|Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple|
|Other names:||ഗുരുവായൂര് ക്ഷേത്രം|
|Architecture and culture|
|Primary deity:||Krishna (the idol at the temple is that of a four armed Vishnu)|
|Important festivals:||Janmashtami, Kumbham Utsavam, Ekadasi|
|Architectural styles:||Traditional Kerala style|
|Records indicate the temple to be 5000 years old|
|Governing body:||Guruvayur Devaswom|
Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Krishna (an avatar of the god Vishnu), located in the town of Guruvayur in Kerala, India. It is one of the most important places of worship for Hindus of Kerala and is often referred to as "Bhuloka Vaikunta" which translates to the "Holy Abode of Vishnu on Earth". However, even though the shrine is considered to be one of the holiest spots for Vaishnavites (Vishnu followers), the temple is not a part of the famous 108 Divya Desams temple list.
The presiding deity in the Sanctum sanctorum of the Guruvayur Temple is Lord Vishnu, worshipped in the form of Lord Krishna, his avatar. The central icon is a four-armed standing Lord Krishna carrying the conch Pancajanya, the discus Sudarshana Chakra, the mace Kaumodaki and a lotus with a Holy basil garland. This image represents the majestic form of Vishnu as revealed to Krishna's parents Vasudeva and Devaki around the time of Krishna's birth; hence Guruvayur is also known as "Dwarka of South India". He is currently worshipped according to routines laid down by Adi Shankara and later written formally in the tantric way, the inter-religious spiritual movement that arose in medieval India, by Cennas Narayanan Nambudiri (born in 1427). The Cennas Nambudiris are the hereditary tantris of the Guruvayur Temple.
The temple (puja) routines are strictly followed. The tantri (high priest) is available full-time at the Temple to ensure this. The Melsanti (Chief Priest) enters the sanctum sanctorum at 2:30 in the morning and does not drink anything up to the completion of "noon worships" at 12:30 PM.
It also clearly states that non-Hindus are not allowed in the temple.
- 1 History
- 2 Temple legend
- 3 The Temple of Guruvayoor
- 4 Guruvayur Mahatmyam – early legends of Guruvayur temple
- 5 Location and transport
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The Temple is constructed B.C 3000(Around 5000 years oldest Temple) According to legends, the deity worshipped here is more than 5000 years old. But there are no historical records to establish it. In the 14th century, "Kokasandesam" (a Tamil literary work), references to a place called Kuruvayur are made. As early as the 16th century (fifty years after Narayaniyam was composed) many references to Kuruvayur are seen. In ancient Dravidian languages, "kuruvai" means "sea", hence the village on the Malabar Coast may be called Kuruvayur. The earliest temple records date back to the 17th century. The earliest mention of the many important Vishnu temples of Kerala are found in the songs of Alwars, Tamil saints, whose time-line is not exactly fixed. Mamankam was a very famous local event at Tirunavaya, on the bank of Bharatappuzha. The battles between the Calicut under Zamorins and Valluvanad popularised Guruvayur Temple. Due to the prolonged battles, people across the riverbank started preferring Guruvayur. Even the Zamorin of Calicut become a devotee and thus his subjects followed him. The central shrine that see today is said to have been rebuilt in 1638 AD. "Viswabali" was performed later to propitiate all the spirits, good and bad. By the end of the 16th century Guruvayur had become the most popular pilgrimage centre in Kerala.
