One of the most popular temples dedicated to Lord Krishna, often called as the “Dwarka of the South” is the Sri Krishna Temple (Guruvayur Temple) located in Guruvayur, Kerala. The main deity, Lord Krishna, here known as Lord Guruvayurappan (Father or Lord of Guruvayur) is represented as a four-armed God holding the Conch named Panchajanya, the Sudarshana Chakra, the Kaumodaki, and a lotus with a Basil garland.
The word Guruvayur can be split into Guru and Vayu, thus giving importance to the fact that the idol of Lord Krishna was installed by Brihaspati, the Guru, and Vayu, the God of Winds. The idol of the main deity is 4 feet tall and is made of the unique stone named Patala Anjanama.
The architecture of the Guruvayur Temple is simple and follows the Vastuvidya tradition. Guruvayur Temple faces east and has two entrances, the east, and the west. The central pillared hall, called Nalambalam is adorned with an array of lamps on its outer surface. The outer enclosure is called as the Chuttambalam in Malayalam.
The 33.5-meter high Dhwajasthambam and a 7 meter high Deepasthambam with 13 circular receptacles are situated inside the Chuttambalam. The Temple also houses the shrines of Lord Ganapathy, Lord Aiyyappa, and Bhagavathi. The main Sree Kovil consists of the Garbhagriha and the Mukhamandapam. The famous Rudratheertham is situated north to the temple.
Guruvayur Temple History
According to the local population, the deity is believed to be 5000 years ago but the fact has not been scientifically proven. The earliest reference that one can find about Guruvayur is in the famous literary work in Tamil called Kokasandesam. A place called Kuruvayur is mentioned several times in the literature.
Guruvayur was once a sub-shrine of the Trikkunavay Shiva Temple. The Shiva Temple was destroyed by the Dutch in 1755. Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri’s Narayaniyam, composed in the 16th century popularized the existence of the Guruvayur Temple around the world. The present structure of the Temple is believed to have been rebuilt in 1638.
It is believed that the central shrine (Sreekovil) and the Mandapam are as old as 1030 AD. The western gopuram was constructed in the 12th century. The Dutch raided Guruvayur in 1716 and the western gopuram was set afire. Guruvayur was subjected to further assaults by Hyder Ali in 1766 and by Tipu Sultan in 1789. In 1789, the Utsavavugraha (Utsava Moorthi) was shifted to Ambalapuzzha and the Moolavigraha to a safe underground sanctum. The Moolavigraha was re-installed and worship resumed after the victory of the Zamorins over Tipu Sultan with the help of the British Army.
The legend associated with the Temple can be referenced to the Narada Purana. Lord Vishnu once appeared before Lord Brahma to grant salvation to him and his creations. On Lord Brahma’s request, he presented him with an idol of and made by himself. Some centuries later, Lord Brahma gifted this idol to King Sutapas and his wife Prasni, who were doing penance for a child. Lord Vishnu appeared to the King and his wife and stated that he will be born to them for their next four births. He also blessed them by stating that the idol will bless them in each of these births.
Lord Vishnu was born as Prasngarbha to King Sutapas and Queen Prasni in the Satya Yuga. In Treta Yuga, he was born as Vamana to Kashyapa (Sutapas) and Aditi (Prasni). Later, Lord Vishnu was born as Lord Rama to King Dashratha (Sutapas) and Kaushalya (Prasni). In the Dwapara Yuga, he took the form of Lord Krishna to Vasudeva and Devaki who were the reincarnation of Sutapas and Prasni again.
When Lord Krishna decided to forego the Earth and ascend to heaven, he decided to give the idol to Brihaspati (Guru) and Vayu, so that it could escape the destruction of Dwarka. Brihaspati and Vayu went southwards in search of a place to consecrate and worship the idol. They were enchanted by the sight of the huge Rudratheertham and on a visit there, met Sage Parashurama. The three together met Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati on the banks of the Theertham and were eventually convinced by the greatness of the place by Lord Shiva himself. They decided to build a shrine there and consecrate the idol of Lord Krishna at the site. They entailed the services of Vishwakarma (Architect of the Devas) who built a grand temple within minutes.
Significance of Guruvayur Temple
It is believed that the form of Lord Krishna worshiped here is the form of Lord Vishnu in which he appeared to Vasudev and Devaki during the birth of Lord Krishna. Hence, the child form of Lord Krishna is worshiped here.
The main idol of the deity is made of the “Patala Anjanama” stone. The unique stone is believed to possess healing properties. Every day, the water used for Abhishekam (bathing of the idol) is distributed to the devotees for healing purposes.
The Temple has several synonyms like “Bhooloka Vaikunta” meaning “Abode of Vishnu on Earth”. It is also called as the “Dwarka of the South”.
