The famous Krishna temple of Guruvayur is situated in the midst of enchanting natural beauty and sober serenity. It is the most renowned and rejuvenating abode of Lord Krishna in the southern part of India. Aptly called as ‘Dwaraka of south’ the temple is an eternal source of divinity, devotion and peace. The place where this temple is situated has now become synonymous with the name of Lord Krishna. ‘Guruvayurappan’ as the deity is fondly called is a perpetual source of happiness and hope for his world wide devotees.
It is wholeheartedly believed by the devotees that just one Darshan (Glimpse) of the Lord is enough to eliminate all our Dushkarmas (sins) and give us Moksha (eternal relief). The Temple has lot of Vedic, historical, cultural and architectural values and to get a perfect picture of all these precious aspects we have to be intensely motivated with selfless devotion and dedication.
Name – Guruvayur Krishna temple
District – Trissur
State – Kerala
The main deity is Lord Krishna in the form of Vishnu and due to this Guruvayur Temple is widely known as ‘Bhuloka Vaikunda’. The standing idol is depicted with four hands holding Sanghu (Conch), Sudarsana Chakara (Lord’s divine disk), lotus and Mace. The idol is made of a kind of black metal called ‘Patala Anjanam’. Generally the Lord is invoked with his fond names Unnikannan, Balakrishnan and Guruvayurappan. Small shrines of Lord Ayyappa, Vinayaka and Bhagavathy are also present here. There are many small temples within accessible distance.
We have to travel back almost 5000 years to find the root of this Mahakshetra (great abode of god). There are lot of stories and events connected with the origin of the temple and the idol worshipped here. One of the major beliefs is that the idol worshipped here is from Dwapara yuga (the time when Lord Krishna avatar occurred) and the idol was worshipped by Krishna’s parents Vasudeva and Devaki. Naturally, Lord Krishna inherited this idol from his father and he himself had worshipped this idol of Lord Vishnu. When Dwaraka, the capital of Krishna’s domain, was vanquished the idol came floating in the river. As per the Lord’s advice, the idol was collected by Brihaspati (Guru of gods) with the help of Vayu (Lord of air) and was carried to a holy land by Parasurama. There Parasurama (another avatar of Lord Vishnu) felt the presence of Lord Shiva with Parvati near a lake full of lotus. This place, blessed with the presence of so many gods, later started to be known as Guruvayur (formed out of Guru and Vayu). After the Prathishtta (installation) of the idol, Shiva and Parvati left to the opposite bank of the lake called Mammiyur. It is a belief that the visit to Guruvayur temple won’t be complete without visiting Mammiyur Shiva temple.
History of the temple
According to the legends the temple is 5000 years old, but there is no historical proof for that. But in a 14th century Tamil writing called Kokasandesama place called ‘Kuruvayur’ is mentioned. According to K.V. Krishna Iyer, a famous Historian, this temple should have been there before 52 AD. Guruvayur temple is mentioned in Dutch and British records but in different names.
To probe into more recent history, the central shrine is said have been built in 1638 AD. After the Dutch attack it was once again remodeled in 1747 AD. The temple was also affected by the frequent foreign as well as regional riots but somehow the idol and the main shrine were always secured by the Vishnu devotees of respective times. The name of this Lord Krishna temple is written in the historic pages of Pandyan kings of 14th and 15thcenturies. After Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan’s attack and demolition of the temple, in 1841 the Govt. of Madras restored many temples and in due course Guruvayur also acquired fame and prosperity.
However, in 1970 in a massive fire the whole temple was destroyed but the idols and many other valuables were miraculously untouched. After that a major renovation work was done and from 1973 the temple remains as a great abode of spiritual relaxation.