In the Colonial age
Ullanad Panikkars rescued and looked after the temple from 1825 to 1900. Like Chempakasseri Nambudiri and Desavarma Nambudiri, Panikkars offered everything from service to property. Thus with their help daily puja and annual festivals were once again restored. From 1859 to 1892, the Chuttambalam, the Vilakkumatam, the Koottambalam and Sasta shrine were renovated and roofed with copper sheeting. In 1900, Konti Menon, as a manager fixed the hours of worship and led the drive to keep the temple premises clean. He set up the big bell and reconstructed Pattayappura (granary). In 1928, Calicut once again became the administrator of Guruvayur.[clarification needed]
Fire of 1970
On November 30, 1970, a massive fire broke out in the temple. It began from the western chuttambalam (circumambulatory temple) and raged all around for five hours, but the Sri Kovil (sanctum sanctorum), the main deity, sub-shrines of Ganesha, Ayyappa, Bhagavati and flagstaff remained unaffected. People from all walks of life, irrespective of age and caste fought the fire. Later, the temple was once again built. This shocking incidence of fire took place on 29 November during the season of Ekadasi Lighting. On this day Lighting was celebrated on a grand scale and all the lamps in the Vilakkumatham were lighted. After Siveli procession, the function came to an end and the gates of Gopuram were closed. Around 1.00 am on 30th, somebody in the immediate neighbourhood near the western chuttambalam saw a blaze from within the Temple. Roused by the news, the whole lot of people, irrespective of caste, colour or creed rushed to the Temple and joined in fighting the fire with water and sand. Later, the fire force units of Ponnani, Trichur and Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore arrived and started fighting the fire which seems to have started from the western Vilakkumatam. It was brought under control by 5.30 am. Seeing the uncontrollable fire, the authorities had already removed the valuables from the Sreekovil. The Ganapathy deity, Sastha deity and the main deity of God Guruvayurappan were shifted to the Koothambalam and then to a safer place, the residence of the Tantri. The fire gutted the whole of chuttambalam, the entire Vilakkumatam on the west, south and north sides. The Chuttambalam was only 3 yards off, but still the fierce fire did not touch even the dry flower garlands, which hung on the corner of the Sreekovil.
Two committees were formed to undertake the renovation work. One committee was headed by Devaswom Minister, Government of Kerala and another technical committee to advice on the renovation work. It had eminent engineers, astrologers and the Tantri as the members. The foundation stone for the renovation was laid by Jayendra Saraswati. After the fire, the Vilakkumatham, for the first time, was lit on Vishu day, 14 April 1973.
There is a story about the emergence of Guruvayoor Temple in Narada Purana. King Parikshit, a descendant of Kuru dynasty, being the grandson of Arjuna and son of Abhimanyu, died due to the bite of Takshaka, a fierce snake, after the curse by a sage. His son, Janamejaya, tried to revenge this by conducting a fierce yaga named Sarpasatra. Many innocent snakes got killed in the ritual fire. But Takshaka did not die, because he had drunk Amrita. Thus, Janamejaya got cursed by snakes and he was affected with severe leprosy. Even though he tried his best to get cure, his condition did not improve. Thus, both his body and mind got weaker over time. At that time, sage Dattatreya appeared before him and requested him to worship Lord Mahavishnu of Guruvayoor to get cure of leprosy. He also told about the greatness of the idol there. That story is like this:
Long ago, in Padma Kalpa, when Lord Brahma was conducting his task of creation, Lord Vishnu appeared before him. When Lord Brahma requested his wish to get salvation to himself and his creations, Lord Vishnu gave an idol of & made by himself. Later, in Varaha Kalpa, Lord Brahma gave this idol to a king named Sutapass and his wife Prasni, who were worshipping Lord Vishnu to get a son. They continued to worship, and finally Lord Vishnu appeared before them. He stated that he would himself be born as their son in four births, and in all those births, they would be blessed with the idol which they worshipped. Thus, in the first birth in Satya Yuga, the Lord was born as Prasnigarbha, the son of Sutapass and Prasni. Later, in Treta Yuga, when Sutapass and Prasni were born as Kashyapa and Aditi respectively, the Lord was born as Vamana, their son. Again later, in Treta Yuga itself, when they were born as Dasaratha and Kausalya respectively, the Lord was born as Rama, their son, and finally, in Dwapara Yuga, when they were born as Vasudeva and Devaki, the Lord was born as Krishna, their son. In all these births, the idol was also with them. Later, Lord Krishna, an avatar himself, took the idol to Dwaraka, and began to worship it.
