The temple town of Guruvayur located in the Thrissur district of Kerala is a popular destination for devotees in Kerala and all over India. The history of Guruvayur spans over many centuries with it’s customs and tradition still intact and followed to the minutest detail that attracts lakhs of pilgrims every month. Apart from the main Sri Krishna Temple in Guruvayur known popularly as the Guruvayur Temple, a lot of other temples and sacred sites are present here such as the Sri Parthasarathy Temple, Mammiyur Sri Mahadeva Temple, Tiruvenkitachalapathi Temple, Sri Chamundeswari Temple and many more. The main Sri Krishna Temple is the largest temple and described as Bhuloka Vaikuntha i.e. the Vaikuntha on earth as it is said that the Deity of Lord Krishna who is known as Guruvayurappan was originally worshiped by Lord Vishnu in Vaikuntha. The temple is also popularly known as the Dwarka of South India as Lord Guruvayurappan was also worshiped in Dwarka by Lord Krishna Himself. The huge temple complex encompasses other shrines dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Lord Ayyappa Swami, Lord Hanuman and Bhagavathi. The temple tank is called Rudrateertham where Lord Shiva used to meditate under the water along with Parvati Devi but moved their residence to Mammiyur on the northern bank of the lake after the consecration of Lord Guruvayurappan.
History of the Guruvayur Temple
The Deity of Sri Guruvayurappan is said to have been worshiped in Vaikuntha by Lord Vishnu Himself. At the beginning of the Padma kalpa, Lord Vishnu gave His Deity to Lord Brahma to be able to complete the creation of the universe. At the start of the Varaha kalpa, Lord Brahma presented the very same Deity to Prishni and Sutapa with the permission of Lord Vishnu. Lord Brahma told them that by worshiping the Deity, Lord Vishnu would be born as their son in their next three births. Prishni and Sutapa were longing to be blessed with a son and here Lord Vishnu was going to be born as their son.
Prishni gave birth to an illustrious son by the name Prishnigarbha soon. Prishnigarbha was Lord Vishnu’s incarnation who was a famous Sage. In the second life of Prishni and Sutapa, they were born as Aditi and Sage Kashyapa respectively. In this birth, Lord Vamana was born to Aditi and Sage Kashyapa. In the third birth of Prishni and Sutapa as Devaki and Vasudeva, they were blessed with Lord Krishna as their son. In all the three births, the Deity of Guruvayurappan came into the hands of the couple through divine intervention. The Deity was given to Devaki and Vasudeva by Sage Dhaumaya. Ultimately, Lord Krishna Himself received the Deity from His father Vasudeva. After building the city of Dwarka, Lord Krishna consecrated the Deity in a temple there. The Deity was worshiped in Dwarka till the time Lord Krishna performed His lilas on earth.
When Lord Krishna informed Uddhava, His devotee about His departure from earth, Uddhava was distraught. To assure him, Lord Krishna told him of His presence as the Deity in Dwarka Who would bless devotees and ward off the evil effects of the Kali Yuga. Uddhava was instructed to ensure that the Deity was picked up and installed at the appropriate place by Brihaspati, the Guru of the Devatas and Vayudeva following the submergence of Dwarka. Following Krishna’s departure, the Kingdom of Dwarka went down into the sea seven days after the beginning of the Kali Yuga.
Guru i.e. Brihaspathi went along with Vayudeva to secure the Deity and found that it was being tossed in the rough waves of the sea. They prayed to Varunadeva, the sea God to calm the sea so that the Deity could be picked up. The sea thus calmed down and the Deity was collected and placed on Vayudeva’s head to carry it to the appropriate place for consecration. When Guru and Vayudeva were traveling over the current region of Kerala, Lord Parashurama went and received them. Lord Parashurama was told by Sage Narada that the Deity of Lord Krishna worshiped by Krishna Himself in Dwarka could cure the disease called rheumatism that had afflicted many people. These people were coming to Lord Parashurama for relief from the disease.
Lord Parashurama on knowing and understanding the purpose of Guru and Vayudeva’s visit , took them to a big lake filled with beautiful lotus flowers. The lake today known as Rudra Teertham used to extend over a huge area at the beginning of the Kali yuga. Lord Shiva and Parvati Devi who were meditating underneath the lake came out to welcome Guru and Vayudeva being aware of their mission. Lord Shiva directed them to consecrate the Deity in a nearby small shrine that was awaiting the Lord. After seeing the shrine, they were hesitant to consecrate the Deity initially as it was occupied by a beautiful Deity of Durga Devi. But Durga Devi assured them she was awaiting Lord Krishna’s arrival and thus would now move to a place beneath a nearby tree. This shifting of position resulted in Durga Devi being called Edathariyathukavil Bhagavathy i.e. the Goddess who moved to the left.
