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Guruvayurappan came to Guruvayur from Dwarka carried by Guru Brihispati on the wings of the wind God Vayu. Hence the name ‘Guruvayur’. A ‘Purna Swarup’ manifestation of Vishnu but worshipped as an infant Krishna, it was Sri Krishna himself who ordered the Guru before His death – to salvage the idol that came floating on the waves after Dwarka went under, and install it wherever. While the duo searched for a place across the subcontinent, Parusurama led them through the Palakkad gap to Shiva, who apparently had been keeping the place warm for the arrival of the Vishnu idol. Shiva chose to then move next door to Mammiyur where He too is visited by all those who visit the little ‘Unnikrishnan’ in Guruvayur. Five thousand years and more, this temple built by the divine architect Vishwakarma, has weathered many a storm. Here’s an interesting narrative, in the Travelogue, by Sreelata, exclusively for Different Truths.
The heavens opened up just as we entered the temple town. It was an early July monsoon morning when Kerala was at its verdant best. And the scene that greeted us was rather unique. Boys in skull caps and burkha clad matrons were scurrying to safety even as young girls in neat little blue and white school uniforms huddled together under tilting umbrellas. And equally quickly outside the gates of colorfully painted convents were nuns in brown sarees and black and white habits ushering them in. And in the midst of it all, among all the slush and the messy traffic, with barely any moving space, were two huge majestic elephants, mahouts atop, waving their trunks any which way, unconcernedly ambling along. They were making their way home after their temple duties. So evidently it was true that in Kerala religions did co-exist peacefully side by side. Even in Guruvayur, which is synonymous with the Sree Krishna Temple where we were headed.
Taking our cue from the sea of umbrella armed humanity standing around nonchalantly in the pouring rain we – duly bathed and attired in required clothing – joined the queue that was to take us to the tiny Sri Kovil, Sanctorum of this huge imposing edifice. Partly covered, the roof shielded us from the force of the gale around us.
Believed to be Vishnu’s Bhooloka Vaikunta or home on earth, for most Malayali Hindus a trip to Guruvayur is akin to a trip to Vaikunta, and it didn’t take us long to realise that most of the population around us were the floating kind. There were many babes in arms too because most within 6 months of their birth not only come here to name their children but also to feed them their first grain of rice as well. And such is the power of the Lord who resides here that there is not a single soul, the length and breadth of Kerala who does not know of Guruvayurappan.
Guruvayurappan came to Guruvayur from Dwarka it is said carried by Guru Brihispati on the wings of the wind God Vayu. Hence the name ‘Guruvayur’. A ‘Purna Swarup’ manifestation of Vishnu but worshipped as an infant Krishna, it was Sri Krishna himself who ordered the Guru before His death – to salvage the idol (He Himself worshipped) that came floating on the waves after Dwarka went under, and install it wherever. While the duo searched for a place across the subcontinent, Parusurama – who is credited with the creation of Kerala – led them through the Palakkad gap to Shiva, who apparently had been keeping the place warm for the arrival of the Vishnu idol. Shiva chose to then move next door to Mammiyur where He too is visited by all those who visit the little ‘Unnikrishnan’ in Guruvayur. Five thousand years and more, this temple built by the divine architect Vishwakarma, has weathered many a storm including the ones unleashed by the Dutch, the armies of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan and even a calamitous fire, in 1970.
And everything in this town revolves around the temple. It even has a one-of- a-kind- in-the world ten acre stable of elephants – sixty at last count – in Punnathur Kotta, 3kms away where we watched them at play. Elephants donated to the temple by devotees they are trained for temple duties like a daily – or on festive days – ceremonial carrying of the deity accompanied by drums and nadeswaram.
And no narrative of the Sri Krishna of Guruvayur is ever complete without the amazing tales of devotion that abound around His elephants especially Kesavan or his predecessor Sri Padmanabhan. Both were so well mannered and dignified that there is no soul in town who does not speak of them with respect and love. Well known photographer and Guruvayur expert popularly known as the ‘Ana (elephant) Madama’, Pepita Seth apparently photographed the legendary elephant Kesavan, had it framed in London and in a procession handed it over to the temple. A life size statue of Kesavan stands in front of the Sri Valsan guest house looking towards the East nada (door) of the temple where he after fifty years of devoted service – on Vaikunta Ekadeshi – bowed before the idol once and for all, and breathed his last. He was 72 years old.
At the Mural Painting Institute nearby there are at any point of time many an artist at work. And yes of course plenty of trinket shops and any number of hotels that cater to all levels and sections of society including a shabby but busy India Coffee House. In a large outdoor auditorium near the East nada, dances, religious discourses and other cultural offerings are on almost 24/7. The temple itself hosts the ‘Krishnattam kali’ – song and dance from chapters based on the story of Sri Krishna from the Bhagvata – as an offering, which is enacted through the night within its walls The Chavakad beach is also only seven kms away.
The 16th century Melpathur Narayana Bhattathri’s poetic rendition of the Bhagvata- Purana – 1036 verses – the ‘Narayaneem’ in praise of Guruvayurappan it is said miraculously cured him of a terminal illness. So obviously a panacea for all ills it might not be a bad idea, in this Kali- Yug, to pay your respects, to the Lord of Guruvayur if you happen to be in Kerala next. It is a straight nine hour run from Bangalore by road, 395/420 kms, via Hosur, Salem, Coimbatore and Trichur. But the stretch between Coimbatore and Palakad during the monsoon resembles a mule track. Cochin and Calicut each about 95 kms away from Guruvayur will also reach you by air and a two hour ride from anywhere. So go for it!
Pix from Net.