Guruvayoor

Guruvayoor (Guruvayur) is one of the most sacred and important pilgrim towns in India. This temple-town is extremely famous for its large Sree Krishna Temple, believed to one of the 108 most divine Vishnu temples of world. The town is located in Thrissur district, nearly 102 km from Kochi. Apart from pilgrimage, a few tourist delights are available here.

The East Nada gate of Guruvayoor Temple

Understand

Guruvayoor Temple is one of the largest and most famed temple in Kerala at national level, attracting more than 5 millions devotees annually. The presiding deity is Lord Vishnu, in form of Sree Krishna (8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu). Hindu mythology says the Lord Krishna used to worship an idol of Lord Vishnu at his palace in legendary Dwarka island. However Krishna knew that, soon after his death, his palace island would wash into seas. He instructed the Deva Guru (Heavenly Saint) Brihaspati and Vayu Deva (Wind God) to take his favourite idol, once Dwarka gets submerged and place it in some other place, where devotees can worship. As instructed by Lord, Guru and Vayu took away the idol, when Dwarka was sinking and was hunting a place to the idol. Soon they would a sacred place where they wished to place the idol. However a Shiva temple existed in that area, making it difficult to place the idol nearby. Soon on Guru's invocation, Lord Shiva appeared and agreed to move his temple from the sacred place, to install the divine idol. As Guru and Vayu placed the idol and erected a temple in its honour, the place came to known as Guruvayur.

A large Shiva temple exists at Mammiyur, within a kilometer from the main temple, where the original Shiva temple relocated.

Guruvayur was a royal temple under Kozhikode's Zamorin times. After annexation of Malabar into British presidency, the temple became part a private trust, headed by titular Zamorin ruler and Chief Priest of temple, who were known for their rigid orthodoxies. This resulted in rigid and cruel discrimination based on caste and creed. In 1930s, calls for equality and social reformation started across Kerala and large number of congressmen assembled at Temple gate protesting against the regime of caste discrimination for temple entry, which resulted in closure of temple in 1931. The temple soon was stormed by a group of revolutionaries ending the centuries-old practice of social discrimination. Soon the Madras Presidency nationalized the temple and agreed to allow people of all castes and creed within Hindu fold, to enter the temple, which started the social renaissance in Kerala's caste ridden society of 1930s. Today, the temple is under control of Government of Kerala, managed under Guruvayur Devasom (a semi-constitutional temple trustee body). Non-Hindus are strictly debarred and several rigid dress code is in place.

Get in

By plane

The nearest airport is Cochin International Airport located at Kochi (87 km). Alternatively, passengers can use Calicut International Airport located at Kozhikode, located about 100 kms. A large helipad at Guruvayur, enables helicopter transportation from Cochin and Kozhikode airport. An aerodrome and heliport is under consideration at Guruvayur, to cater growing number of pilgrims

By train

Gurvayoor town has a small railway station, where only few inter-city passenger and one inter-state passes. Equally convenient to take the train up from Thrissur which is a major railway station where almost all trains bound to Kerala stops and then take a taxi (approx ₹300) to Gurvayoor.

By bus

Its pretty easy to get a bus from near the thrissur railway station (KSRTC Central station) or private bus from Shakthan Thampuran Bus Stand, to get connections from other parts of Kerala. A few buses of SETC of Tamil Nadu connects the town with Coimbatore and Palani.

KSRTC Bus From Guruvayoor To Mysore And Bangalore KSRTC Informations From Guruvayoor

By car

Guruvayur is connected rest of country with NH 17 (Mumbai-Kochi highway) and several state highways connect the town to Kozhikode, Thrissur, Ernakulam, Palakkad etc.

Get around

Guruvayur is a small town, which can be accessed by foot itself. The entire town is structured around the Guruvayur temple, which is also the major commercial center. Taxis and auotrickshaws are available at nominal rates. Be sure you fix your price before getting into one or else there is a chance of the drivers fleecing the passengers, especially westerners. Currently there is no intra-town bus services, however most of the inter-city buses stops at various suburbs of the town.