Under the watch of Guru and Vayu, the Deity was consecrated by Lord Parashurama, Lord Shiva and Parvati Devi with the appropriate mantras. Lord Parashurama went back to his ashram being satisfied that the rheumatism afflicted people in his ashram would now be cured by worshiping the newly consecrated Deity. Lord Shiva and Parvati Devi shifted their residence to the northern bank of the lake called as Rudra Teertham which is now called Mammiyur. Vishwakarma, the celestial architech was invited by Guru and Vayudeva to build a temple around the newly consecrated Deity. Thereafter, this place got it’s name Guruvayur from the combination of the names Guru and Vayu. The Deity came to be called as Guruvayurappan.
It is said that King Janamejaya, the son of King Parikshit was relieved of the curse of serpents he had killed in the homa to avenge his father King Parikshit’s death by worshiping Lord Guruvayurappan at the temple for a period of four months.
Holy Places to visit in Guruvayur –
1. Mammiyur Mahadeva Temple – where Lord Shiva shifted to after the consecration of Lord Guruvayurappan
2. Parthasarathy Temple – where the Deity is said to have been worshiped by Queen Kunti in Indraprastha
3. Thiruvenkitachalapathy Temple – the Deity is the mood of Lord Srinivasa Govinda of Tirumala
4. Tamarayur Vishnu Temple – a subordinate shrine of Guruvayur with one Garba Griha and one Mantapa
5. Perumthatta Shiva Temple – a historical Shiva shrine on the south side of Guruvayur Temple
6. Narayanamkulangara Temple – a shrine lying to the north of Mammiyur temple dedicated to Goddess Narayani Devi
7. Punnathur Kota – where the temple elephants are kept, fed and worshiped
Famous devotees connected to the Guruvayur temple –
1. Sri Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri – the composer of the Narayaneeyam, a summary of the Bhagavata Purana. In spite of coming from a scholarly family, he rejected his ancestral heritage as a young man and served Sri Achyutha Pisharody, an eminent scholar as his Guru. When Sri Achyutha Pisharody suffered from rheumatism, he prayed to the Lord that his Guru be cured and he absorb the suffering. Truly, Sri Melpathur got afflicted by rheumatism while his Guru got cured. Following this, he set out to Guruvayur to write. Not knowing what to write, he sought advice from Tunjath Ramanujan Ezhutachan who advised him in short ‘meenu thottu kuttan’ which meant ‘start with the fish and continue’ i.e. start from the Matysya Avatara of Lord Vishnu. In 100 days, Sri Melpathur wrote 100 chapters or dasakas each ending with the praise of Lord Guruvayurappan. It is said that Lord Guruvayurappan personally oversaw the work of Narayaneeyam with Lord Guruvayurappan even manifesting as Lord Narasimha in front of Sri Melpathur to clear his dilemma while composing the stanzas. At the end of this grand work, Sri Melpathur was cured of his rheumatism.
2. Sri Poonthanam – an ardent devotee of Lord Guruvayurappan who accepted the Lord as his own child. Sri Poonthanam was childless for a long time after marriage. Finally, a son was born after long prayers and Sri Poonthanam’s life revolved around the child. But, unfortunately the child died an hour before his annaprasanna ceremony. Following this, Sri Poonthanam directed his love towards Lord Guruvayurappan in the form of Unnikrishna i.e. as a little boy. It is recorded that Sri Poonthanam used to talk to Guruvayurappan when He would visit Sri Poonthanam’s house in the Balakrishna form. Sri Poonthanam’s intense love for Sri Guruvayurappan led him to compose the renowned devotional work ‘Jnanappana’. He wrote in the local language Malayalam which could be read and assimilated by the commoners.
3. Sri Kururamma – she settled in Guruvayur after being a widow. By the strength of her devotion, Lord Krishna used to come to her place as Bala Krishna and play with her. It is said that Sri Kururamma was devoted to Lord Krishna from a young age. In her childhood, a sannyasi had come asking for food. Being impressed by the sweet payasa served with the food, the sannyasi was eager to know as to who had prepared the same which Sri Kuruamma’s father revealed hesitantly. The sannyasi was allowed to meet little Kururamma after persuasion following which he asked her as to what boon she would like to have. In reply, she answered that she wanted to see the Lord at all times. Sri Kururamma became a childless widow some time after her marriage. But her devotion to Sri Guruvayurappan attracted His attention and hence used to come and play with Sri Kururamma as her own child. She used to play with Him, get Him to help her in the household work and even chastising Him for his naughtiness.
