GURUVAYUR WORDS: Abode of God’s Own Country

Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple is situated in a municipal town Guruvayur of Thrissur District of Kerala. It is the fourth largest temple in India in terms of the number of devotees visiting per day. Since the legend has it that Guru and Vayu installed Krishna’s deity at that sacred spot where the temple now stands, the deity is called Guruvayurappan by devotees.

The legend also has it that Guruvayur became divine on account of the “tapas” performed by Lord Siva and later by the Prechethas (the 10 sons of Pracheenabarhis and Suvarna) in the Rudratheertham – the sacred tank on the northern side of the temple – where Lord Guruvayurappan has His holy bath on the last day of annual festival.

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Siva worshipped Mahavishnu for years under the waters of the Rudratheertham. Prechethas came to this place to do tapas to attain the king of all kings from Lord Mahavishnu. Sensing the motive of Prechethas, Lord Siva emerged out of the Rudratheertham and revealed to them the “Rudrageetham”, a hymn in praise of Mahavishnu. Siva suggested they chant it to get their wishes fulfilled. The Princes won the favour of Mahavishnu after rigorous tapas for 10,000 years under the waters of Rudratheertham chanting Rudrageetham.

DEVOTION OF NENMINI UNNI
NenminiNamboodiri was the priest at Guruvayur temple. He had to go for some urgent work and told his 12 year old son to offer cooked rice to the Lord and left. When the time arrived, the child offered it to the Lord and thought in all simplicity that the Lord will eat the rice, but the idol did not move. Unni went outside and brought some salted mangoes and curd from the

neighbourhood in the belief that the Lord may like some condiments with the rice.
He mixed the curd with rice and offered it again, but to no avail. He cajoled, requested, coaxed even threatened, but it did nothing. He started crying on his failure and shouting in the sky to the Lord that his father is going to be angry. The Lord could not bear it anymore! The rice disappeared from the plate. The boy felt relieved and left. On seeing the empty plate, the temple assistant was very angry with the Unni, but the child couldn’t understand the cause of his anger and told him that God ate up the rice with the curd and salted mangoes. This angered him more.

On his father’s arrival, the assistant complained that Unni himself had eaten the rice, and that he was making false stories. Though Unni told his version, his father did not believe it. He raised his hand to slap him, but just then a celestial voice was heard saying, “I am the guilty one, Unni is innocent”.

ARCHITECTURE
Guruvayur temple is an epitome of Kerala’s temple Vastuvidya. It is faced towards the East with two pillars on the east and west.
The entire area between the pillars is roofed with tiles and is called Anapanthal.
At the centre of this is a square shaped pillared hall called Nalambalam, its outer wall is fixed with a gallery of oil lamps.
On the south of the Nalambalam is a sub shrine of Lord Ayyappan.
There is a hall in the temple where in dance performances were held in the olden days.
In the front and the east side of the Nalambalam, the pillars of light are located. There are a number of such pillars in the temple. There is a twenty-four feet light pillar that holds numerous wicks that illuminate the temple in the evenings.
Of the other two at West Gopuram, one is in the shape of a tree. The temple also boasts a seventy feet flag made of gold.

The temple is an emblem of love, faith and belief. The legends reflect how God always watches over us and responds to our prayers. The architecture is a reflection of the beauty and peace the Lord provides and the courtyard embodies the fact that, ‘God always provides.’

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The idol of Lord Krishna resides in the inner most room of the temple is known as Garbhagriha. Everything is the room is made from gold. The outer room is called Mukhamandapam. The wall of SreeKovil is decorated with ancient (17th century) murals. Surrounding this is a pillared square hall called Nalambalam or Chuttambalam. A gallery of oil lamps is fixed on the wall of Nalambalam. On the north of the SreeKovil is a temple well called Manikinar. There is also a shrine for a goddess.
Daily lunch is arranged for the devotees in the temple in the hall. Next to it is the temple tank Rudratheertha. It is said that Lord Shiva and his family prayed to Lord Vishnu there.

THE PRACTICES
The puja (prayers) held at the temple rakes in hundreds of followers’ everyday from various parts of the state and the country. There is also a strict rule regarding the dress code for the temple. The men are expected to wear ‘veshtis’(white loin cloth). They are not allowed to cover their torso. The women can only enter the temple in a saree or salwar suit. Boys are allowed to wear shorts and girls are required to wear long skirts and tops (pattupavadaia typical skirt worn by girls) in order to enter the temple.
The temple is an emblem of love, faith and belief. The legends reflect how God always watches over us and responds to our prayers. The architecture is a reflection of the beauty and peace the Lord provides and the courtyard embodies the fact that, ‘God always provides.’

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TURBULENT HISTORY

Guruvayur’s sanctum sanctorum was rebuilt in 1638 AD. Since then it is a pilgrimage centre thanks to five of its famous devotees who propagated Lord’s glory – Poonthanam, Melpattur, Vilvamangalam, Kururamma and the Prince Manadevan (Zamorin).
In 1716 AD the Dutch plundered and set fire to the temple. Rebuilt in 1747 AD it was captured in 1766 AD by Haider Ali. On being given 10,000 fanam(a type of money that was issued by the State of Travancore) as ransom the temple was spared. Haider Ali however made some amends when he gave a ‘Devadaya’ (gift) to the temple in 1780 AD which saved the temple from extinction.

In 1789, Tipu Sultan, Haider Ali’s son and successor, came to the temple to defeat the Zamorin and convert Hindus to Islam. The Mulavigraha (main deity) was hidden underground and the Utsavavigraha (processional deity) taken to another place. Tipu set fire and plundered the temple. But a timely rain doused the fire averting a catastrophic damage. After the English drove out Tipu, both the vigrahas (deities) were reinstalled.
In 1841, the Govt of Madras restored the Devadaya appropriated by Tipu Sultan. In 1928, the Zamorin once again became administrator of the temple.

In 1931-32, a SatyagrahiKelappan secured entry of untouchables into the temple. Today anyone can have darshan outside the sanctum sanctorum (Sreekovil). The Devaswom feeds 500 – 1000 pilgrims daily.
On 30th November 1970, a calamitous fire broke and Hindus, Muslims & Christians fought shoulder to shoulder to control the fire. Despite 5 hours of raging fire, the Srikovil, the vigraha of Guruvayurappan, and the sub shrines of Ganesha, Ayyappa and Devi, and the flag staff remained intact.