Temples of Kerala - Sree Guruvayoorappan Temple

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

Located at 29 km north-west of Thrissur District of Kerala, the Guruvayur is one of the most important pilgrimage centers of South India. It is called as the Bhoolokavaikunta meaning the heaven on the Earth. It is also called as the Dwaraka of the South. The temple being the abode of Sri Krishna or Guruvayoorappan is very famous throughout India. Sri Krishna is also fondly called as Unnikrishna or Balakrishna. The lord here is worshipped according to the Pooja routines laid down by Sri Adi Shankaracharya. The Chennas Namboodiris are the hereditary Tantri of Guruvayoor temple.

Guruvayur became divine on account of the penance performed by Lord Siva and later by the Prechethas in the Rudratheertham which is the sacred tank on the northern side of the present temple where Lord Guruvayurappan has His Arattu. Siva worshipped Mahavishnu for years under the waters of the Rudratheertham. When Prechethas came to this place, Lord Siva gave them Rudrageetham which is a hymn in praise of Mahavishnu.

Another legend says that the idol of the Sri Krishna Temple is said to have been worshipped by Lord Brahma himself at Dwaraka and gifted to Vishnu in his Krishnavataram. When Krishna left this earth for his heavenly abode, the holy city of Dwaraka submerged. Devas were entrusted with the job of finding an equally holy spot for the idol. After a long quest, they found Kerala and met Parasurama, who led them to a beautiful lake full of lotuses, called Rudratirtha, beside which Shiva and Parvati waited to welcome them.

The idol was duly installed at this spot and lovingly called Guruvauurappan, or the Lord of Guruvayur. Since the installation was done by Guru and Vayu the place was named as Guruvayurappa and later on as Guruvayur. Shiva and Parvathi installed themselves in Mammiyur temple at the opposite bank of the lake. Melpattur Narayana Bhattathiri is believed to have composed the Narayaneeyam in front of the deity in the temple.

The temple has the typical Kerala style of architecture with gopurams or gateways, repeated mandapas, sreekovil, and subsidiary shrines around the courtyard. There are many precious materials in the temple premises. Facing East, the temple has two gopurams one on the east and the other on the west. The Eastern gopuram or Kizhakkenada of the Sri Krishna temple, also known as Bhooloka Vaikuntam, is the main entrance to the shrine. There is a pillared hall known as the Nalambalam or Chutambalam in the centre of the inner courtyard with scores of oil lamps fixed on its walls. The Chutambalam or the outer enclosure has the square two-storeyed Sreekovil with three rooms, the innermost of which is the sacred sanctum sanctorum housing the main deity.

The Vishnu’s idol made of a particular stone called Patala anjanam has four arms carrying the conch, the discus, the mace and the lotus, and adorned with a thulasi garland and pearl necklaces. The walls have 17th century paintings depicting the stories from the life of Krishna. The two doors inside are covered with gold. There is also a gold plated Dwajasthambham. There also shrines of Durga, Ganapathi and Lord Ayyappan. Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple. Some of the festivals celebrated at Guruvayur temple are Ulsavam, Vishu, Ashtami Rohini, Mandalam, Ekadasi, Ashtami Rohini, Kuchela's Day, Chembai music festival and Narayaneeyam day.

 

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