Guruvayur Temple

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Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple
ഗുരുവായൂർ ശ്രീകൃഷ്ണ ക്ഷേത്രം
Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple
Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple
Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple  ഗുരുവായൂർ ശ്രീകൃഷ്ണ ക്ഷേത്രം is located in Kerala
Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple  ഗുരുവായൂർ ശ്രീകൃഷ്ണ ക്ഷേത്രം
Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple
ഗുരുവായൂർ ശ്രീകൃഷ്ണ ക്ഷേത്രം
Location in Kerala
Sanskrit transliteration गुरुवायुर क्षेत्रं
Malayalam ഗുരുവായൂര്‍ ക്ഷേത്രം
Coordinates 10°35′40″N 76°02′20″E / 10.5945°N 76.0390°E / 10.5945; 76.0390Coordinates: 10°35′40″N 76°02′20″E / 10.5945°N 76.0390°E / 10.5945; 76.0390
Country India
State Kerala
District Thrissur
Location Guruvayur
Primary deity Krishna (as a four armed Vishnu)
Important festivals Janmashtami, Kumbham Utsavam, Ekadasi
Architectural styles Kerala Architecture
History and governance
Date built 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"[1] which translates to the "Holy Abode of Vishnu on Earth".

The presiding deity of the Guruvayur Temple is Vishnu, worshipped in the form of Krishna. The central icon is a four-armed standing Krishna carrying the conch Panchajanya, 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 (high priest) of the Guruvayur Temple.[2]

The temple (puja) routines are strictly followed. The tantri is available full-time at the Temple to ensure this. The Melsanti (Chief Priest) enters the sanctum sanctorum in the morning and does not drink anything up to the completion of "noon worships" at 12:30 PM.[3] Non-Hindus are not allowed in the temple.

Temple dress code[edit]

 Men: Traditional Mundu Allowed. 
      Lungi, Shirt and Banian  allowed inside Sanctum Sanctorum. 
 Women: Saree, Salwar Kameez, Skirts and Blouse allowed


The Main entrance to the temple

Pre-Colonial history[edit]

According to legends, the deity worshipped here is more than 5000 years old.[4] 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.[5] Mamankam was a very famous local event at Tirunavaya, on the bank of Bharatappuzha. The battles between the Kozhikode under Samoothiris and Valluvanad popularised Guruvayur Temple. Due to the prolonged battles, people across the riverbank started preferring Guruvayur. Even the Samoothiri of Kozhikode become a devotee and thus his subjects followed him. The central shrine that is seen 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.[6]

In the Colonial age[edit]

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, Kozhikode once again became the administrator of Guruvayur.[6][clarification needed]

Post-Colonial age[edit]

Fire of 1970[edit]

The Vilakkumatham was rebuilt after the fire

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 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,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.[7]

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.

Temple legend[edit]

Garuda statue near Guruvayur Temple, in a form of greeting devotees to his master's abode

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 except 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 fulfilled.

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[edit]

Schedule of daily Pooja

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 Odisha, 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 Kochi. There are many flights connecting Kochi with all the big cities of India.

Sathyagraha memorial at Guruvayur

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. 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[edit]

Guruvayur Temple tank (pond)

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.[8]

Dress code for entering the temple[edit]

Devotees at Guruvayur 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.[9] 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.

Daily poojas & offerings[edit]

