Guruvayurappan, the presiding deity of Guruvayoor temple is being worshiped as Shri Krishna in his kid form, popularly known as Guruvayur Unnikkannan (Guruvayur baby Krishna). Even though the idol is that of chatur bahu (four handed) Vishnu, the concept (Sankalpam) of the people is that the idol is the infant form of Lord Krishna. This is because the idol represents the purna rupa (full manefestation) revealed by baby Krishna to his parents immediately after his birth in Kamsa's jail. Lord Krishna immediately after his birth had revealed himself as four armed standing Vishnu in front of his parents Devaki and Vasudeva. The temple is located in the town of Guruvayur, Thrissur, Kerala, India.

The word Guruvayurappan, meaning Lord of Guruvayur, comes from the words Guru referring to Brihaspati, the Guru of the Devas, Vayu the God of Wind and Appan , meaning father or Lord in Malayalam. Since Guru and Vayu installed Krishna's idol, the name Guruvayurappan was given to the deity.
It is believed that the idol of Guruvayurappan was worshipped by Vasudeva, father of Krishna, and represents the full manifestation of Vishnu. The idol is made of a stone called "Patala Anjanam" or black bismuth and is in the standing pose with 4 arms carrying the Panchajanya (shanku)(conch)", the Sudarshana Chakra(chakra)(disc), the Koumodaki (gada)(mace) and padma (lotus). The idol faces east and is almost 4 ft tall. Guruvayur is also hailed as "Bhuloka Sri Vaikuntham" meaning Heaven in Earth. where the deity reveals himself to his devotees in the same majestic form in which he welcomes them in Vaikuntha, his celestial abode.

Origin of the murti

The idol of Guruvayur temple is unique, since it is carved out of "Paathalanjana Sila", and is considered extremely sacred. This idol was constructed by Lord Vishnu himself in his majestic form soon after waking up in Vaikunta. Vishnu later handed it over to Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma. King Suthapas and his wife who worshipped Brahma for a child received this idol from Brahma. He advised them to start worshipping the idol. Once Lord Vishnu appeared before them and blessed them that he himself will be born as their child in their four births in four different forms and in four different situations. Thus they got the good fortune to worship the same deity in all the births. They gave birth to Prasnigarbhan who gave to the world the practice of Brahmacharya Vratha (Celibacy). In their next birth, Suthapas and his wife were born as Kashyapa and Adithi. Their son in that birth was Vamana. The third rebirth was as Dasaratha and Kausalya. Their son in that birth was Lord Rama. Vasudeva and Devaki. The Lord Krishna was born as their eighth son. In the long run, the Lord Krishna himself installed this idol in Dwaraka and worshipped it. They met Parasurama (an earlier avatara of Vishnu) at Kerala, who was bringing the same murti to Dwaraka. Parasurama led them to a beautiful lake full of lotus flowers. Lord Shiva was doing penance there and he told Guru and Vayu to install the two murti together at a spot near the lake and that the site should be known as "Guruvayupura". Lord Shiva and the goddess Parvati left for Mammiyur, on the opposite bank of the lake. The present tank, "Rudratirtha", is only a miniature of the original lake. When devotees go round the Krishna temple, from a certain spot, they face Mammiyur and pray to Shiva. Vishwakarma, the architect of the Gods, built the Krishna temple at the request of Guru and Vayu. This is the account in the Mahabharatha, told by the sage Dattatreya to King Janamejaya, son of Parikshit. King Parikshit died of a cobra bite due to the curse of a sage. His son, King Janamejaya, sacrificed thousands of innocent reptiles. As a result of their curse, he was afflicted by leprosy. On the sage Dattatreya's advice, he went to Guruvayur and worshiped Guruvayurappan in the company of the sage Atreya. He prayed with intense devotion for 41 days. He had a dream one night, that the Lord's tender hand was stroking him. The legend has it that when he woke up the next day, he found no trace of leprosy on his body.

Construction of the temple

An astrologer told a Pandya King that he was destined to die from a cobra bite on a particular day. He was advised to go and pray before Guruvayurappan. The king spent years in meditation and prayer at the feet of the deity. Suddenly the King realized that the time of his death had passed. He came back to his palace and asked the astrologer why the prediction was wrong. The wise man showed him the mark on his left foot where the cobra had bitten him. Since the king was wholly absorbed in the Lord, Who alone can dispense with fate, he did not feel the sting. In gratitude, the King built the temple at Guruvayur and set apart funds for the daily routine of the temple. Most of the current temple building dates to the 16th and 17th centuries, although rich devotees funded extensions and additions later. The deepastamba (column of lights) was erected in 1836 by a devotee from Thiruvanathapuram. The temple has gopurams in the east and the west. The eastern gopuram has an inscription which refers to the town as "Gurupavanapura". The western gopura was built in 1747.


