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guruvayur pilgrimage

Guruvayur The Earthly Abode of Lord Krishna

Guruvayur, 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 Dwarka.

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 here daily.

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 temple’s 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. Parakshit’s 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, Kesavan’s concrete replica welcomes you at Sree Valsam, the supper luxury guest houses managed by the temple’s trust.


Kaladi is an important pilgrimage centre since it was the birth place of Sri Adi Sankaracharya, one of India’s 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 attained mahasamadhi.

Sri Sankaracharya’s 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 Sanakara’s 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 Sankaracharya’s 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.

Adi Sankaracharya’s 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.


Manickamangalam temple 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.


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 cow’s 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.


Hotel Elite 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.

Chavakkad, 3 kilometres away has a pleasant beach and mausoleum of Haridross Kuttee, lieutenant of Haider Ali of Mysore.

Palayur 1 kilometre from Chavakkad is the site of an ancient church believed to have been found by St. Thomas, the apostle.


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.

Vishukani: April.

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.

¤ Ajmer Sharif ¤ Amarkantak ¤ Amritsar
¤ Bodhgaya ¤ Chidambaram ¤ Chitrakoot
¤ Dargahkaliyarsharif ¤ Dharamsala ¤ Dilwaratemples
¤ Dwarka ¤ Gangasagarmela ¤ Garhwal
¤ Goa ¤ Guruvayur ¤ Hardwar
¤ Jageshwar ¤ Jambukeswaram ¤ Jambukeswaram
¤ Kailashmansarovar ¤ Kamakhya ¤ Maheshwaromkareshwar
¤ Mathura ¤ Parashuramkund ¤ Pilgrimagecenters
¤ Pilgrimagesofsikhs ¤ Rameshwaram ¤ Rishikesh
¤ Sabarimala ¤ Shatrunjayahill ¤ Shivapur
¤ Tawangmonastery ¤ Thirukalikundrum ¤ Tirupati
¤ Travelofgods ¤ Trichur ¤ Tripureshwari
¤ Tungnath ¤ Vaishnodevi ¤ Varanasi
¤ Vrindavan ¤ Yamnotri