Guruvayur The Earthly Abode of Lord Krishna
also known as the Dwarka of the South, is one of the most important
pilgrimage centres in India. The idol of the famous Sri Krishna
temple here is said to have been worshiped by Lord Brahma himself at
I happened to be in
Thrissur at a time when the whole of North India was hibernating on
an advancing winter. Sitting on the temple terrace, I watched the
lukewarm morning transforming into a hot day with the mercury
reaching 30 degrees and above. As if because of a pre-planned
symbiosis devotees started to throng in large numbers with every
degree rise in temperature. The general scene was typical of any
temple town of India but with the characteristic cleanliness of
Kerala. Endless waves of men, women and children poured in for
darshan (audience) of Lord Guruvayur (lord Krishna). Besides
pilgrims and tourists, brides also flock here with their grooms and
hundreds of guests and, in true Kerala style, weddings get solemnized
According to the Narada
Purana, one of the eighteen ancient Hindu texts containing a
reservoir of beliefs and stories, Brahma Himself got installed here.
Serpents are mythically
related to the famous Guruvayur temple. This myth is an inseparable
part of the story which tells the tale of the temples origin.
In facat is not a single story but a story with a story, a myth
within a myth.
At the end of the dwapara
yuga, the heir of the Pandavas, Parikshit, their grandson, died
bitten by Takshaka, the King-serpent, because of a curse by the son
of a sage. Parakshits son, Janamejaya, vowed to take revenge
and started a sarpa yagna (snake sacrifice). Fearful of his
certain death, Takshaka pleaded with Indra to save him. Indra sent
Brahspati who requested Janmejaya to stop his yagna and Janmejaya
yielded. However, because of the enormous sacrifice of serpents, he
was soon afflicted by a virulent form of leprosy. Then sage Athreya
asked him to take refuge in the temple of Guruvayur and worship Lord
Krishna and told him about the origin of the temple.
Once a childless royal
couple, King Sutapas and his wife worshipped Lord Brahma who handed
over the idol now installed at Guruvayur and asked them to worship
it. Eventually Lord Vishnu appeared in al His splendour and promised
to be born as their child.
Lord Krishna was born as
their son. After He left this earth for his heavenly abode, the holy
port city of Dwarka was submerged. Guru, the preceptor of the gods
and his disciple, Vayu, god of Winds, saved the idol. After 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 tank, Rudratirtha, beside which
Shiva and Parvati waited to welcome them. The idol was duly
installed. The temple and the place came to be known as Guru-Vayur,
a reverential and semantic reference to the sponsors, Guru and Vayu.
Today hundreds of shops,
hotels, lodges and restaurants have sprung up to serve the needs of
tourist and pilgrims. The most famous of them being Mr. K.
Karunakaran, the Chief Minister of Kerala who comes here every month.
And now the lace has come
up on the railway map when the Prime Minister inaugurated the
broad-gauge railway line linking it with Thrissur. As he pointed to
Lord Krishna-Mathura, Dwarka and Guruvayur have now been linked
together by the railways.
The temple opens at 3 am
to the strains of a musical instrument, the nadaswaram. The
idol is ritually bathed and dressed to represent Balagopala or
Krishna as a child. The important pooja (worship) takes place at
midday. The temple closes at 10 pm after daylong poojas and rites.
The deity is well known
for its healing power and several offerings are made. They range
from the simple offering of flowers to an expensive and elaborate
poojs. Sometimes a devotee is weighed on huge balancing scales
against his choice of item such as bananas, sugar, jaggery or
coconuts which is then donated to the temple. Several marriages or
the first feeding of a child are also conducted here.
To grain entrance to the
temple men have to wear mundus (lion cloth) and be bare
chested. I had to hire one from the hotel manager for three hours
for a sum of rupees five. The temple is not typically South Indian
in style. For example, its architecture is not massive or grand but
simple in keeping with the style of Kerala houses. Its hour gateways
lead to the main gopuram (where the idol is installed), protected by
a slopping terracotta roof made of Mangalore tiles. Again, in true
Kerala style, the temple presently owns 36 mighty elephants who live
at Punnathur Fort, 4 kilometres north of the temple where the most
trusted and loved pachyderm, Kesavans concrete replica welcomes
you at Sree Valsam, the supper luxury guest houses managed by the
Kaladi is an important
pilgrimage centre since it was the birth place of Sri Adi
Sankaracharya, one of Indias foremost philosopher-saints who
preached the monistic or advaita philosophy. It was he who
played a major role in saving the Hindu religion from the ritualistic
and superstitious state to which it had degenerated.
Sri Sankaracharya was
born on the right bank of the River Periyar in a tiny village cradled
in green fields. He was the only son of Sivaguru and Aryamba, a
Brahmin couple. At an early age, the extraordinarily intelligent boy
mastered the Vedas. At the age of sixteen he started his quest for
truth and preached the Vedic Dharma and at the age of 32, Adi Sankara
life has been marked by several miraculous exploits. He is said to
have diverted the course of the River Periyar which was one and a
half kiometres away from his house so that his aged mother could have
her daily bath in the river without having to walk the distance.
Even today one can see an uncharacteristic turn in the river towards
the Sringeri Math believed to be the site of Sanakaras house.