See

Sree Krishna Temple

NOTE: Non Hindus strictly not allowed. The temple follows rigid traditions, by not allowing Non-hindus inside the main complex. Violators will be heavily fined; if you refuse to pay, expect to be arrested.

The entire town of Guruvayur rose to international fame because of the popularity of the Great Krishna temple, thus the temple and its surrounding temples are the prime attraction. Nearly 6-10 million devotees visit annually and it is one of the richest temples in South India.

About the temple

Rituals

The temple upholds several rigid traditions and customs unlike other Kerala temples

  • Non Hindus are not allowed even inside the perimeter of the temple complex. The temple guards and police can pull aside anyone found wearing other religious symbols like crosses or the Muslim Namaz mark. Westerners and whites are generally regarded as non-Hindus, even if they have converted to Hinduism. Only certificates endorsed by Arya Samaj-Kozhikode will be accepted as a formal document of conversion. Dharmic religions like Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism are considered as part of Hinduism, hence they are allowed. Sikhs must remove their turbans and kirpans to enter into temple.
  • The temple advises children under 2 years not to enter the inner layer of the temple, though their entry is not prohibited. This advice is maintained, because in the event small children urinate inside the temple, the parents will be liable to pay fines for purification rites.
  • The dress code is extremely rigid inside the temple. Men are not allowed to wear shirts, baniyan or vests and must remain topless while inside the complex. They have to wear strictly Kerala Mundu (only white/saffron) and are free to wear a shawl to cover the upper body. Wearing lungis or checked dhothi or mundu in any other colour is banned inside. Until recently ladies had to wear sarees, but the rule has been relaxed recently. The current dress code allows ladies to wear churidars, pyjamas and kurthas. However sleeveless or short tops, pants, shorts and denims are not allowed inside. Covering the head is strictly prohibited inside temple for both gents and ladies. Children under 12 are allowed to wear trousers.
  • The temple prohibits mobile phones, video cameras, any kind of electronic device, bags (except ladies small hand-bags and gents purses) etc, which must be deposited at the cloak room. Just before the main gate, there is a police check-post where all devotees have to undergo a pat-down. In the event they find any of the above items, you will be sent out of the queue to deposit the items in the cloak room.
  • Unlike other South Indian temples, there is no special queue system to bypass. All devotees must stand in one single large queue. There are no special darshan tickets, payments or out-of-way procedures to skip the queue. A possible exception to this rule is for senior citizens above 60 with ill health or disabilities and VIPs who may have security concerns or protocol laws.
  • The temple closes for darshan from 2 to 4 PM and from 9 PM to 3 AM in morning, where no darshan is allowed. In addition to this, the temple closes for a few breaks for certain rituals like 9-10AM and 12-1PM. On Mondays and Fridays, a special rite known as Udayasthamana Pooja is performed which means there is a break for darshan every 10 minutes due to the special nature of this pooja.

The temple is believed to have been constructed by Lord Parasurama (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) himself, on request of gods. The original temple was just the sanctum sanatorium. The other complexes were later built by various kings and other rich men, as gratification of their devotion to the presiding deity.

The outer ring of the temple was constructed by the Great Zamorin King Manadeva Varma of Kozhikode, one of the celebrated devotees of Guruvayurappan (as the presiding lord is known), with traditional Kerala architecture. The first layer of the inner ring and the extensive mural works were one of the oldest parts of the structure, commissioned by 4th Pandyan King in AD 52, after being cured of snake-bite poison.

The sanctum sanatorium is the oldest structure and believed to have been constructed by Lord Parasurama himself. Archeologists estimate the complex to be at least 1000 years old. The sanctum sanatorium is unique, as the structure itself has 3 layers inside, something not seen in other places. The original idol is placed inside the third layer. The idol is a larger representation of Lord Vishnu, but often represented as a baby form of Krishna, with the help of sandal sculpting. Nearly 100 golden lamps light the inner sanatorium.