There are five poojas and three seevelis daily in Guruvayoor Temple. The temple opens at 3'o clock in the morning after 'Palliyunarthal' (Ritual awakening of the Lord). The first darshan is 'Nirmalya Darsanam', or the darshan with the decorations of the previous day, considered very auspicious. It is believed that the Lord has the highest power in this period. After this, the idol is bathed with sesame oil. As the idol is made up of a stone with high medicinal values, it is believed that this oil cures even the most fatal diseases, especially paralysis, thus it is given as Prasadam. Later, a herbal mixture called 'vaka' is dropped upon the idol, to extract oil from the idol. This is the famous 'Guruvayoor Vakacharthu'. It is a rare sight to see the idol full of this powder, without any decoration. After this, the idol is bathed with the water taken from the temple pond which is filled in a conch. This is called 'Sankhabhishekam'. The abhishekams, or the holy bathing, ends with the bathing of the idol with the water taken from the temple pond which is filled in a golden pot. After this, the idol is decorated with sandal paste and ornaments. At this time, the Lord is decorated as infant Krishna, wearing a red loincloth and holding butter and flute on his hands. A special type of puffed rice called 'Malar' is offered after this. By this time, it becomes around 4:15.

After Malar Nivedyam, the nada is closed for 'Usha Pooja', or morning worship. At this period, the offerings include Neypayasam (Ghee pudding), Butter, Vella Nivedyam (Cooked white rice), Kadalipazham (A special kind of plantain), Jaggery, A special type of sugar and Thrimadhuram (A mixture of three sweets). The nada opens after Usha Pooja at 4:45. Later, until 'Ethirettu Pooja', or the pooja at sunrise, the devotees are allowed to darshan. 'Ethirettu Pooja' starts at 5:30 and lasts until sunrise. This got the name because this pooja is conducted as a part of receiving the first rays of the rising sun, towards which the idol is facing. At this time, 'Ganapathi Homam' is conducted and sub-deities are offered food. After 'Ethirettu Pooja', the procession idol is taken for 'Seeveli', or the holy procession. The meaning of this observance is that the Lord directly sees his guards offering food. There are many small stones called 'Balikkallu' around the sanctum sanctorum (sreekovil), representing the eight directional guards (Indra for east, Agni for south-east, Yama for south, Nirrti for south-west, Varuna for west, Vayu for north-west, Kubera for north and Ishana for north-east), seven mothers (Brahmi, Vaishnavi, Maheshwari, Indrani, Varahi, Kaumari and Chamundi) along with Veerabhadra and Ganapathi as the guards, Sastha, Durga, Subrahmanya, Anantha, etc. Melsanthi, the main priest, offers the food, while Keezhsanthi, the assistant priest, goes with the idol. After one circumambulation (pradakshinam), the idol is taken outwards. The Melsanthi walks in front with food, water and flower while the Keezhsanthi mounts on the top of an elephant and goes with the idol. The procession goes around, supported by musical instruments like Chenda, Edakka, Maddalam, Thimila, Ilathalam, Kombu, Kurumkuzhal, Thavil and Nadaswaram and the 'Namasankeerthanam' by devotees. There are three circumambulations, one inside the nalambalam and the other two outside. The seeveli ends with the food offered at the big balikkallu in front of the sreekovil, just behind the flagstaff (Kodimaram). Now time is 7:30.

After the seeveli, the idol is again bathed, this time with the water taken from the temple well. Later, it is also bathed with cow's milk, Coconut water (Ilaneer/Karikku) and Rosewater. After this, nine silver pots are filled with the water from both the pond and the well and after special poojas by Melsanthi, they are taken to the sreekovil and the idol is bathed with this water. This is called 'Navakabhishekam'. Later, the idol is again decorated with sandal paste. This time, the Lord appears as a teenager who is still angry after killing his maternal uncle, Kamsa. He wears a yellow dhoti now. At around 8'o clock, when the shadow is 12 ft long, another pooja is conducted. This is called 'Pantheeradi Pooja', named after the length of the shadow at this time. At this time, there are no special offerings. These poojas are done by traditional priests called 'Othikkans'. After this, it is the time to darshan until 'Ucha Pooja', or noon worship. At around 10'o clock, there will start 'Prasada Oottu' in the Oottupara (Temple dining hall).