At last, when the Lord was ascending to heaven after his avatar, he told to his friend and devotee Uddhava that Dwaraka would be submerged with sea within a week and everyone expect the idol he worshipped would be destroyed, so that the idol should be given to Brihaspati, the guru of devas and Vayu, the windgod. What Lord Krishna told exactly happened. Uddhava took the idol from the sea and gave it to Brihaspati and Vayu. Later, he went to Badaryashram to do penance. Brihaspati and Vayu went southwards with the idol. On the way, they saw a large, beautiful lake very close to the sea, which was full of lotuses of all colours. They entered there. They saw a huge forest near the lake. Everyone there was so exciting that even Indraloka would be defeated. Many birds were chirping, animals were walking through and fresh air was all there. When they walked through the place, they met with sage Parasurama, who took them to the place where his guru Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were sitting. All the three told about the greatness of the place they were standing. It is like this:
Long ago, Lord Shiva worshipped Lord Vishnu in the place which they were standing. The lake on the north side is known as Rudratheertham, as Rudra (Lord Shiva) bathed there before conducting poojas. Many years later, ten prince brothers named 'Prachetas' came to the place to get the title of Prajapati. Lord Shiva taught them a hymn named 'Rudrageetham', in praise of Lord Vishnu. They meditated with that hymn, and finally their wish was fullfiled.
When Brihaspati and Vayu heard the story, they realized that the place itself is suitable for consecrating the idol. Thus, they called Vishwakarma, the architect of devas. He built a temple within minutes and the idol was consecrated there. As it was Guru and Vayu who consecrated the idol of Lord Vishnu there, the place came to be known as Guruvayoor and the idol came to be known as "Guruvayoorappan".
The Temple of Guruvayoor
The Krishna temple in the town of Guruvayoor in Kerala is one of the five famous Krishna/Vishnu temples in India. The others are the Jagannath Temple in Puri in Orissa, Tirupati Venkatachalapati in Andhra Pradesh, Nathdwara in Rajasthan and Dwaraka in Gujarat. Of course there are many other famous ones of Vishnu as well as of Krishna but these are considered to be the most popular. Even though the idol in Guruvayoor is that of Vishnu it is still known as a Krishna temple since the boy Lord Krishna is always said to be running around incognito in the temple precincts. Guruvayoor is known as “Bhooloka Vaikunta” or the abode of Vishnu on earth, as the idol represents the full form of Lord Vishnu.
The whole life of this town revolves round the temple and there is very little activity beyond what is connected with the temple even though there are a few other noteworthy temples in the area. One can get to Guruvayoor by car or train from the town of Thrissur which is very close to Cochin. There are many flights connecting Cochin with all the big cities of India.
God Krishna in Guruvayoor is popularly called Sri Guruvayoorappan. Appan means God or father so the title means the God of Guruvayoor. The small idol is made of the stone known as black antimony and is a magnetic stone said to have special medicinal properties. Every morning the God is anointed in til oil. He is then sprinkled with a special cleansing powder made of herbs known as “vaka”. This powder is light brown in colour and gives an added hue to the idol. Crowds go to the temple at 3 A.M in order to see this charming sight. Then water from the temple, consecrated with mantras is poured over the idol for his ritual bath. This holy water is then eagerly drunk by the devotees since it is said to contain a little of the miraculous properties of the stone of which the idol is made.
The history of the idol goes back to the hoary past to the age of Dwapara when God Krishna was present on earth. His parents were Vasudeva and Devaki. She was the sister of Kansa, the cruel king of Mathura. They two of them had been great devotees of God Vishnu for many ages. After assiduously wooing him for many births, the God had manifested himself to them and promised that he would be born as their son for three lives in succession. He promised them liberation at the end of these three births. This was their last birth as Devaki and Vasudeva in the clan of the Yadavas in the city of Mathura and Krishna was born to them as their eighth son. The idol of God Vishnu which is found in Guruvayoor is one which had been worshipped by Devaki and Vasudeva and one can easily imagine that it must also have been worshipped by God Krishna himself. This is the greatness and glory of this particular idol of God Vishnu – that Vishnu himself had done puja to it in his incarnation as Krishna.
