Guruvayurappan

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Guruvayurappan
Supreme Almighty, The Parabrahma
Sanskrit Transliteration गुरुवायुरप्पन(guruvāyūrappan)
Malayalam ഗുരുവായൂരപ്പന്‍
Affiliation Krishna
Abode Vaikuntha
Mantra Om Namo Narayanaya
Weapon Sudharshana Chakra (Disc), Panchajanya (Dextral Conch), Koumodaki (Mace), Padma (Lotus)
Consort Shri Lakshmi
Mount Garuda

Guruvayurappan (Malayalam: ഗുരുവായൂരപ്പന്‍, (transliterated guruvāyūrappan)) also often written Guruvayoorappan, the presiding deity of Guruvayoor temple is being worshiped as Shri Krishna in his kid form, popularly known as Guruvayur Unnikkannan (Guruvayur baby Krishna). Even though the idol is that of chatur bahu (four handed) Vishnu, the concept (Sankalpam) of the people is that the idol is the infant form of Lord Krishna. This irony is because the idol represents the purna rupa (full manefestation) revealed by baby Krishna to his parents immediately after his birth in Kamsa's jail. Lord Krishna immediately after his birth had revealed himself as four armed standing Vishnu in front of his parents Devaki and Vasudeva. So that may be why baby Krishna is worshiped on a Vishnu idol, even though he was not installed in that concept. The temple is located in the town of Guruvayur, Thrissur, Kerala, India.

The word Guruvayurappan, meaning Lord of Guruvayur, comes from the words Guru (ഗുരു) referring to Brihaspati, the Guru of the Devas, Vayu (വായു), the God of Wind and Appan (അപ്പന്‍), meaning father or Lord in Malayalam. Since Guru and Vayu installed Krishna's idol, the name Guruvayurappan was given to the deity.[1]

It is believed that the idol of Guruvayurappan was worshipped by Vasudeva, father of Krishna, and represents the full manifestation of Vishnu. The idol is made of a stone called "Patala Anjanam" or black bismuth and is in the standing pose with 4 arms carrying the Panchajanya (shanku)(conch)", the Sudarshana Chakra(chakra)(disc), the Koumodaki (gada)(mace) and padma (lotus). The idol faces east and is almost 4 ft tall.[2] Guruvayur is also hailed as "Bhuloka Sri Vaikuntham" meaning Heaven in Earth. where the deity reveals himself to his devotees in the same majestic form in which he welcomes them in Vaikuntha, his celestial abode.

Origin of the murti[edit]

The holy idol of Lord Vishnu in Guruvayoor Temple is made up of a rare stone called 'Pathalanjana Sila', thus considered extremely sacred. It is almost 4 ft tall, and it is said that the idol represents the form of Lord Vishnu in which he gave darshan to Vasudeva and Devaki during the birth of their son, Lord Krishna. This may be the reason why the child form of Lord Krishna is worshipped here. The Lord holds a conch, discus, mace and lotus on his four hands. He is in a standing pose with his darshan towards east.

There is a story about the origin of the murti in 'Narada Puranam'. King Janamejaya, the son of Parikshit, grandson of Abhimanyu and great-grandson of Arjuna, conducted a fierce yajna called 'Sarpasatra' to kill the whole clan of Takshaka, the fierce snake who killed his father. Many innocent snakes died in the yaga fire, but Takshaka survived. Thus Janamejaya got affected with the curse of snakes, making him a leprosy patient. Even though he was well looked by his wife, children and palace doctors, there was no cure. At that time, sage Dattatreya appeared before him and adviced him to worship Lord Vishnu at Guruvayoor. He also told the story of the idol. That is as follows:

Once in Padma Kalpa, when Lord Brahma was doing his task of creation, Lord Vishnu appeared before him. When Lord Brahma repelled him and his creations, Lord Vishnu gave one idol of himself to him. Later, in Varaha Kalpa, Lord Brahma gave this idol to a king named Sutapass and his wife Prasni, who were worshipping Lord Vishnu for a child. As a result of their long worship, Lord Vishnu appeared before them told them that he would be born as their son in four births, and in all these births, they would be blessed with the idol. In the first birth in Satya Yuga, the Lord was born as Prasnigarbha, the son of Sutapass and Prasni. In this birth, he spoke about the greatness of celibacy. Later, in Treta Yuga, when Sutapass and Prasni were reborn as Kashyapa and Aditi, the Lord was born as their son Vamana. Again later, in Treta Yuga, itself, when they were reborn as Dasharatha and Kausalya, the Lord was born as their son Rama. Finally, in Dwapara Yuga, when they were reborn as Vasudeva and Devaki, the Lord was born as their son Krishna. In all these births, they were blessed with the holy idol.