There are several literary works extolling the glory of the Lord of Guruvayur. The Narayaneeyam is considered the greatest of all such works, creating a Guruvayur in the hearts of everyone who reads or listens to it. The author of this great work is Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri, one of the foremost Sanskrit poets and savants of Kerala. Bhattathiri's guru and mentor was Achyuta Pisharati. When Pisharati was stricken with rheumatism, Bhattathiri took the disease into himself, thus curing his guru. The disease was incurable, and Ezhuthachan instructed Bhattathiri to become a devotee of Guruvayoorappan. Bhattathiri did so, sitting before the Lord and composing and reciting 1034 slokas in the praise of the Lord. The slokas are divided into 100 dasakas (sets of 10 verses). Each dasaka ends with a prayer to the Lord of Guruvayur for relief of his disease. Legend has it that the Lord signified his approval and acceptance of the poem by providing inspiration to the poet whenever he was at a loss for words. While dealing with the Lord's incarnation as Narasimha, the poet could not visualise his form. There upon the Lord himself took form as Narasimha, springing out of a pillar. The Lord himself enacted Krishna dancing on the Kaliya, and the Kaliya mardhanam slokas in the Narayaneeyam are set to the same tempo as Sri Krishna's dance.

Narayaneeyam contains the essence of Bhagavata. Its aim is the cure of ills of the present incarnation or life cycle, its ultimate aim is moksha or liberation from the cycle of births and deaths. In the last dasaka, "Agre pashyami" (HIM I SEE BEFORE ME), the poet has given an inspired and inspiring vision of Srikrishna as Venugopal given to him by the Lord. This was on Ekadesi day.


Poonthanam Namboodiri was a humble devotee of Lord Guruvayurappan. He wrote a Malayalam lyric "Jnanappana" in praise of the Lord. He was not erudite like Bhattathiri but his lyrics were noted for their simplicity and devotional fervour. He requested Bhattathiri to revise it, but Bhattatiri lacked humility and looked down upon Poonthanam's knowledge of Sanskrit. Poonthanam went home and wept bitterly before the Lord. That night a boy appeared at Bhattathiri's house as he was preparing to recite Narayaneeyam. Seating the boy at his side, he started to recite. The boy pointed out an error in the very first verse. The poet admitted it and proceeded with the next verse, and the boy pointed out two mistakes. In the third verse, he pointed out three mistakes and so on. After the tenth verse, Bhattatiri realised that the boy was the Lord himself, and understood that Poonthanam's bhakti was more pleasing to the Lord than his own superior knowledge of Vibhakti (Sanskrit grammar) and learning. He rushed to Poonthanam and sought his forgiveness. When he read the Jnanappana, he found that it was flawless.

Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri was a devotee of Guruvayoorappan. He composed the 1034 verse Narayaneeyam, a summary of the Bhagavata Purana in 1586 AD. Melpathur Bhattithiri was a student of Achyuta Pisharody, who became ill. As a student of the guru, Melpathur Bhattithiri took the disease upon himself as part of Guru Dakshina. The disease was incurable, and he was instructed by Ezhuthachan to become a devotee of Guruvayoorappan. Being a Sanskrit scholar, Melpathur Bhattithiri composed a verse every day for the Lord, and after the final verse was complete, he was cured of his ailments.

Vilwamangalam Swamiyar and Kurur Amma and Manavedan Samoothiri of Kozhikkode are present in legends which tells us they got a chance to see the lord in real. There is a holy spot, Nritham, on the eastern side of the northern entrance to the temple, where the Swamiyar meditated and danced in ectasy. Its believed that the Lord often gave him darshan in person after the last ritual of the day. He could see him whenever and in whatever form he wished. The Lord was a child to the childless Kururamma. She played with him and would even scold him when he was naughty. He helped her in all her household chores as a dutiful son would, for his mother.

King Manaveda told Vilwamangalam about his ambition to view Krishna

The next day the Swamiyar told him that Guruvayurappan has given his consent and Manavedan can see Guruvayurappan playing in the early hours of the morning at the platform of the Elanji tree.He could only see and not touch Him.When as per this agreement, Manavedan saw Guruvayurappan in the form of little child Sri Krishna, he was so excited that he forgot himself and, rushed to embrace little Sree Krishna.Guruvayoorappan immediately disappeared saying, "Vilwamangalam did not tell me that this will happen ".However, Manavedan got one peacock feather from the head gear of Bhagavan Krishna.
The peacock feather was incorporated in the headgear for the character of Sri Krishna in the dance drama Krishnanattam based on his own text krishnageeti which is composed of 8 chapters viz, Avatharam, Kaliyamardanam, Rasakrida, Kamsavadham, Swayamvaram, Banayuddham, Vividavadham and Swargarohanam.[7] It was performed near the sanctum sanctorum of the Guruvayur Temple. On the ninth day, Avatharam was repeated as the Zamorin felt that it was not auspicious to end the series with the demise of Lord Krishna.The blessed art form is still maintained by guruvayur devaswom and staged as an offering by devotees.