Apart from the main deity, 4 smaller temples are located inside the main complex. While sanatoriums for Lord Ganesh and Lord Sree Padmanabha (Royal deity of Travancore in Trivandrum) are located inside the inner layer of the temple; sanatoriums for Lord Ayyappa and Goddess Parvathi are located in the outer layer.

Offerings and Pujas

The main offering of Guruvayur is Thulabharam (Scale) where the offerer gives various items according to his body weight, determined by weighing himself on a scale with an equivalent amount of offering in other side of scale. The lord's favourite items are yellow bananas (Kadali variety). Other items like butter, ghee, sugar, Thulsi leaves etc. are also offered in amounts equal to the weight of the offerer. Some rich people offer in terms of gold or coins, but this is rare.

The second most important offering is performances of Krishnaattam. Krishnaattam is an exclusive art-form, unique to Guruvayur temple, not performed elsewhere. The art-form is the precessdor of Kathakali, hence the costumes looks similar. 10 stories of Krishna's life are adapted in this highly Sanskritzed dance-drama. The art-form was composed by Zamorin Manadeva Varma in the 14th century, which later inspired the composition of Kerala's celebrated art-form Kathakali. Krishnaattam is performed daily in evenings throughout the year except in the monsoon month of July. Prior bookings are needed have performances of the art-form in one's name and performances are done outside the temple, thus allowing anyone to watch the art-form.

Other major offerings to the lord, which will be returned are Paal Payasam (Milk Dessert), Bananas, Sugar, Avial (Flatten rice), Sandal balls, Butter and Unniappams.

Morning breakfast, afternoon feast and dinner are free to all devotees and provided to anyone who assembles at Ottupura (temple dining hall) on a first-come-first-served basis.

Major temples

Other attractions

The Statue of Maraprabhu
The large statue of Garuda-the celestial eagle of Lord Vishnu, is a local landmark

Do

Being a small temple town, reglious activities tops the list.

Festivals

The Mammiyoor Shiva Temple of Guruvayoor

Cultural

Shopping

The East Nada (Gate) and West Nada are major commercial alleys with several shops sellings traditional Kerala handicrafts, souvenirs, lamps, brasswares, paintings all related to Hinduism. Apart from handicrafts, Guruvayur is famous for its large unique variety of savories especially the supersize Guruvayoor Padappadams, Murukkus, sweets etc.

Guruvayur is also one of the largest centers of devotional music centers, with dozens of music stores selling several records of chart-busters devotional albums and audio/video cds.

Eat

Street food in Guruvayoor

The temple town is known for its pure vegetarianism. Around the temple one can find plenty of pure vegetarian restaurants. The cuisine is mostly South Indian. Most restaurants serve good ghee roast dosa. Finding a non-vegetarian food stall or bar is extremely difficult like any other Hindu pilgrim town, though its not banned.

Drink

Tap water is generally safe, as Guruvayur Devasom authorities have installed several water purification plants across the temple, to provide safe drinking water to devotees. Being a major pilgrimage town, almost all bottled water brands as well as soft-drinks brands are easily available. Coffee and Tea vending machines are found at main places and all restaurants serves some of the best filter coffees in the state. Tender coconut water (Karikku) is also easily available and several juice bars provides freshly squeezed juices.

Sleep

Be it free room or service apartment or budget hotel or posh luxurious resort, Guruvayur has all within its 12 sqkm of town limit. Being a temple town, that attracts more than 6 million annually, accommodation is never an issue. Guruvayur Devasom has 4 major accommodation types for temple devotees. Central Reservation :- +91-487-255-6-100, 255-6335, 255-6799, 255-6347, 255-6365

Devasom Accommodation

Budget

Moderate

Splurge

Go next

Once you are done with all the temple visits, head to Chavakkad Beach around five km from Guruvayur. A beautiful quiet beach during the day. To watch the fishermen bring in their catch get to the beach around 5PM, an awesome sight with a zillion fish on display on the beach itself.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, January 21, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.