Later, Lord Krishna, himself an avatar of Lord Vishnu, took the idol to Dwarka. He installed it in a temple near his palace and daily worshipped it. At the end of his earthly life, he told his friend-cum-disciple Uddhava that Dwarka would be submerged within seven days and everything except the idol he worshipped would be destroyed. He also adviced Uddhava to hand over the idol to Brihaspati, the guru of devas and Vayu, the wind god. What the Lord told came to be true. Uddhava handed over the idol to Brihaspati and Vayu, and went to Badrikashram for meditation. Brihaspati and Vayu went southwards with the idol, and they were stucked on the way when they saw a place which was much more beautiful than even heaven. They saw a beautiful lake, full of lotuses there. Also, there were many animals, birds, flowers, etc. throughout the place. Fresh air breezed all around. At the same time, they saw Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati there. Lord Shiva told Brihaspati and Vayu that this place is the most suitable place for consecrating the idol, as it was where he prayed Lord Vishnu, and he adviced the 10 princes named 'Prachetas' to pray Lord Vishnu for getting the post of Prajapati. He also told that the place would be known as Guruvayoor and the idol would be known as Guruvayoorappan as the consecration was done by Brihaspati and Vayu. Later, Brihaspati and Vayu called Vishwakarma, the divine architect to make a temple. He did his task within minutes and the idol was consecrated soon. Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati settled down at Mammiyoor in the opposite bank of the lake. Thus, it is said that every devotee who comes to Guruvayoor should also go to Mammiyoor Shiva Temple and then only a darshan to Guruvayoor is complete. The place is also called as 'Bhooloka Vaikuntam', as Lord Vishnu here resides completely powerful as in Vaikunta, his abode, and fullfills every wish of a true devotee.

After hearing this story, Janamejaya proceeded to Guruvayoor with his family. He conducted bhajanam there for one year. He also went to Mammiyoor Temple and prayed Lord Shiva. Thus, he was cured of the disease and he lived a very happy, healthy, long life.

Construction of the temple[edit]

The Main entrance to the temple

An astrologer told a Pandya King that he was destined to die from a cobra bite on a particular day. He was advised to go and pray before Guruvayurappan. The king spent years in meditation and prayer at the feet of the deity. Suddenly the King realized that the time of his death had passed. He came back to his palace and asked the astrologer why the prediction was wrong. The wise man showed him the mark on his left foot where the cobra had bitten him. Since the king was wholly absorbed in the Lord, Who alone can dispense with fate, he did not feel the sting. In gratitude, the King built the temple at Guruvayur and set apart funds for the daily routine of the temple. Most of the current temple building dates to the 16th and 17th centuries, although rich devotees funded extensions and additions later. The deepastamba (column of lights) was erected in 1836 by a devotee from Thiruvanathapuram. The temple has gopurams in the east and the west. The eastern gopuram has an inscription which refers to the town as "Gurupavanapura". The western gopura was built in 1747.[3]

Narayaneeyam[edit]

There are several literary works extolling the glory of the Lord of Guruvayur. The Narayaneeyam is considered the greatest of all such works, creating a Guruvayur in the hearts of everyone who reads or listens to it. The author of this great work is Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri, one of the foremost Sanskrit poets and savants of Kerala. Bhattathiri's guru and mentor was Achyuta Pisharati. When Pisharati was stricken with rheumatism, Bhattathiri took the disease into himself, thus curing his guru. The disease was incurable, and Ezhuthachan instructed Bhattathiri to become a devotee of Guruvayoorappan. Bhattathiri did so, sitting before the Lord and composing and reciting 1034 slokas in the praise of the Lord. The slokas are divided into 100 dasakas (sets of 10 verses).[4] Each dasaka ends with a prayer to the Lord of Guruvayur for relief of his disease. Legend has it that the Lord signified his approval and acceptance of the poem by providing inspiration to the poet whenever he was at a loss for words. While dealing with the Lord's incarnation as Narasimha, the poet could not visualise his form. There upon the Lord himself took form as Narasimha, springing out of a pillar. The Lord himself enacted Krishna dancing on the Kaliya, and the Kaliya mardhanam slokas in the Narayaneeyam are set to the same tempo as Sri Krishna's dance.