At the end of his earthly sojourn, Krishna prophesied to his friend and devotee, Uddhava that the island of Dwaraka, which had been his stronghold, would be swept away by the sea, seven days after he left his mortal body. He instructed him to rescue the precious idol of Vishnu which his parents had worshipped, and hand it over to Brihaspati, the guru of the gods who would come to him. After seven days, the island submerged in the sea as foretold by God Krishna. Uddhava went sadly to the seashore and saw the idol bobbing up and down on the waves far out in the sea. He begged the wind god – Vayu to bring it closer to him. The wind wafted it gently to the shore and Uddhava picked it up lovingly and cradled it in his arms. As he was wondering how to contact the guru of the gods, he found that Brihaspati himself was walking towards him. Uddhava told him the whole story of how God Krishna had instructed him and Brihaspati who knew everything agreed to take it and install it at some special place. He was sure that he would be given further instructions.
Now Brihaspati asked Vayu, the wind god to transport him through the air so that they could choose a perfect spot for the installation. Carrying the precious idol in his hands, Brihaspati was wafted across the sub-continent of India till they came almost to the sea shore to the spot where the present town of Guruvayoor now stands. Looking down Brihaspati saw a beautiful lake filled with lotuses on the banks of which Shiva and Parvati were dancing. He was charmed by the sight and he requested Vayu to float him down. For some time he stood spell-bound by the dancing couple. When they had finished he prostrated to them and begged Shiva to tell him of a perfect spot to install the idol of Vishnu. Shiva said that this was indeed the ideal place. He told him to build the temple right there at one end of the lake where he and Parvati had been dancing. He magnanimously said that he himself would take up residence at the other end of the lake which was known as Rudrathirta. The temple of Mammiyoor to which Shiva shifted still exists. However during the course of time the lake dried up little by little and now only the temple tank adjoining the Guruvayoor temple remains to tell the tale of this ancient lake. The word Guruvayoor has special connotations. It is made up of two words “guru” and “vayu”. Guru means preceptor and vayu is wind. The idol was installed by Brihaspati, the guru of the gods and Vayu, the god of wind and hence came to be known as Guru-vayoor! The word also has an esoteric meaning. It stands for the body of the human being which is the abode of wind. The five pranas or vital breaths are what sustain the body and make it function properly.
Stories surrounding the Guruvayur Temple tank
The temple tank (pond) on the northern side of the temple is called Rudratheertham. The legend say that for thousands of years, Lord Shiva and his family worshipped Lord Vishnu on the southern bank of this pond, the current location of the temple, and as Shiva is also known by the name 'Rudra', the pond came to be known as Rudratheertham.
It is said that in the ancient days, the pond extended up to Mammiyur and Thamarayur (about 3 km away from the Temple) and was known for its ever blooming magical lotus flowers. Pracetas (the ten sons of mythical King Prajinabarhis and his Queen Suvarna) came to this place to do undergo a tapasya to become "the king of all kings" with the help of god Vishnu. Sensing the motive of the Pracetas, Siva emerged from the sacred tank and revealed to them the "Rudragitam", a hymn in praise of Vishnu. Siva suggested them to chant the hymn with all their heart to get their wishes fulfilled. The princes won the favour of Vishnu after rigorous tapasya for 10,000 years on the banks of the tank after bathing on it by chanting the hymns.
Dress code for entering the temple
Strict dress code exists for people who wish to enter the Guruvayur Temple. Men are to wear mundu around their waist, without any dress covering their chest. But it is allowed to cover the chest region with a small piece of cloth (veshthi). Boys are allowed to wear shorts, but they are also prohibited from wearing a shirt. Girls and women are not allowed to wear any trouser like dresses or short skirts. Women are allowed to wear sari and girls are to wear long skirt and blouses. Presently the dress code for women have been relaxed with shalwar kameez (churidar pyjamas) being allowed. Unlike in northern India, in Kerala and other southern Indian states Hindu women do not cover their heads in temples. Like all other temples in India, footwear is strictly prohibited. Security restrictions prevent carrying of mobile phones or cameras into the temple. In peak hours it is better to keep the sandals, phones in hotel itself because of only two locker shop.