All temples of India are treasure house of mind-blowing sculptural and painting works. Guruvayur temple also offers a feast for our artistic sense. The two wooden doors with carvings of Dasavatharams is the first attraction. There are two Gopurams with two storeys (towers) which has beautiful mural paintings on them, outstanding with matchless style and theme. Some of them got tainted during the fire but now they are repainted. As you go inside there are lot of pillars with carvings of gods and goddesses. In the main entrance, there is the gold plated Dwajastambham (flag post). The whole temple is decorated with lamps, when they all get lighted, entire area shines with a celestial glory. On the outer walls of the Nalambalam a massive array of brass lights can be found. There are around 8000 lamps that are fully lit during festivals. The painting of Elephant Kesava, with his tusks on the entrance, demands utmost attention. Big Deepastambams (big lamps with smaller lamps in rounds) of 7 m height with a tortoise base is a common sight there. All lamps are made up of brass and some made up of stones. The four pillared Mandapam near the main shrine is beautified with a carving of Radha and Krishna. The pillars in the Prakaram have carvings of all gods like Ashttalakshmi, Hanuman, Rama and Sita and Iyappan. The temple as a whole is an epitome of typical Kerala art and workmanship.
It is known that almost all temples in Kerala follow the same norms of architecture and construction. Guruvayur temple is a typical example of Kerala Vasthu kala (rules of architecture). According to these rules, the temple is directed towards East and has two main entrances or Gopurams called as Kezhakke nada (east entrance) and Padinjare nada (west entrance). The entire area is covered with roofs and is called Anapanthal. At the centre of this is a hall with four pillars which is known as Nalampalam or chuttambalam. Nalampalam is the inner courtyard around the main shrine. Just in front of the Sreekovil, a mandapam with four pillars is present which is named as Namaskaramandapam. It is wrapped with 100 kg copper and 25 kg gold.
There are many rooms and mandapams built for separate functions and utilities like cooking, saving valuables and for public feast etc. A sacred well is near the main shrine which has water around the year and never the level of the water decreases. Locals say nowhere near that area such sweet water is available. This water is used for doing Abhishekam and daily worship of the idol.
There are special stages and spaces for all kinds of artistic performances. Kuttambalam is a theater for the performance of Chakyar koothu (a kind of dance drama). In the surroundings of the temple one can find the official house of main Thantri (the person who does the Pujas) and the residences of the main officials of the temple.
Whatever is good in other religion or culture, Indians imbibe it wisely but coming to the sacredness of Indian precious values and notions they remain solid like rock. India had gone through a flurry of foreign invasions and its painful aftereffects; but fortunately it has been able to preserve its age old culture and values.
Guruvayur temple has its root from the ages of myth; even then it has come to its present status through the dedication and involvement of many devoted persons from all walks of life. From the legend of god’s hands in saving the idol of this temple to the present day functioning, lots of people had contributed their utmost to preserve the sanctity of this temple. It is well mentioned in many writings of that time, the part played by the Pandya king in rebuilding the temple before 500 years. In 1766 the temple was given as a Devadaya (gift) to the then governor Srinivasa Rao and thus the temple was rescued from demolition. During the assault of Tipu Sultan the idol was preserved by Malliseri Namboodiri and Kakkad Ottikkan. When everything was at a standstill in the temple including the daily pujas, it was Ullanadu Panikkers who had taken care of the temple for 75 years. They like Chembakaseri Namboodiri and Desavarama Namboodiri sacrificed everything they had for the nourishment of the temple and its imminent progression.
Slowly the temple showed signs of prosperity under the administration of Konti Menon and later under the Zamorins. Till 1936, untouchables were not allowed to enter the temple premises. A rigorous satyagraha (fasting) was undertaken under the leadership of Kelappan (known as Kerala Gandhi) to get this rule abolished forever. And at the end through a proclamation the goal was attained and all Hindus were permitted to enter the temple. But only Brahmins were allowed to have the temple feast inside the temple but later it was modified. Now anybody can make donations for the free feeding and can have it there itself. During the great fire in the temple all devotees – regardless of caste, creed or religion – vigorously participated in extinguishing the fire.
Now the temple is in its utmost prosperity being one among the richest temples of India. From the celestials to the normal humans, all have actively contributed to the flourishing of this temple.
Kerala is a place of many grand festivals and the whole state gets behind numerous celebrations taking place here round the year. Among them temple festivals enjoy special consideration and they are conducted with utmost devotion and dedication by the devotees. Guruvayur temple is crowded round the year by devotees from all over the world, but during the festive seasons the surroundings become an ocean of people with not even an inch of space spared. Many festivals are elegantly celebrated here and their days are calculated as per the Malayalam monthly calendar.