According to Bhagavatham, Sri Krishna, as a child, broke a pot with a grinding stone whereas Bhattathiri wrote that Sri Krishna had broken it with a churning stick. While he was grieving that he got it wrong, the Lord himself said that he had broken the pot both with the churning stick and the grinding stone.

Narayaneeyam contains the essence of Bhagavata. Its aim is the cure of ills of the present incarnation or life cycle, its ultimate aim is moksha or liberation from the cycle of births and deaths. In the last dasaka, "Agre pashyami" (HIM I SEE BEFORE ME), the poet has given an inspired and inspiring vision of Srikrishna as Venugopal given to him by the Lord. This was on Ekadesi day.

Legends[edit]

Poonthanam Nambudiri

Poonthanam Namboodiri was a humble devotee of Lord Guruvayurappan. He wrote a Malayalam lyric "Jnanappana" in praise of the Lord. He was not erudite like Bhattathiri but his lyrics were noted for their simplicity and devotional fervour. He requested Bhattathiri to revise it, but Bhattatiri lacked humility and looked down upon Poonthanam's knowledge of Sanskrit. Poonthanam went home and wept bitterly before the Lord. That night a boy appeared at Bhattathiri's house as he was preparing to recite Narayaneeyam. Seating the boy at his side, he started to recite. The boy pointed out an error in the very first verse. The poet admitted it and proceeded with the next verse, and the boy pointed out two mistakes. In the third verse, he pointed out three mistakes and so on. After the tenth verse, Bhattatiri realised that the boy was the Lord himself, and understood that Poonthanam's bhakti was more pleasing to the Lord than his own superior knowledge of Vibhakti (Sanskrit grammar) and learning. He rushed to Poonthanam and sought his forgiveness. When he read the Jnanappana, he found that it was flawless.

Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri was a devotee of Guruvayoorappan. He composed the 1034 verse Narayaneeyam, a summary of the Bhagavata Purana in 1586 AD. Melpathur Bhattithiri was a student of Achyuta Pisharody, who became ill. As a student of the guru, Melpathur Bhattithiri took the disease upon himself as part of Guru Dakshina. The disease was incurable, and he was instructed by Ezhuthachan to become a devotee of Guruvayoorappan. Being a Sanskrit scholar, Melpathur Bhattithiri composed a verse every day for the Lord, and after the final verse was complete, he was cured of his ailments.

Vilwamangalam Swamiyar and Kurur Amma and Manavedan Samoothiri of Kozhikkode are present in legends which tells us they got a chance to see the lord in real. There is a holy spot, Nritham, on the eastern side of the northern entrance to the temple, where the Swamiyar meditated and danced in ectasy. Its believed that the Lord often gave him darshan in person after the last ritual of the day. He could see him whenever and in whatever form he wished. The Lord was a child to the childless Kururamma. She played with him and would even scold him when he was naughty. He helped her in all her household chores as a dutiful son would, for his mother.

King Manaveda told Vilwamangalam about his ambition to view Krishna

Krishnanattam

[5] The next day the Swamiyar told him that Guruvayurappan has given his consent and Manavedan can see Guruvayurappan playing in the early hours of the morning at the platform of the Elanji tree.He could only see and not touch Him.When as per this agreement, Manavedan saw Guruvayurappan in the form of little child Sri Krishna, he was so excited that he forgot himself and, rushed to embrace little Sree Krishna.Guruvayoorappan immediately disappeared saying, "Vilwamangalam did not tell me that this will happen ".However, Manavedan got one peacock feather from the head gear of Bhagavan Krishna.

