hence, I decided to visit the place with my family. I believe that next year I will visit the temple with my husband," said Jaya Kumari, an unmarried girl.
"I had problems in getting a good wedding proposal. Hence, I visited the temple, after that I got married. Since then I have been visiting the place continuously during the 12 days when it is open for devotees," said Jalaja Mani, another devotee.
Over the years the temple has witnessed devotees, especially, the unmarried youngsters thronging the temple from across the country. A huge number of young girls and boys visit the temple along with their parents and friends and pray here wishing for a suitable matrimonial match.