The main Utsavam (festival) of the temple is conducted on the Malayalam month of Kumbha (Feb-March) and it is celebrated for 10 days. The celebrations commence with the flag hoisting on the flagstaff and on the winding up day the flag is lowered. During these days mainly different kinds of temple rituals and special pujas take place. On the first day, elephant race is conducted. All kinds of cultural programs like, dance, classical music concerts, kathakali, and spiritual discourses make the days rollicking. Everyday an array of elephants are gathered before the temple and they go for processions carrying the idols of different deities. On the 8th day a delicious feast is offered to all devotees as god’s prasadam (food with god’s blessings). Mild fireworks and elaborate light effects add to the mirth of the moment.
Vishu – Vishu, the first day of the Malayalam year (medam) which falls during April-May is a day of great importance for any Keralite. It is generally believed that if on this New Year day we could set our eyes first on things which we consider as symbols of prosperity it will grant us a very nice year. And if this can be achieved by setting your eyes first on Lord Krishna with a Nirmalya darshan (when the doors of the shrine open first on a day) at 3 am, it is a priceless boon.
Ashtami Rohini – It is Lord Krishna’s birthday and needless to say it is a day of celebration in all Krishna temples. It is a day of divinity if you can avail darshan at Guruvayur temple and have a glimpse of the Lord and have the taste of his prasadams, mainly Appam (a sweet made of jaggery) and milk payasam.
Mandala Pooja – It is celebrated in almost all temples of Kerala which prolongs for 41 days commencing from the 1st day of Vrischikam month. Here everyday abhishekam of Panchakavya (made of milk, curd, ghee, cow dung and cow urine) takes place, and it is claimed that this mixer has great medicinal value.
Ekadasi – There are twenty four Ekadasis in a Hindu calendar year and all of them are considered very auspicious days by Hindus. Among them Vrishchika Ekadasi which falls in Nov-Dec months has great importance in Guruvayur temple. On these days many offer lamps to the Lord which are lit with ghee. Another specialty of the day is that the very famous elephant of the temple Kesavan is commemorated on this day. The leader of all other elephants will place a wreath at the statue of the divine Gajarajan (king of elephants). There are many more festive days which are celebrated with due dedication and great pomp and show.
Worship and Offerings
The system of worship and rituals in Guruvayur temple is mainly derived from Sri Adi Sankaracharya, the founder of Advaita, the Hindu philosophy. In total, there are 12 darshans (glimpses) a day and among them Nirmalaya darshanam is considered very blissful. At 3.30 am you can have the privilege of seeing the Lord with his previous day Alankarams (adorations of flowers). This time of the day is extremely auspicious with the Narayana Mantra resounding here amidst the ringing of bells and the shining lights of the lamps. One should have thousand eyes and minds to behold that divine sight. The timings of all darshanams are decided by the Devasam board (the administrative board).
Abhishekam is being done mostly with, Chandanam (sandalwood paste) honey, milk, ghee, Panchamritham and lot of spices. The priest embellishes the idol of the Lord with garlands and rare flowers. Denoting each phase of the day (morning, afternoon, evening and night) worship is done specially in forms of rice and other Nivedayams. Elephant is an integral part of all kind of pujas here. Normally the temple opens at 3 am and closes at 10 pm.
It is a general practice among us to give something within our strength to Lord as our humble offering. If it is given with extreme dedication, whatever it is, Lord will receive it with great joy. There are many kinds of offering practices in Guruvayur. The main categories among them are, Udaysthamana puja (the puja from morning to night) one can bear the expenses of this puja, but the booking has already been done for the next 10 years. Secondly, donation for free feast for devotees is accepted. Elephants are given much importance here and those who love to feed them for a day can make due donation. It is a holy place where maximum number of marriages are being held, even celebrities stand in queue for this auspicious occasion.
The Thantris or pujari (the Brahmin who does the pujas)
The Chennas namboodiris are the hereditary thantris (Brahmin) of the temple. They inherited this privilege from their ancestor Chennas namboodiri who laid down the slokas and all methods of pujas. A priest’s day begins at 2.30 am in the morning and he has to be on duty till noon 2.30, till that time he is not supposed to drink or eat anything. The thantri lives in the temple premises and is available for any kind of help all the time. The Vedic tradition is followed here with utmost commitment and wholehearted adherence to the rules which is the hallmark of this temple.