It is believed that Lord Shiva performed penance or Tapasya in the Rudratheertham (Rudra is associated with Lord Shiva and hence, the name of the tank). In ancient days, the Rudratheertham was believed to be much larger than the present form and was supposed to be filled with Lotuses.
The Krishnanattam is a unique service held at Guruvayur on all days except Tuesdays. The art form is a depiction of events in the eight stages of Lord Krishna’s life. The devotees can view the performances in the evening at the Mandapam as well as perform the seva to fulfill their personal wishes.
All the articles in the Garbhagriha, including the doors and the roof, are made out of gold.
The Temple is well known for providing a healing touch to people suffering from major diseases like Leprosy and Tuberculosis.
The Temple is one of the richest and the most visited temples of the country. The temple receives 6-10 million pilgrims every year. During the festive season, the number of visitors reaches 50,000 per day. The Temple administration has a corpus fund of 400 crores and a Hundi collection of 2.5 crores per month.
Guruvayur Temple Timings
- Guruvayur Temple opens at 3 am and closes at 9:15 pm every day. The temple remains closed for darshan between 12:30 pm and 4:30 pm.
- The Palabhishekam (Abhishekam with milk), Navabhishekam (Abhishekam with water filled nine silver pots), and Pantiradinaivedyam is performed between 7 AM – 9 AM.
- The Ucha Pooja or the Noon Pooja takes place between 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM.
- Deepardhana starts at 6:15 PM and ends at 6:45 PM.
- Athazha Pooja and Athazha Naivedyam occurs between 7:30 PM to 8:15 PM.
- The Tripuka (worshiping the shrine with nine sacred gums) and Olavayana (reading out of day’s income and expenditure) takes place between 9 PM to 9:15 PM.
- Devotees belonging to the Hindu religion only are allowed inside the temple complex.
- Newly-wed couples are not allowed inside the Temple Complex immediately after their marriage.
Dress code at Guruvayur Temple
Guruvayur Temple follows the strict dress code for both men and women. Men should wear a traditional costume like a Mundu (similar to a dhoti or a veshti). They should not wear any upper garment like shirts or vests. Women are allowed only wearing Sarees, Long skirt, and tops or the Salwaar Kameez. Jeans, short skirts or dresses are not allowed inside the temple premises.
Festivals celebrated at Guruvayur Temple
- Ekadasi – The auspicious day is the major festival celebrated in Guruvayur. It is believed that this is the day when Lord Krishna enlightens Arjuna with the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. The festival lasts for a month. The Ekadasi or the eleventh day is celebrated in the month of Vrischika or November. On the day of Navami, Deepams lit with Ghee are offered to the Lord by the Kolady family followed by the Deepams on Dasami offered by the Guruvayurappan Sankeerthana Trust. On Ekadasi, the Ekadasi Vilakku (Deepam) with Elephant procession takes place signaling the end of the festivities.
- Chembai Sangeethotsavam – This is a unique cultural festival celebrated to honor Sri Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, a legendary Carnatic Musician and an ardent Krishna devotee in Guruvayur. The music festival is celebrated for 11 days during which artists, whether old or young, amateur or professionals participate and dedicate their compositions to Lord Krishna. They are provided free accommodation and food by the Temple Administration.
- The Temple Utsavam – The grand festival is celebrated in the month of February – March and lasts for 10 days. The first day marks the raising of the flag atop the Dhwajasthambam as an invitation to the Gods and Goddesses to attend the festival. An Elephant race is held on the first day that attracts visitors from far and away. For the next 6 days, processions of the Lord is taken around on the backs of the elephants. Every day, a morning Pooja is held followed by several cultural programs and religious discourses. The Utsavabali is celebrated on the eighth day. The devotees are treated to a feast. The ninth day is celebrated as Palivetta which signifies the destruction of evils in our life such as Kama (Lust) and Krodha (Anger). After that, the idol of the deity is taken to the Temple pond where thousands of devotees take a dip dedicated to him. The Lord is returned to the shrine after going around the temple for eleven times. The Temple flag is lowered, signaling an end of the festival.
- Vishu – The day is celebrated as the Malayali New Year and occurs in mid-April. It is a belief that the one’s fortunes depend on what one sees first thing on an auspicious morning. Offerings like Rice, flowers, gold, betel leaves, nuts, coins and yellow cucumber are arranged in front of the Lord on the previous night itself. Devotees stay overnight blindfolded and facing the deity. When the shrine is opened, they throng to see the auspicious sight of the Lord and bless themselves with the good omen.
- Janmashtami – The joyous occasion of the birth of Lord Krishna is celebrated with great pomp and fare. The whole temple is decorated with flowers and lamps. Special Poojas are performed throughout the day. Offerings of Appam are made to the Lord by thousands of devotees who flock to the Temple to have a glimpse of the God on this auspicious day.
