Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Place : Guruvayur, Thrissur , Kerala

Significance: Guruvayur temple, one of the greatest Krishna shrines in India

Best time to Visit : October to March

Guruvayur also known as the Dwaraka of the South is the one of the most popular Hindu pilgrimage spots in Kerala, attracting thousands of pilgrims from all parts of the country. It is situated 33km North of Thrissur, around 100km from Ernakulam. The main attraction here is the Sree Krishna temple known as 'Guruvayoor Ambalam' one of the greatest Krishna shrines in India. The structure of this historic temple is typically Kerala style with gopurams (gateways), repeated mandapas, sreekovil, subsidiary shrines around a courtyard circumbulatory.
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. After Lord Krishna left this earth for his heavenly abode, and the holy city of Dwaraka was to be submerged, 'Guru', the preceptor of the Devas and 'Vayu', Lord of the winds were entrusted with the job of finding an equally holy spot for the idol. At the end of a long quest for an appropriate site they entered Kerala and met Parasurama, legendary creator of Kerala. He led them to a beautiful lake full of lotuses, the present temple tank, '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. Guruvayur temple is linked with Melpattur Narayana Bhattathiri, the author of 'Narayaneeyam' (16th century) a Sanskrit work comprising 1000 slokas (couplets) of inimitable beauty which is believed to have been composed in front of the deity here.
Precious materials are everywhere, as in a golden flagstaff and flimsy replicas of the arms, legs, ears and other affected parts of worshippers that are given as offerings. The temple faces east with two gopurams (gateways) one on the east and the other in the west. The Eastern 'gopuram' (Kizhakkenada) of the Sri Krishna temple, also known as Bhooloka Vaikuntam, is the main entrance to the shrine. In the centre of the inner courtyard stands a pillared hall known as the 'Nalambalam' or 'Chutambalam' with scores of oil lambs fixed on its walls. Inside the Chutambalam or outer enclosure is the square two-storeyed Sreekovil (main shrine) with three rooms, the innermost of which is the sacred sanctum sanctorum housing the main deity and can be viewed from the temple entrance. This idol of Vishnu, with four arms carrying the conch, the discus, the mace and the lotus, and adorned with a thulasi garland and pearl necklaces, is made of a particular stone called 'patala anjanam'. The walls of the main shrine are filled with beautiful 17th century paintings depicting the stories from the life of Krishna and the roof and the two doors inside are covered by gold. In the eastern side in front of the Chutambalam stands the tall 33.5 mt high gold plated Dwajasthambam (flag post) and adjacent to it is a 7mt high Dipastambham (pillar of lamps) whose thirteen circular receptacles provide a truly gorgeous spectacle when lit. The western gopuram (Padinjarenada) is flanked by two dipastambhams. There are also shrines to Durga (Edathidettukkaavu Bhagawati) in the north, Ganapathi and Lord Ayyappan on the south side of Chutambalam here. Only Hindus are allowed inside the temple.
The worship protocol at the temple said to have been established by Adi Sankaracharya, the great religious leader. The sanctum opens at 3 am and closes at 10pm. Except for a break between 1300 and 1600 when it is closed, a continuous series of pujas, rites and processions are performed till the temple closes at 10pm. The temple opens for the 'Nirmalyam' darshan to the melodious strains of the 'Nadaswaram' and the devoted chanting of 'Naryana, Naryana'. In this most auspicious 'darshan', the Lord is still adorned with the flowers and garlands of the previous day. The idol is then ritually bathed and dressed to represent Balagopala or Krishna as a child, the most popular form invoked by the devotees here. The important 'uchcha' pooja takes place at midday. During the 'diparadhana' the elaborately bedecked idol glows in the warm light of the temple lamps. The deity is well known for its healing power and several offerings are made to the deity here. They range from the simple 'archana' which is an offering of flowers, to the expensive and elaborate 'udayastamana' pooja. One of the most popular offerings is 'Thulabharam'-a ceremony in which the devotee is weighed against bananas, sugar, jaggery, coconuts etc., the article weighed being gifted to the temple.
The festival in this temple is held in Feb/march which continuous for 10 days. The festivities start with an elephant race and performances of Krishnattam dance drama. Festivals at Gurvayoor Temple include Utsavam (February/March) for 10 days, Vishukkani (April), Ashtami Rohini (August/September), Ekadasi, one of the important festivals (November/December) is celebrated for 30 days and a part of the festival Chembai Sangeetha Mela in honour of the famous music artist Sri Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar is held for 11days.
Presently, the administration of the temple is maintained by the Guruvayoor Devaswom Committee nominated by the Government of Kerala. The temple is popular for conducting marriages and 'annaprasanam', or the first feeding ceremony of a child. The temple maintains an elephant sanctuary comprising of more than fifty elephants given as offerings to the lord by devotees at Punnathur Kotta about 3 kms north of the temple.
Besides the Sri Krishna Temple, Guruvayur also has other shrines which attract crowds of pilgrims. Worship to the lord at Guruvayur is considered complete only after a visit to Lord Shiva's shrine at Mammiyur, just 1/2km away. The Parthasarathi temple close to the Sri Krishna Temple, defies Lord Krishna's charioteer. Half kilometer to the north east of the Parthasarathi temple is a shrine of Venkatchalapati of Tirupati. Other shrines are Perunthatta Shiva Temple and Tamarayur Vishnu Temple. Entry into the temples is restricted to Hindus and photography is strictly prohibited.

The administratorGuruvayur DevaswomGuruvayur- 680 101, Thrissur, Kerala, IndiaPhone: 0487 -2556335, 2556799, 2556347, 2556365, 2556538, 2556670, 2556672Fax Number: 0487 2554844

How to get there:
Air : Kochi international airport (Nedumbassery) is 80 kms from Guruvayur and the Calicut (Kozhikode)
airport is 100 kms away. All major international flight services are operated from these airports.

Rail : Guruvayur has got a railway station towards the east of the temple which is connected to the Madras-Mangalore main line at Thrissur. Tourists coming from the Madras/ Trivandrum area can get down at Thrissur, just 29 km away, around one to one and a half hour drive from Guruvayur, and tourists from Mangalore side can get down at the Kuttippram station. Regular bus services are available from these places to Guruvayur.
Road : Guruvayur is well connected with the other parts of the country by road. KSRTC bus stand is 500metres to the west of the temple and the private bus stand towards the east. The National highway is passing through Kunnamkulam which is just 8 kms away from Guruvayur. Several state owned and private buses, as well as taxis and other vehicles regularly ply between Trichur and Guruvayur. Bus connections are also available with all important towns of Kerala as well as neighbouring Karnataka,and Tamil Nadu via Trichur.