Monday, September 5, 2011

In Temple town Guruvayoor

Guruvayoor temple - located in Thrissur district of Kerala - has an important place among Keralities as well as in bhakti literature. You can sill hear the lines from Poonthanam's Njanappana, Melpattur's Narayaneeam etc in the morning from various temples across the state.

“Krishna Krishna Mukunda Janaaradana , Krishna Govinda Naaraayana Hare
Achyuthaananda Govinda Maadhava, Sachithaananda Naarayana hare

Gurunaadhan thuna cheyka santhatham, Thirunaamangal naavinmeleppozhum
Piriyaatheyirikkanam nammude, Nara janmam saphalamaakkeduvaan

Innaleyolam enthenn arinjeela, Ini naaleyum enthenn arinjeela
Innikkanda thadikku vinaasavu- Minna neram ennethumarinjeela

Kandukandangirikkum janangale, Kandillennu varuthunnathum bhavaan
Randu naalu dinam kondoruthane, Thandiletti nadathunnathum bhavaan...”

Who can forget these magnificent opening lines from Poonthanam's Njanappana?

According to legend, when port city Dwaraka submerged in the sea at the end of Mahabharata time, Guru Brihaspati located the idol worshipped by Lord Krishna in Dwaraka. He, along with Vayu Deva started searching for an ideal place to install the idol. At this time Lord Shiva was performing penance at the present day Rudrateertham (located on the northern side of Guruvayoor Srikrishna Temple). They approached Lord Shiva, and asked for a place to install the idol. Lord Shiva and devi Parvathy told them that, this would be an ideal place and they relocated to the other end of Rudrateertham known as Mammiyoor.

Views from Punnathur fort
Guru and Vayu performed the consecration rites at the place suggested by Shiva and it later become famous in the name of Guruvayoor (Guru + Vayu). Because of the attachment between two places (Guruvayoor temple and Mammiyoor Shiva temple), pilgrimage to Guruvayoor is not complete without a visit to Mammiyoor (one of the 108 famous Shiva temples in Kerala).

The presiding deity in the Garbhagraha (central shrine) is Mahavishnu, worshiped according to the pooja routines laid down by Adi Sankaracharya and later written in to the Tantrasamuchaya by Chennas Narayanan Namboodiri. For knowing more about temple history visit -

This temple had a special place in the social reform movements also. Gandhians led by K Kelappan started Guruvayoor Satyagraha in 1931 in order to open the temple for all Hindus including dalits and started a fast unto death. AK Gopalan - the famous AKG of communist movements - was the volunteer captain. Soon MK Gandhi intervened and the fast was called off. During this time Poojas were suspended and temple remained closed for 12 days. Later through the 'Temple Entry Proclamation' Maharaja of Travancore granted the right to enter the temples to all the untouchable Hindus.
Elephant stables
I reached the temple town on a wet Friday morning. Rain, started along with the monsoon in June, was still in love with Kerala shores. As usual after booking the room close to the temple we went inside. If you are going to Guruvayoor, it is always better to stay there overnight. So that you can reach all part of the temple without standing much time in the queue. Please note that the customs in Kerala temples are very strict. Men have to wear mundu without any dress covering chest - other than a small piece of cloth known as veshti. Girls and women are not allowed to wear pants or short skirts. Now-a-days women are allowed to wear Salwar Kameez/Churidar in Guruvayoor. Unlike the temples in North India, in Kerala and other South Indian states, Hindu women don't cover their heads. Mobile phones, cameras and other electronic equipments strictly prohibited in the temple.

Once you are inside the atmosphere is completely different, people from all sections of life are chanting various shlokas waiting patiently in queue for entering the inner circle of the temple. The queue was so long that it was not possible to enter the temple at that time. So after having one round around the temple we went to Mammiyoor Shiva temple, which is located at a walkable distance from Guruvayoor Temple.  After spending some time there we came back to our room.

Punnathur Fort

Next destination was Punnathur fort. After lunch from the temple we took an auto from temple's western gate and reached Aanakotta (as Punnathur Place is popularly known) within some 10-15 minutes. This place - home to 63 elephants - is owned by Guruvayoor Devaswam.

Earlier Punnathur fort was a palace, later government turned it to a stable for elephants. Currently a mahout training center is also located there. Apart from a old Kerala style palace in the middle this area also have two temples - one Devi temple and another Shiva and Devi temple - and one pond. There is a tarred road around the palace through which you can walk to see all the elephants. For each elephant there will be a small water tank, enough palm leaves and one concrete pillar - to firmly tie the elephant - in front of it.

Guruvayoor Devaswam is taking proper care of these elephants in captivity. Still I like to have a minimum three month window period per year for these elephants to go to the forests and enjoy the freedom. Their mating time may be an appropriate one for that. After spending some more time with the biggest animal in the land we retraced our path to the temple.

Palayoor St. Thomas Church

Palayoor church
Palayoor Church is some kilometers away from the temple; you can reach there by auto or bus. In case of bus you can take one going to Chavakkad stand and then take an auto/bus to reach the church. This is considered as the first church built - by St. Thomas in AD 52 - in Indian Subcontinent. Here you can see the site, where St Thomas performed the first conversion to Christianity in India.

There is small museum associated with the church, where you can see the old instruments (Indian and foreign) used in various church rituals and festivals.

Thriprayaar Temple

View from Sriramaswamy temple
Thriprayaar Sriramaswamy Temple was our next destination. Located on the sides of NH 17 this temple is well connected with other cities in Central Kerala.  This famous Sriramaswamy temple also has beautiful mural paintings in its walls. These are beautiful and archaeologically important too.

If you have enough time, don't forget to visit some of the sea beaches like ‘Snehateeram’ near to Thriprayaar temple. On your way back you can enjoy the sun set at Chavakkad beach.

By the time we reached Guruvayoor it was almost night, after visiting the temple once again we went back to our room.


Checkout the photos of Guruvayoor Journey

Thrissur city is around 1-1.5 hours away from Guruvayoor temple. You can visit - Vadakkunnatha Shiva temple, Paramekkavu Devi Temple, Tiruvampadi Srikrishna Temple, Shakthan tampuram palace and museum, The Basilica of Our Lady of Dolours (Puthan Pally -  Asia's highest church), Thrissur Zoo etc