The nada is closed at 11:30 for Ucha Pooja. At this time, the Lord is offered a special type of pudding called 'Idichu Pizhinja Payasam'. A Brahmin, who is believed to be a representative of the Lord, is fed with a delicious feast after washing his hands. Also, Ashtapadi, the verses from Geethagovindam is sung by playing Edakka at this time. Ucha Pooja is normally done by the Melsanthi himself, but on special occasions, it is conducted either by the Thanthri (During Ulsavam, Kalasam & Thripputhari) or by Othikkans (During Udayasthamana Pooja & Mandalam period). At this time, the idol is again decorated. Now, it may be of any avatar of Lord Vishnu, or even may be the forms of Lord Krishna. After this, the temple is closed at 12:30.

The temple reopens at 4:30 in the evening in normal days, but during Mandalam period, it opens at 3:30 itself. Soon after the temple is opened, the evening seeveli is conducted, with the repetation of all those in the morning seeveli (Normally, this seeveli is conducted soon after the Ucha Pooja, but here it is conducted in the evening. It is believed that the Lord visits Ambalapuzha Temple for palpayasam). At the time of sunset, the nada is again closed, for 'Deeparadhana' or 'light worship'. All the lights in the temple are burnt at this time. The Melsanthi reopens the nada after 'Karpoorarathi', or the flashing of camphor. At 7:30 in the night, the nada is again closed, for 'Athazha Pooja'. At this time, the offerings are Appam (Fried pancake), Ada (Steamed pancake), Palpayasam (Milk pudding), Betel leaves and Arecanut. This pooja lasts until 8:30. After this, the night seeveli is conducted. All those seen in the morning & evening seevelis are to be repeated again. After this seeveli, a special custom called 'Thrippuka' is conducted. As the name suggests, the sreekovil is filled with a fresh smoke made up of a special kind of powder. It is believed that this smoke cures breathing problems. After Thrippuka, the temple treasurer reads the income & expenditure of the day, written in a palm leaf. At last, the temple is closed at 9:30, making the end of a day.

N.B.: There will be a change in this timetable on special days (E.g.: Ulsavam, Janmashtami) and the days with Udayasthamana Pooja, the biggest offering. On the day of Chuttuvilakku, or special illumination, Thrippuka is conducted after it is over. Krishnanattam, an art form based on a poem named 'Krishnageethi' written by Kozhikode Samoothiri Manavedan Raja in the 17th century, narrating the whole story of Lord Krishna, is played on all days except Tuesday and the period from June to October.

The biggest offering in the temple is Udayasthamana Pooja, as said above. It is a major offering in almost all the temples in Kerala, but it is at Guruvayoor where the highest number of booking for this takes place. So, udayasthamana pooja at Guruvayur temple at any given moment is already booked for years to come . As the name suggests, this is a dawn-to-dusk pooja. On the days with this offering, there are 18 poojas. Krishnanattam is the second main offering. This offering has 7 stories, named Avatharam, Kaliyamardanam, Rasakreeda, Swayamvaram, Banayuddham, Vividavadham and Swargarohanam. Inspired by Krishnanattam, Kottarakkara Thamburan made another new art form called Ramanattam, which as the name suggests was based on the story of Lord Rama, the 7th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. With some changes in Ramanattam, Kathakali, the cultural icon of Kerala, emerged.

Thanthris are from Puzhakkara Chennas Mana, a Brahmin family near Guruvayoor. Melsanthis are selected from the Brahmins of Sukapuram and Peruvanam villages in the old Kerala by the Devaswom itself, for a term of six months, from April to October or vice versa.