Besides these festivals, Onam, Deepavali, Navarathri, and Kuchela Dinam are also celebrated with great enthusiasm at the Temple
Guruvayur Temple Sevas
- Udayasthamana Pooja – This unique Pooja is a ritual where 15 special Poojas are performed throughout the day (Udaya for Sunrise and Astha for Sunset) for the deity in the name of the devotee. The rituals begin at dawn and proceeds in succession till dusk after which the devotee and other attendees are given Prasadam of the Pooja.
- Annaprasanam – This is a ceremony where an infant is given rice as food for the first time since his or her birth. Arrangements are made for the devotees and the child with cooked rice, payasam (rice pudding) and plantain. The food is spread onto a banana leaf and then fed to the infant among holy chants signifying the beginning of a nutritionally healthy life ahead.
- Prasadaootu – This Seva is also known popularly as Annadanam. Devotees can donate any amount and it will be used to feed thousands of pilgrims every day at the Temple Dining Hall.
- Tulabharam – The devotee is weighed against offerings like banana, sugar, water, rice or gold in a Tula or a balance. The equivalent weight is then offered to the Temple. Non-Hindus are also allowed to perform the ceremony.
- Elephant donation and Anayoottu – The devotees can also donate elephants to the Temple. Currently, 40 such elephants are housed in Punnatthur Kota. Anayoottu is the feeding of these elephants. Devotees can also feed these elephants every day at the Temple at 10 AM.
- Bhagavathi Azhal – As per the devotee’s requirement, ten or twenty wicks of oil lamps are kept on a banana leaf and presented in front of the shrine of Bhagavathi.
- Krishnanattam – The unique dance performance called as Krishnanattam is the representation of important incidents in Lord Krishna’s life. The art form was introduced by Prince Manavedan in 1654. The performance uses colorful masks inspired by local art forms and traditional instruments like Sudha Madhalam, Edakka, Gong, and Conch. The devotees can offer these performances for the fulfillment of their particular desire. The eight episodes are – Avatharam (for birth of a child), Kaliyamardana (antidote to poisoning), Rasakreeda (happy unmarried life), Kamsavadha (eliminate enemies), Swayamvara (matrimonial issues), Banayudha (fulfillment of wishes), Vividha Vodha (fight against poverty and increase agricultural yield) and Swargarohana (peace of departed souls).
- Angapradakshina – This ritual involves circumambulating the Temple pradakshina with his or her eyes closed and chanting the Lord’s name.
How to reach Guruvayur Temple
- By Air – Cochin International airport is the nearest airport to Guruvayur. It is located 87 km away. The airport is well connected to major cities like Mew Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Goa, and Kolkata.
- By Train – Guruvayur railway station is the end destination in the Thrissur-Guruvayur Section. Guruvayur is connected to Ernakulam, Thrissur, Chennai, Kollam, Trivandrum, Madurai and Trichy. Apart from Guruvayur, the nearest railway head is the Thrissur Railway Station at a distance of 28 km. Thrissur is well connected to major parts of the country like Mangalore, Bengaluru, Pune, Mumbai, Ajmer, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Jammu, Indore and many more.
- By Road – The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) operates regular buses to Guruvayur from all major cities and towns in Kerala. Buses also connect cities like Chennai, Madurai, Salem, Coimbatore, Tiruchendoor, Mysore, Mangalore, Bengaluru, Mookambika and Udupi from neighboring states like Karnataka and Tamilnadu.
Where to stay
The Guruvayur Devaswom has constructed the Kousthubam Rest House, Panchajanyam Rest House and the Sreevatsam Rest House for the comfort of the pilgrims. However, rooms should be booked in advance to the period of the visit.
The holy town of Guruvayur hosts a number of private hotels and lodges that are located in the temple surroundings as well as near the bus stands and the railway station. Alternatively, one can book accommodation at Thrissur city nearby and visit Guruvayur.
Where to eat
The cuisine here is mainly vegetarian. Non-vegetarian is not banned but rare in the town. South Indian dishes like Dosas, Idlis, Appams, Puttu, and Idiyappam are extremely popular and a must have for visitors here.
- Mammiyoor Temple – The legendary Mammiyoor Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is just a 10-minute walk from the Guruvayur Temple. This is believed to be the temple from where Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati gave blessings to the Guruvayur Temple during the idol installation of Lord Krishna by Guru and Vayu. It is believed that one should visit both the Guruvayur Temple and the Mammiyoor Temple to complete the spiritual experience.
- Narayanamkulangara Temple – The Temple located just a half kilometer away from the shrine is dedicated to Goddess Narayani. It is believed that she bestows salvation on men visiting the Temple.
- Parthasarthi Temple – The Temple is located just a few meters away from the Guruvayur Temple. The main deity is Lord Krishna who is depicted in a pose where he is enlightening Arjuna about the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. The Vrischika Ekadasi is celebrated with great reverence at the Temple.