The peacock feather was incorporated in the headgear for the character of Sri Krishna in the dance drama Krishnanattam based on his own text krishnageeti which is composed of 8 chapters viz, Avatharam, Kaliyamardanam, Rasakrida, Kamsavadham, Swayamvaram, Banayuddham, Vividavadham and Swargarohanam.[6] It was performed near the sanctum sanctorum of the Guruvayur Temple. On the ninth day, Avatharam was repeated as the Zamorin felt that it was not auspicious to end the series with the demise of Lord Krishna.The blessed art form is still maintained by guruvayur devaswom and staged as an offering by devotees.

The Garland of Manjula: There is a banyan tree a few metres away from the temple on the East Nada. A young Varasyar girl would make a garland every day and offer it to the Lord in the night. The Mel Shanti (Chief Priest) would adorn the idol with it. One day she was late and the Sri Koil was closed. Manjula stood near the banyan tree crying and Poonthanam who passed by told her "Guruvayurappan knows what's in your heart, keep the garland on the banyan tree and he will take it". The following morning, when the Mel Shanti began to remove the nirmalyam, one garland stuck to the idol and would not come off. When Poonthanam saw this, he called out to the Lord saying "That's Manjula's Garland, let it also fall". The garland fell and the devotees were awestruck and started chanting the Lord's name. From that day the banyan tree is called Manjula.

Sengalipuram Anantharama Dikshitar: In modern times, this well known scholar and Upanyasa Chakravati was cured of his leprosy by praying to Lord Guruvayurappan.

Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar lost his voice suddenly at the peak of a concert he was giving at Suchindram. Several doctors tried to cure him but to no avail. He went to Guruvayur and cried out to the Lord. He regained his voice and lived many more years to sing in many concerts.

Coconut with horns: A villager had planted a number of coconut saplings and had promised himself that he would offer the 'first coconut' from each of his coconut trees to "The Lord Guruvayurappan". When the trees started to yield coconuts, he collected the first coconut from all the trees in a sack and set forth to Guruvayur. On the way he was stopped by a robber and asked to part with the items in the sack. The villager told the robber that the coconuts in the sack belonged to Guruvayurappan and so he was unable to hand it over. The robber disdainfully asked the villager "Is Guruvaurappan's coconut any different? Does it have horns?". When the robber pulled the sack forcefully out of the villagers hands, the coconuts spilled out. To their astonishment each and every coconut in the sack had horns! Even today, the coconut with horns are displayed in the temple for devotees to see.

Shopkeeper and boy: Once, a poor little boy could not get even a morsel of food to appease his hunger, and stole a banana from a nearby fruit shop. Being a devotee of Lord Guruvayurappan, he dropped half the banana into the 'hundi' and he ate the other half. The shop-keeper caught hold of the boy and accused him of the theft. The boy admitted his guilt. The shop-keeper did not have the heart to punish this innocent boy, but to teach him a lesson, he ordered him to walk around the temple a certain number of times. The shop-keeper was aghast when he saw Lord Guruvayurappan follow the little boy around the temple. That night the Lord came to the shopkeeper in a dream and explained, "Since I have also had a share in the stolen banana I am bound to share the punishment, too. So, I followed the boy around the temple." [2]

Nenmini Unni: Once a Nenmini Namboodiri, the priest at the Guruvayur temple, instructed his twelve year old son to offer the Nivedyam to the Lord. There was only one priest in those days and the Nenmini Namboodiri had to go out on an urgent engagement. The son, Unni, offered a Nivedyam of cooked rice to the Lord; in his simplicity, he believed that the idol would eat the food, but the idol did not move. Unni bought some salted mangoes and curd from a neighborhood vendor, thinking that the Lord would prefer this, mixed the curd with rice and offered it again. The idol again remained unmoved. Unni cajoled, requested, coaxed and in the end threatened, but the idol remained unmoved. He wept because he believed he had failed and shouted at the Lord, exclaiming that his father would beat him. The Lord could not bear it any more, and made the Nivedyam disappear. The boy left the temple satisfied. Unni did not know that the Nivedyam offered to the Lord was the Variyar's prerequisite. When Variyar returned to the temple, he saw the empty plate and became very angry with Unni, but Unni insisted that God had, in fact, eaten the offering. Unni's innocent words made Variyar furious, as he believed the boy had eaten the offering himself and was lying. His father was about to beat Unni, but just then an Asareeri (celestial voice) was heard saying, "I am guilty. Unni is innocent". [3]

Rituals at the temple[edit]

There is a fascinating legend about the origin of the rituals in this temple. One Ekadesi day, Sri Adi Shankara and Narada were travelling in space above the temple of Guruvayur. Acharya did not notice the temple while passing over it. The deity pulled down acharya through the roof all of a sudden and in the next moment he was in front of the Lord. Acharya being immensely happy with the darshan of the Lord composed the Govindashtakam stotram at the very same spot. Acharya formed the principles for worship of the Lord on the request of the Lord himself. Even to this day these principles are followed very strictly without compromise.