4. Sri Vilwamangalam Swami – a celebrated devotee at Guruvayur. He was Sri Kururamma’s cousin who was an occasionally proud man who had been given the privilege of seeing the Lord during His pujas by the same sannyasi whi had blessed Sri Kururamma. One day, Lord Guruvayurappan manifested before Sri Vilwamangalam lately and looking dirty. The Lord had said that He was with Kururamma playing and due to his being very naughty, she had placed a pot over His head to prevent further mischief. It is said that Sri Vilwamangalam immediately went to Sri Kururamma’s house and confirmed the same by seeing the pot and performing pujas to it. Kururamma’s description about the Lord’s naughtiness further confirmed the same.
5. Sri Manavedan – the prince of Calicut who was the disciple of Sri Vilwamangalam Swami. Being an ardent devotee of Sri Guruvayurappan, he wrote the first eight dramas for the famed Krishnanattam dance which became a regular offering to Lord Guruvayurappan. Today also, the Krishnanattam is a favorite offering to Lord Guruvayurappan by devotees to find solutions to their material and spiritual problems.
6. Kudallur Kunjhikavvu Namboodiri – was famous for his reading of the Puranas which he learnt from his mother’s daily recitation of Ezhuthachhan, another famed devotee’s works. He is known to have followed the teachings of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and so used to see every women he saw as a Gopi from Vrindavana. The corner in the Guruvayur Sri Krishna temple where he used to sit and recite the Puranas has been marked as Kunjhikavvu’s corner.
7. Manjula – a little girl who was a great devotee of Lord Guruvayurappan. She used to make and offer the Lord a garland everyday. One day, due to going out of Guruvayur with her mother for some work, she couldn’t reach back on time. By the time she reached back, the temple had been closed. Manjula started crying which led people to come rushing to her to console her. Sri Melpathur consoled her by saying that she could instead offer two garlands the next day, but this didn’t console her. Suddenly, Sri Poonthanam who had arrived then advised her to offer the garland at the stone beneath a peepal tree in the east nada of the temple which was the Lord’s favorite place which was done by little Manjula immediately. The next morning during the nirmalyam darshan time, the priest noticed the garland offered by Manjula on the Deity as he was starting to perform the abhisekham after removing the existing garlands. He removed the garland but, it kept on reappearing each time. Perplexed the priest came out to seek a solution. Sri Poonthanam who was present there pointed that it was the same garland offered by Manjula last night and so should be removed in the same way as the other garlands were removed. After doing accordingly, the garland vanished. There onwards, the tree were Manjula offered the garland came to be known as Manjulal i.e. Manjula’s tree.
Festivals celebrated in the Guruvayur temple
1. Ashtami Rohini/ Janmashtami – celebrated in grandeur to celebrate the divine appearance day of Lord Krishna every year
2. Guruvayur Ekadashi – another grandly celebrated festival every year
3. Guruvayur Utsavam/ Annual festival – celebrated annually for a period of 10 days to ensure the Deity doesn’t lose it’s Chaitanya/ Divinity
5. Kucheladinam – celebrates the offering of parched rice by Sudama to Krishna
6. Gita Jayanthi – the anniversary of Lord Krishna’s instructions to Arjuna in the form of Bhagavad Gita
7. Narayaneeyam Saptaham
How to reach Guruvayur –
1. By Road – There are direct buses from important cities in Kerala. People traveling from places outside Kerala can take a cab, autorickshaw or bus from Thrissur to Guruvayur.
2. By Train – There is a railway station at Guruvayur which is reachable from all railway stations in Kerala. Trains are available from major cities in India to Thrissur. One can alight at Thrissur and board a local train to the Guruvayur railway station without exiting the station. You can also catch a bus/cab to Guruvayur after alighting at Thrissur railway station.
3. By Flight – The Cochin International Airport is the nearest airport at a distance of nearly 80 kilometers followed by Calicut International Airport at a distance of 100 kilometers. You may hire a cab from any of these airports to Guruvayur directly or get on a bus to Thrissur and then proceed further to Guruvayur.
Guruvayur Temple Timings –
The temple is open to devotees from 3 am in the morning to 10 pm in the night generally. The temple is closed in between from 1 pm in the afternoon to 4.30 pm in the evening so that Lord Guruvayurappan can take rest. There are occassional closure for very short periods of time when a naivedya offering or puja for the Lord is taking place and this would be announced from time to time in Malayalam, Tamil and English over the loudspeakers.
General entry darshan is free. The special darshan ticket charges are Rs. 4500/- for a group of six people.
The content in this blog has been adapted from the book titled ‘Heaven on Earth – The Universe of Kerala’s Guruvayur Temple’ by Pepita Seth3