The shrine is situated on the right bank of the river and is a large
partly open structure. There are two major shrines one is
dedicated to Sri Sankaracharya and the other to Goddess Saradamba,
guardian deity of Sringeri. There is also the samadhi of
Sankaracharyas mother and a small shrine to Vinayaka, or
Ganapati, here evening prayers are chanted.
The memorial to the
saint-philosopher is a tall 8 storey high brilliant painted pink
structure. At the entrance are two statues of elephants. As one
enters and ascends the winding steps, framed relief paintings narrate
the story of Adi Sankaracharya. Several large statues of Gnanpati
and others are also hosed in this memorial.
shrine is open to al pilgrims irrespective of religion or caste.
Just next to the shrine
is a temple of Sri Krishna built by the saint when the original
ancient temple was submerged when he changed the course of the river
Periyar. Adjoining the Sri Krishna temple is the Ramachandra Advaita
Ashram. It has a spacious hall and a beautiful shrine modelled on
the Sri Ramakrishna temple at Belur Amath. A variety of publications
both for general and serious reading are sold outside this temple.
The Ashram also runs a school, charitable dispensary and library.
Cochin is the nearest
airport just 45 kilometres away. Angamaly 10 kilometres away or
Alwaye 22 kilometres away are the nearest railway stations which are
connected to major Indian cities. Buses and taxis are available from
Angamaly to Kalandi. Kalandi is also connected by an efficient bus
service with important towns in Kerala.
lies 1 kilometre north of Kaladi. West of Kaladi, 2 kilometres away
is Vellimanthulli temple dedicated to Bhagvati or Goddess Durga.
Malayattoor Church is on a small hillock 8 kilometres.
WHERE TO STAY
Guest houses and choultry
maintained by Sringeri Math and Ramakrishna Adaita Ashram, Government
Rest hose, Private lodges.
Sankara Jayanti 5
days (April-May) celebration include several religious rites.
Navarathi 9 days (Sept.-Oct) music concerts, chariots
festival, rathotsavam, and other exciting festivities.
Throughout the year
except during the monsoons June-October.
Sri Ramakrishna Advaita
Ashram P.O. Kalady, Dist., Ernakulam.
Thrissur is an
abbreviation for Tiru-Shiva-Perur meaning the town with
the name of Lord Shiva. The reigning deity, Lord Shiva,
resides in the Vadakkunath Kshetram (temple) situated on a
hillock right in the centre of the city.
As a major departure from
all other South Indian temples with their towering spires, the
temples of Kerala have low tiled roofs and largely wooden structures
which harmonize with the natural environment. On entering, the first
feeling is one of incredible space and light. The temple is an oasis
of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life. Immediately to
the left of the entrance is the famous kuttambalam or theatre
hall, a remarkable beautiful structure within which is staged the
ancient dramatic art form of chakyar kuttu.
Lord Shiva within the
main shrine is represented by a Mahalingam which, however, is
not visible due to a 3-metre mound formed around the lingam by
traditional offerings of cows ghee (clarified butter)
over several decades. Miraculously, the ghee has not melted or even
spoiled in spite of the warm tropical climate. In fact it is in
great demand by Ayurvedic doctors for herbal preparations.
The shrine contains
exquisite murals which narrate the story of the epic Mahabharata.
The paintings and carvings alone are worth a visit.
There are several other
popular shrines in Thrissur. At the bottom of the hillock is the
Paramekkavu Kshetram whose main deity is Bhagwati or Goddess Durga.
A little further away in the heart of town is a temple dedicated to
Lord Krishna. There is also a splendid Lourdes Church with a pretty
little underground shrine.
The nearest airport is
Kochi, 74 kilometres away. Thrissur is an important railway station
at which long distance express trains stop. There are also direct
bus connections with all major towns of Kerala.
WHERE TO STAY
International, Volga Tourist Home, Oriental State home, Ambassador
Hotel, Government Guest House and several others that cater to
varying budget requirements.
The famous Pooram
festival (April-May) is celebrated at the Vaddakkunnath Temple.
There are nigh-long fireworks and a magnificent elephant procession.
Shivarathri (March-April) is also celebrated with great fanfare and
during Onam, the harvest festival (August-Sept.) the entire State
wears a festive look.
The nearest airport is
Kochi, 90 kilometres away. Thrissur, just 29 kilometres away, is the
nearest railway station. Several State-owned and private buses as
well as taxis regularly ply between Thrissur and Guruvayur. Bus
connections are also available with all important towns of Kerala as
well as neighbouring Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Punnathur Kotta 4
kilometres away is an ancient fort which houses 40 elephants.
kilometres away has a pleasant beach and mausoleum of Haridross
Kuttee, lieutenant of Haider Ali of Mysore.
kilometre from Chavakkad is the site of an ancient church believed to
have been found by St. Thomas, the apostle.
WHERE TO STAY
Several hotels, lodges
and choultries offer accommodation to suit any budget. They include
Sree Valsam Guest Hose, Panchajanyam Rest House, Elite Tourist Home,
Shri Krishna Bhavan and Devasom Satram.
Utsavam: 10 days
(Feb/March) with elephant race, processions and several rituals.
Ashtami Rohini: Aug/Sept.
Ekadasi: 30 days
(Nov/Dec) most important festival, among several other
interesting festivities the famous music festival, Chembai Sangeetha
Mela is held at this time.