Legendary names connected with the temple
There is a long list of holy persons who are connected with the history, development and present day prosperity of this temple. We cannot omit anyone as each had played very vital role.
Aadi Sankaracharya – It is said that Sankaracharya once passed by this temple not managing even to stop and worship the Lord for a while. His further proceedings were abruptly stopped miraculously and he had to come down at his own will to dedicate his famous composition on Lord Vishnu called Govinda Ashttakam.
Manjula – She is known for her wholehearted dedication to Lord Krishna like Meera Bai.
Nenmini Unni – The child Brahmin who made the Lord eat his portion of food through insistent request and his innocent tears. No one believed when he said that god himself came and took his food, and when he was beaten by his father for prattling lies, Lord himself came to rescue the child.
Poonthanam and Melpathur – Both were Lord’s ardent devotees and used to write poems praising him.
Vilvamangalam – He was a saintly man who used to have visions of Lord in all his forms.
Kururamma – She is also noteworthy among the staunch devotees of the Lord. She always treated Krishna as her child. Lord had bestowed her with many magical powers even to cure illnesses.
Chembai Vaidayanatha Bagavathar – A famous classical musician who always considered himself as a blissful servant of god. Every year a classical musical festival of 11 days is conducted at the temple premises enthusing the folk musicians and they are given free food, accommodation and all other facilities.
The list goes on but cannot leave one important character unmentioned here, that is the most devoted follower of Lord Krishna, the Gajarajan Guruvayur Kesavan. He was appointed at the temple by the then King of Nilmabur. He was at the temple serving the Lord for 54 years, always peaceful in doing his duties but powerful too.
Temple rules and manners
There are many strict rules prescribed here for every devotee and officials take earnest efforts to see that they are being followed. All Hindus are allowed to go inside the main shrine but non-Hindus are prohibited. Men are allowed to wear only white dhotis and a towel on shoulders and ladies only in sarees or skirt and blouse. Even kids are expected to abide by these dressing codes. Begging inside the temple is strictly prohibited and there is no provision for eating or vomiting inside the temple.
Activities and Amenities
Many institutions and colleges are there under the administration of the temple. A Music School is established which follows the early form of education called Gurukula. Here, temple instruments like Chenda, Thakil, Maddalam, Nadasworam etc. are taught by the experts. There is a famous institution for teaching Mural painting which is situated in the eastern Nada of the temple. This institution also follows Gurukula method.
The monthly publication of Guruvayur Devaswom Bhakthapriya is read all over the world. Lot of enlightening articles and songs are written on Vedic, cultural and religious topics and songs mainly praising the Lord. There are many other books and magazines published by the management.
Another great specialty of the temple is its sanctuary for elephants, the only one of this kind in the world. It is in Punnatur Kotta just 3 km away from the temple and is has 51 elephants now. The official visiting hours are 8 am to 6 pm and a small amount of entrance fee is also collected.
Address and contact details
The temple is located in the town called Guruvayur which is approximately 26 Km northwest of Trissur district of Kerala state. The nearest railway station is in Trissur and is quite efficiently connected to the major Indian cities like Trivandrum, Trichy and Madurai. Trissur is the nearby major railway station which is connected to all major cities of India. Nedumbassaery (Cochin) Airport is just 74 km away. The frequently plying government and private buses make the transport system ample enough and reliable too.
Guruvayur, PIN 680 101,
Thrissur, Kerala, India
email – admingd.ker(a)nic.in
guruvayurdevaswom (a) rediffmail.com
devaswom.guruvayur (a) gmail.com
The Kerala Government has appointed an official body, Devasam Board, to look after the administration of the temple. There are two accommodation places aided by government. One is Satram with 82 rooms charging normal rates and another one is Kousthubam rest house.
“I am responsible for the welfare of those who think of me to the exclusion of all else and who remain devoted to me all the time” — Bhagavad-Gita.
As the saying of the Lord goes, The Krishna temple of Guruvayur is a heavenly abode with great radiance and just close your eyes and recite Lord’s name, he will bless you with Ayur Aarogya Sowkyam (life, health, & prosperity of all kinds).
Timing of Temple
Everyday around 3 am, the temple opens for the devotees and after the day’s conventional pujas and rituals, the temple closes at around 10 pm.