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.

Sriveli is a ritual which is performed thrice every day. The Utsava Vigraha of the Lord (a miniature of the idol in gold) is mounted on an elephant and taken three times around within the four outer walls of the temple to the accompaniment of drums. There are beli Kallus representing the Lord's body guards, subsidiary deities and members of his entourage in the inner and outer prakara. The idea of Sriveli and the priest performing poojas at these places is that the Lord Himself stands by as offerings are made to his dependents. Guruvayur is a temple state with the Lord as its Head. Every night at the close of worship, the days account is read to the Lord even today. Another ceremony is the Thulabharam, in which the devotees are weighed against plantains/sugar/jaggery/coconuts or other articles. These are gifted to the temple.[7]

Another is Annaprasanam, or the first feeding ceremony of the child.

Festivals at the temple[edit]

Utsavam[edit]

The utsavam in Guruvayur is in the month of Kumbham (Feb-Mar) and the celebrations are spread over a period of 10 days. The festival starts with the hoisting of the temple flag on the dwajasthamba. A special event during the utsavam is the elephant race. The Guruvayur Devaswom has about 45 elephants now, all donated by devotees. No description of the elephants in this temple is complete without mentioning Padmanabhan and Kesavan. Padmanabhan was a very tall elephant and had a majestic bearing. He would allow no other elephant to carry the Thidambu. There are many stories about his kindness, devotion and unswerving loyalty to the Lord. In appreciation of his services, a gold chain was presented to him. A strange spectacle was seen in the Guruvayur temple in the year 1931, the day Padmanabhan died: the sandal paste with which the Lord was adorned split into two pieces and fell down. The two tusks and teeth of Padmanabhan are kept in Guruvayur.

Kesavan was donated by Raja of Nilambur and came to Guruvayur in 1922. He learnt from Padmanabhan the way he should conduct himself as a servant of the Lord. He was about 11 ft tall and would raise his front leg only when the Thidambu is to be mounted. All other riders, including his mahout, had to mount from the rear, using his hind leg. He was honoured with the title Gajaraja. In 1976, on Navami, he fell ill during the Sriveli. On the Dasami night, he used the drinking water (kept for him) to bathe and to clean his body and stood looking longingly in the direction of the Deity whom he had served for a long time. The morning of Ekadesi dawned. On the day Lord Krishna gave Vishwarupa Darshan to Arjuna, Kesavan lay prostrate on the ground with his trunk stretched towards the Lord. The Lord had given moksha to the Gajaraja, just before the Sri Koil opened. Guruvayur Devaswom has erected a life size statue of Kesavan in one of their rest houses.

Ekadesi[edit]

The Guruvayur Ekadesi falls in the month of Vrischika (Nov-Dec). Once when Lord Maha Vishnu visited the abode of Yama, he heard heart rending cries of people tortured for their sins. The Lord wanted to save them from more suffering and uttered the word Ekadesi. The very mention of the word removed all their sins. Observance of Ekadesi is believed to have a purifying effect. It is believed that the sins of a lifetime are washed away if one happens to see the Ekadesi Vilakku (festival of lights). Legend says that on Guruvayur Ekadesi, Lord Indra comes with Kamadhenu and gives all material wealth and offers worship to receive Sri Krishna's blessings. On that day all the theerthas such as Kasi, Badri, Sabarigiri and Palani in addition to rivers like Ganga and Yamuna assemble in this sacred place.

The Lord of Guruvayur is no distant elusive deity, but one who is accessible to all devotees, learned and unlearned. As the Lord said to Arjuna in the Gita, "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", Guruvayurappan comes to the rescue of his Bhakthas in distress and manifests his grace in infinite ways.[4]

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