Guruvayur Mahatmyam – early legends of Guruvayur temple
Sri Narada purana mentions how Janamejaya was cured of leprosy by taking refuge under the feet of Guruvayuruppan. The Pandavas handed over the kingdom to their grandson Parikshit, and left for the forest to spend their last days. Parikshit died of the curse of a saint, who cursed that Parikshit will die of snake bite by Takshaka, the king of serpents. After the death of Parikshit he was succeeded by his son Janamejaya. Janamejaya conducted a sacrifice to destroy all the snakes of the world including Takshaka, who was the cause of his father's death . Hundreds of thousands of snakes fell into the sacrificial fire and were killed, but the sacrifice was stopped by a Brahmin called Astika, before Takshaka was killed.
Since Janamejaya was responsible for the death of millions of snakes, he was afflicted with leprosy. He lost all hope of a cure. One day Sage Atreya (son of Atri) came before Janamejaya and told him to take refuge under the feet of Krishna at Guruvayoor. Atreya told him that in the temple at Guruvayur the effulgence of Sri Hari is at its best and Vishnu showers his blessings on all devotees. He immediately rushed there and spent the next ten months worshipping the God at Guruvayur. At the end of ten months, he returned home hale and hearty and took the astrologer to task for making a false prediction. The astrologer told him that he would find the mark of a snakebite on his left leg. He had escaped death only because he was at that time in a temple where Anantha (the emperor of serpents) was present and Anantha was the brother to the God at Guruvayur where he had finished worshipping.
The king being convinced of the astrologer's verdict decided to build a full-fledged temple at Guruvayur. In course of time, this temple came to be downgraded and reduced to poverty during the days when Kerala was ruled by the Perumals. The Perumal rulers were mostly Shaivites and did not extend their patronage to Vaishnavite shrines. The Shiva temple at Mammiyur received their patronage and with the shift of royal patronage, the worshippers also swung more to the Shiva temple. The Guruvayur temple was thus reduced to utmost poverty, without even means to light the temple lamp. However, one day, a holy man went to the Mammiyur temple for food and hospitality for the night. Though the temple was affluent, the temple authorities pretended they had nothing and scornfully directed him to the neighbouring Guruvayur temple knowing fully well that the temple was in destitute conditions. When the holy man entered the precincts of that temple, he was courteously received by a brahmin boy and sumptuously fed. The holy man was very much pleased and he pronounced a blessing. "I came here from Mammiyur temple, because they said there is nothing there," he said."They told me also that there is plenty here. Well hereafter it will be exactly like that!" It is said from that day, Mammiyur Siva temple began to decline, and the fortunes of Guruvayur Vishnu temple progressed from strength to strength. But now, Mammiyur is also progressing by the number of devotees.
Location and transport
The temple is located about 29 km from Thrissur. The nearest railway station is at Guruvayur. Trains that run from here are Thiruvananthapuram Central-Guruvayur Intercity, Guruvayur-Kollam-Punalur Intercity and Guruvayur-Chennai Egmore express train from Chennai via Thiruvananthapuram, Madurai and Tiruchirapalli . Regular passenger train services to Thrissur and Ernakulam are available. The nearest major railway station with better connectivity is at Thrissur. The nearest airport (75 km) is Cochin International Airport, at Nedumbassery near Kochi. Guruvayur is well connected from all major towns of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Various private and state government-owned bus companies operate regular services to this temple town.
The annual festival starts by hoisting the holy flag on the golden mast erected in front of the Temple. The holy rope for hoisting the Flag comes from Sree Mahavishnu Temple at Panangad near Kochi as a procession.
- Guruvayur Kesavan
- Mammiyoor Temple
- Punnattur Kotta
- Puttinga Temple, Paravur
- Sri Padmanabhaswami Temple
- Hindu temples of Kerala
- Narayaneeyam,translated by Swami Tapasyananda,Appendix-1,Pg 353,Sri Ramakrishna Math
- Narayaneeyam,translated by Swami Tapasyananda,Appendix-1,Pg 350,Sri Ramakrishna Math
- Narayaneeyam,translated by Swami Tapasyananda,Appendix-1,Pg 352,Sri Ramakrishna Math
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