The Garland of Manjula There is a banyan tree a few metres away from the temple on the East Nada. A young Varasyar girl would make a garland every day and offer it to the Lord in the night. The Mel Shanti (Chief Priest) would adorn the idol with it. One day she was late and the Sri Koil was closed. Manjula stood near the banyan tree crying and Poonthanam who passed by told her "Guruvayurappan knows what's in your heart, keep the garland on the banyan tree and he will take it". The following morning, when the Mel Shanti began to remove the nirmalyam, one garland stuck to the idol and would not come off. When Poonthanam saw this, he called out to the Lord saying "That's Manjula's Garland, let it also fall". The garland fell and the devotees were awestruck and started chanting the Lord's name. From that day the banyan tree is called Manjula.

Rituals at the temple

There is a fascinating legend about the origin of the rituals in this temple. One Ekadesi day, Sri Adi Shankara and Narada were travelling in space above the temple of Guruvayur. Acharya did not notice the temple while passing over it. The deity pulled down acharya through the roof all of a sudden and in the next moment he was in front of the Lord. Acharya being immensely happy with the darshan of the Lord composed the Govindashtakam stotram at the very same spot. Acharya formed the principles for worship of the Lord on the request of the Lord himself. Even to this day these principles are followed very strictly without compromise.

Every day, the temple opens at 3 a.m. and the Lord is awakened from his sleep with the melodious notes of nadaswaram. The Lord is adorned with flowers of the previous day. This is known as Nirmalya Darshanam. It is believed that celestial beings come and worship the Lord after the temple is closed.

Sriveli is a ritual which is performed thrice every day. The Utsava Vigraha of the Lord (a miniature of the idol in gold) is mounted on an elephant and taken three times around within the four outer walls of the temple to the accompaniment of drums. There are beli Kallus representing the Lord's body guards, subsidiary deities and members of his entourage in the inner and outer prakara. The idea of Sriveli and the priest performing poojas at these places is that the Lord Himself stands by as offerings are made to his dependents. Guruvayur is a temple state with the Lord as its Head. Every night at the close of worship, the days account is read to the Lord even today. Another ceremony is the Thulabharam, in which the devotees are weighed against plantains/sugar/jaggery/coconuts or other articles. These are gifted to the temple.

Another is Annaprasanam, or the first feeding ceremony of the child.

Festivals at the temple


The utsavam in Guruvayur is in the month of Kumbham (Feb-Mar) and the celebrations are spread over a period of 10 days. The festival starts with the hoisting of the temple flag on the dwajasthamba. A special event during the utsavam is the elephant race. The Guruvayur Devaswom has about 45 elephants now, all donated by devotees. No description of the elephants in this temple is complete without mentioning Padmanabhan and Kesavan. Padmanabhan was a very tall elephant and had a majestic bearing. He would allow no other elephant to carry the Thidambu. There are many stories about his kindness, devotion and unswerving loyalty to the Lord. In appreciation of his services, a gold chain was presented to him. A strange spectacle was seen in the Guruvayur temple in the year 1931, the day Padmanabhan died: the sandal paste with which the Lord was adorned split into two pieces and fell down. The two tusks and teeth of Padmanabhan are kept in Guruvayur.

Kesavan was donated by Raja of Nilambur and came to Guruvayur in 1922. He learnt from Padmanabhan the way he should conduct himself as a servant of the Lord. He was about 11 ft tall and would raise his front leg only when the Thidambu is to be mounted. All other riders, including his mahout, had to mount from the rear, using his hind leg. He was honoured with the title Gajaraja. In 1976, on Navami, he fell ill during the Sriveli. On the Dasami night, he used the drinking water (kept for him) to bathe and to clean his body and stood looking longingly in the direction of the Deity whom he had served for a long time. The morning of Ekadesi dawned. On the day Lord Krishna gave Vishwarupa Darshan to Arjuna, Kesavan lay prostrate on the ground with his trunk stretched towards the Lord. The Lord had given moksha to the Gajaraja, just before the Sri Koil opened. Guruvayur Devaswom has erected a life size statue of Kesavan in one of their rest houses.


The Guruvayur Ekadesi falls in the month of Vrischika (Nov-Dec). Once when Lord Maha Vishnu visited the abode of Yama, he heard heart rending cries of people tortured for their sins. The Lord wanted to save them from more suffering and uttered the word Ekadesi. The very mention of the word removed all their sins. Observance of Ekadesi is believed to have a purifying effect. It is believed that the sins of a lifetime are washed away if one happens to see the Ekadesi Vilakku (festival of lights). Legend says that on Guruvayur Ekadesi, Lord Indra comes with Kamadhenu and gives all material wealth and offers worship to receive Sri Krishna's blessings. On that day all the theerthas such as Kasi, Badri, Sabarigiri and Palani in addition to rivers like Ganga and Yamuna assemble in this sacred place.

The Lord of Guruvayur is no distant elusive deity, but one who is accessible to all devotees, learned and unlearned. As the Lord said to Arjuna in the Gita, "I am responsible for the welfare of those who think of me to the exclusion of all else and who remain devoted to me all the time", Guruvayurappan comes to the rescue of his Bhakthas in distress and manifests his grace in infinite ways.

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