A Brief Note
Guruvayoor is one of the most sacred and important pilgrim centres of Kerala. Its main attraction is the Sree Krishna Temple, considered the Dwaraka of the South. This historic temple is shrouded in mystery. According to belief, the temple is the creation of Guru, the preceptor of the Gods, and Vayu, God of the winds. The eastern Nada is the main entrance to the shrine. In the Chuttambalam (outer enclosure) is the tall 33.5 m high gold plated Dwajasthambam.
There is also a 7 metre high Deepasthambam (pillar of lamps), whose thirteen circular receptacles provide a truly gorgeous spectacle when lit. The square Sreekovil is the sacred Sanctum Sanctorum of the temple, housing the main deity. Within the temple there are also the images of Ganapathy, Lord Ayyappa and Edathedathu Kavil Bhagavathy. Renowned for its healing powers, people make an astonishing range of offerings here to the Lord. One of the most popular offerings is the Thulabharam, where devotees are weighed against bananas, sugar, jaggery and coconuts equivalent to their weight. Only Hindus are allowed inside the temple.
Guruvayoor is a municipal town in Thrissur and is the abode of Guruvayoor Appan. It is the fourth largest temple in India in terms of the number of devotees visiting per day.
Guruvayoor, according to the legends may be 5,000 years old . There are no historical records to establish it. It is also believed that Lord Krishna, asked two sages to take the idol from his temple in Dwarka while the city was being destroyed and establish it in Kerala. In the 14th century, Tamil literature ‘Kokasandesam’, makes reference to a place called Kuruvayur . As early as 16th century, many references are seen about Kuruvayur. In ancient Dravidic, Kuruvai means sea, hence the village on the coast may be called Kuruvayur.
Guruvayoor was a subordinate shrine of Trikkunavay Shiva temple before the latter was destroyed by the Dutch in 1755. Trikkunavay in the Guruvayoor documents is the same as Thrikkanamathilakam or Mathilakam mentioned in the Dutch and British records. And this place was in between Guruvayoor and Kodungallur. Melpathur Bhattathiri through his “ Narayaneeyam “ made Guruvayoor famous.
Ekadasi the eleventh day of every lunar fortnight, is very auspicious. Of the 24 Ekadasis in a year, the Vrishchika Ekadasi (Sukla paksha) has got special significance in the Guruvayoor Temple. A memorial honour for Gajarajan Kesavan is conducted in Guruvayoor. The Karanavar or head of the elephant family places a wreath at the statue of Kesavan in front of Sreevalsam guest house and all the other elephants stand around and pay obeisance. On Ekadasi day, the Udayasthamana Pooja (dawn to dusk pooja) is conducted by the Devaswom itself . After the morning seeveli, on Ekadasi there is a grand elephant procession to the Parthasarathi temple since it is regarded as Geethopadesam Day also. On Ekadasi after night pooja, the famous Ekadasi Vilakku with elephant procession takes place and provides a fitting finale to the festival.
Chembai Sangeetholsavam is an annual Carnatic music festival held in Guruvayoor by the Devaswom as a kind of homage to Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, one of the titans of Carnatic Classical Music. Chembai had conducted the festival in the temple town on his own for about 60 years. He used to invite all the great Carnatic Musicians to perform in the temple town and in course of time, the scale of the festival rivalled the Thiruvaiyaru Thyagaraja Aradhana, which is recognised as one of the most important festivals of homage paid to Saint Thyagaraja.
The Guruvayoor Devaswom decided to take charge after his death in 1974, and renamed it as Chembai Sangeetholsavam in his memory. About 2000-2500 musicians participate in this festival every year, and it is held for about 12–15 days culminating on the Guruvayoor Ekadasi day , when all the musicians sing 5 favourite songs of Chembai and also the Panacharatna Kritis of Tyagaraja.
The Guruvayoor Temple is referred to as “Bhooloka Vaikuntam”—Holy Abode of Vishnu on Earth. The divine idol installed here represents the enchanting form of Sree Krishna endowed with the four lustrous arms carrying the conch Panchajanya, the discus Sudarahana Chakra, the mace Kaumodaki and the Lotus. Adorned with the divine Tulasi garland the idol represents the majestic form of Maha Vishnu as revealed to Vasudeva and Devaki at the time of Krishna Avatar.The presiding deity in the sanctum-sanctorum is Vishnu. He faces east and the idol is 4 ft tall. He has 4 hands : The upper right hand holding Chakra, lower right hand holding Lotus, upper left hand holding Shanka and lower left hand holding Gada.
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He is worshipped according to the pooja routines laid down by Adi Sankaracharya and later written formally in the Tantric way by Chennas Narayanan Namboodiri . The Chennas Namboodiris are the hereditary Tantris of the Guruvayoor temple. The temple/ pooja routines are strictly followed without any compromise. The Tantri is available full-time at the Temple to ensure this. The Melsanti (Chief Priest) enters the Sri Kovil (sanctum sanctorum) at 2:30 AM and does not drink even a glass of water up to the completion of noon poojas at 12:30 PM. The vedic traditions being followed here with absolute perfection .
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Gajarajan Guruvayoor Kesavan is perhaps the most famous and celebrated captive elephant in Kerala. Kesavan was donated to the temple by the royal family of Nilambur in 1916. It is a common Hindu custom in Kerala to donate elephants to the deity of the temple as an offering. Guruvayoor temple has very good facilities at Punathurkotta to maintain all of these elephants, now totalling 60 in number.