Treatment of Elephants[edit]

The Punathoor Kotta elephant yard is the tethering site or home of the 56 elephants belonging to the Guruvayur Sreekrishna Temple, Guruvayur, near Thrissur district in Kerala. Also called the Anakotta (Elephant Fort in vernacular language), the place is the home to the largest population of captive male Asian elephants. These elephants are donated by devotees to the temple, and often they prefer donating tusked male elephants and hence the skewed ratio of males to females.[10] The elephants were initially kept at a compound close to the temple when the numbers were low. However, with more devotees donating elephants, the space became insufficient and hence was moved to a larger property three kilometres away from the temple. Because of their association with the temple, devotees consider several of these elephants as living forms of Lord Guruvayurappa himself.[11] Guruvayur Keshavan is the most famous among those, who, even four decades after his demise is the talk of the town.[12] To honour the royal one, every year on his death anniversary, homage is paid to a life-sized statue of the late tusker followed by a grand feast to the elephants.[13]

There have been incidents of tuskers being tortured at the yard, and a young male elephant named Arjun died in a similar incident in 2012, after few newly appointed inexperienced mahouts tortured him. There were cases registered against the ones involved immediately by concerned officials.[14]

The capture, treatment and living conditions of the elephants in Guruvayur has been widely criticized.[15] The Animal Welfare Board of India has found in a detailed study of the practices that there has been a violation of several laws and guidelines such as The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Project Elephant’s Guidelines for Care and Management of Captive Elephants 2008, the Central Zoo Authority of India’s guidelines called Zoos in India — Legislation, Policy, Guidelines and Strategy 2014, The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002, the Performing Animals Rules 1973, and Kerala Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules 2012.[16] According to the AWBI report, between January 2014 and April 2014, out of a total of 120 festival days, 38 out of the 59 elephants were leased out. In the four-month span, 52-year-old elephant Gopikrishnan worked for 77 days. In the case of a celebrity elephant like the 74-year-old Padmanabhan, he was made to toil for 18–20 hours, earning up to Rs.7 lakh for the temple in a day, even though his retirement age is 65. The revenue that festival elephants generate annually adds up to Rs.3.7 crore. The revenue for 2014-15, including donations by devotees, sponsorships and elephant camps, is estimated to touch Rs.7 crore. The report concludes by saying “No institution, however prestigious and powerful, can hope to insulate itself when it is on the wrong side of public opinion on a long-standing issue of humane concern. In just a few short years, the Devaswom’s elephant-keeping model has lost its shine, seen its value downgraded, mishandled tragic incidents involving the brutal assault on the captive elephants, and its reputation being affected by swelling public scepticism of its elephant facility.”[17][16]

Guruvayur Mahatmyam – early legends of Guruvayur temple[edit]

Sri Naradiya 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.[18]

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.[18]

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.[19]

Location and transport[edit]

Guruvayur Railway station

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.

See also[edit]


[20] Hindu Pilgrimage Temple - Guruvayoor Temple

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  2. ^
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  5. ^ Narayaneeyam,translated by Swami Tapasyananda,Appendix-1,Pg 353,Sri Ramakrishna Math
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  9. ^ "Archive News". The Hindu. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  10. ^ "Temple elephants… and what lies beneath | Peepli Project Blog". Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  11. ^ "Elephant Sanctuary". []. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  12. ^ Sreedhar Vijayakrishnan (2015-12-30). "Elephant in the Room – Glimpses from the past | IndiaFactsIndiaFacts". Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  13. ^ "Homage paid to Guruvayur Kesavan". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  14. ^ Share on Twitter (2012-07-20). "Ailing elephant Arjun dies at Guruvayur - Times of India". Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  15. ^ Posted: 12/29/2014 6:14 pm EST (2014-12-29). "The Indian Temple That's "Ground Zero" for Elephant Torture | Sangita Iyer". Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  16. ^ a b "Gods in shackles - The Hindu". Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  17. ^ "Restrict visitor timings at Kerala's Guruvayur elephant sanctuary: Animal welfare board". Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  18. ^ a b Narayaneeyam,translated by Swami Tapasyananda,Appendix-1,Pg 350,Sri Ramakrishna Math
  19. ^ Narayaneeyam,translated by Swami Tapasyananda,Appendix-1,Pg 352,Sri Ramakrishna Math
  20. ^ "Guruvayoor Temple - Kerala Guruvayoor Temple,Tour to Guruvayoor,Temples in Trichur in India". Retrieved 2016-12-01. 

External links[edit]