Standing over 3.2 meters tall, Kesavan was known for his devout behavior. Kesavan died on December 2, 1976 aged 72, which happened to be Guruvayoor Ekadasi , considered a very auspicious day. He fasted for the entire day and dropped down facing the direction of the temple with his trunk raised as a mark of prostration. The anniversary of his death is still celebrated in Guruvayoor. Many elephants line up before the statue and the chief elephant garlands it. Kesavan was conferred the unique title “Gajarajan” by the Guruvayoor Devaswom.
The Guruvayoor Devaswom erected a life-size statue of Kesavan in its precincts as tribute to the services he rendered to the presiding deity of the temple. Its tusks, along with a majestic portrait of the elephant, can be still seen adorning the entrance to the main temple enclosure. Its life is the subject of the 1977 Malayalam film Guruvayur Kesavan, released the year after his death directed by Bharathan .
Guruvayoor Sthala Puranam:
According to legends Lord Vishnu himself had worshipped the idol that we see now at Guruvayoor, before donating it to Brahma. Prajapati Sutapa and his wife Prsni prayed to Brahma, and pleased at their devotion Brahma gave them this idol. Sutapa and his wife Prsni worshipped the idol with such devotion that Maha Vishnu Himself appeared before them for granting a boon. In their over enthusiasm they asked thrice “We need a son equivalent to thou” . Maha Vishnu told them that he himself would take birth as their son in three different janmas (births) and in all those three janmas they would get the vigraha given to them by Brahma.
In the first janma in the Satya Yuga, Mahavishnu was born as Prsnigarbha, as son of Sutapa and Prsni. Prsnigarbha instructed the world the importance of Brahmacharya .
In the second janma, Sutapa and his wife Prsni were born as Kashyapa and Aditi and Mahavishnu was born as Vamana. In the Dwapara Yuga, Krishna was born to Vasudeva and Devaki. This idol was given to them by Daumya for worship. From his father Vasudeva, Sri Krishna got it and it was installed and worshipped at Dwaraka. Sri Krishna established a big temple at Dwaraka and installed this idol there. Before the conclusion of His incarnation as Krishna, the Lord told his minister and devotee, Uddhava that this image would come floating in the sea that would engulf Dwaraka.
Uddhava was instructed to request Brihaspati, the Deva-Guru to install the image at a suitable place so that it would help the spiritual uplift and afford salvation to people suffering from the bad effects of the coming Kaliyuga .Accordingly, Guru collected this divine image and along with Vayu, the Wind God went all around the world to select a suitable spot, and finally at the direction of Lord Siva, installed it at a place 25 Km to the northwest of Trichur in Kerala.
Guru and Vayu installed the image together. Hence the place came to be known as Guruvayoor. According to this story told in the Guruvayupura Mahatmyam , this temple of Guruvayoor had thus its origin at the beginning of Kali Yuga and is about 5,100 years old by now.
King Janamejaya, the grandson of the Pandavas was afflicted by leprosy as a result of the curse of the serpents. It is said that he got his disease cured after long years of worship of the Lord of Guruvayoor as advised by Sage Atreya. Later a Pandyan king built a good temple for the Lord of Guruvayoor as he escaped death by a snake’s bite as foretold by astrologers during his pilgrimage to Guruvayoor. Historically, the temple dates only from the 17th century, by which time the temple came into great prominence.
One Ekadesi day, Sri Adi Sankara and Narada were travelling in space above the temple of Guruvayoor. Narada told the Acharya that he was descending at Guruvayoor. Acharya disdainfully told Narada that idol worship and chanting of the Lord’s name repeatedly was for the ignorant and not for a Gyani like him and continued his journey in space. A moment later, he tripped and fell prostrate on the earth by the northern side of the temple, where the Lord’s Seveli had reached. The Acharya realised his error and begged the Lord for forgiveness. The Lord told him that temple worship, repetition of the Lord’s name and listening to religious discourses were all ways of expressing devotion and were all dear to him. He then asked Sri Sankara to organise the daily worship in the temple, which he did. He decided to stay in the temple for few days and engage in the worship of the Supreme Lord and attentively instructed the priests of the temple in the correct rituals from the scriptures to be offered to the Lord, These rituals are being followed as it is even today. Every day, the temple opens at 3 a.m. and the Lord is awakened from his sleep with the melodious notes of nadaswaram. The Lord is adorned with flowers of the previous day. This is known as Nirmalya Darshanam. It is believed that celestial beings come and worship the Lord after the temple is closed.
The temple of Guruvayoor came into limelight mainly due to five great saintly devotees. Their mystic experiences began to evoke the faith and devotion of many devotees. These five great names, who lived in the16 /17th centuries were Vilwamangalam Swami, Kurur Amma, Poonthanam Namboodiri, Manavikrama Raja, and Narayana Bhattathiri. Of all these, Narayana Bhattatiri ,by his great poetical hymn, The “Narayaneeyam” and his remarkable recovery from a crippling paralysis has immortalized the temple of Guruvayoor.
In modern times Chembai Vaidyanatha Bagavatahar who lost his voice regained it after praying to the Lord of Guruvayoor.
P.S—Read the book on “ SRI KRISHNA LORD OF GURUVAYOOR by K.R.VaIdyanathan, published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.