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The Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple, one of the most auspicious places of worship for Hindus; often referred to as "BhoolokaVaikuntam" (the holy abode of Vishnu on Earth) is a located in the town of Guruvayur with around 29 kms northwest to Thrissur Town. The history of the Temple is said to be dates back to ‘Dwaparayuga’ when lord Krishna is supposed to have told his foremost disciple Udhava to reinstall the idol of ‘Lord Vishnu’ which he had installed at Dwaraka. The place was to be chosen by Guru Brahaspathi and Krishna promised Udhava that a true devotee can feel his presence in the idol. Collecting the idol from the submerged Dwaraka Guru Brahaspathi and Vayudeva (God of air), traveled all over India and with the help of Parasuram, located a lake full of lotus flowers in Kerala. The lake was the abode of Lord Siva and Parvathi who moved to Mammiyoor for making place for Vishnu. As Guru and Vayu together installed and founded the temple, the place came to be known as Guruvayupuram. The lord is supposed to have chosen the image of little Krishna (Unnikrishna) at the temple of Guruvayoor. Hence, the temple is also known as Dwaraka of South.


According to legend, the idol worshipped here is more than 5000 years old. However, there are no historical records to establish it. In 14th century, the Tamil literary work, 'Kokasandesam' references to a place called Kuruvayur are made. As early as the 16th century many references to Kuruvayur are seen. In ancient Dravidic, ‘Kuruvai’ means sea, hence the village on the coast may be called Kuruvayur. The earliest temple records date back to only 17th century. The earliest mention of the many important Vishnu temples of Kerala are found in the songs of the Alwars, whose time-line is not exactly fixed. But with some of the historians the Guruvayur must have come into existence before 52 AD. It is believed that the temple was renovated by a Pandya king somewhere around 500 years ago.

In 1766 AD, Hyder Ali of Mysore captured Kozhikkode (Calicut) and then Guruvayur. On the request of the Malabar Governor, Shrinivasa Rao, Hyder Ali granted a Devadaya (free gift) and the temple was saved from extinction. Again in 1789 AD Tippu Sultan invaded Zamorin's province. Apprehending the destruction, the idol was hidden underground and the Utsava vigraha was taken to Ambalapuzha by Mallisseri Namboodiri and Kakkad Othikkan. Tippu destroyed the smaller shrines and set fire to the Temple, but it was saved due to timely rain. Tippu lost to the Zamorin and the English in 1792 AD. The hidden idol and the Utsava vigraha were re-installed on September 17, 1792. But the daily poojas and routines were seriously affected.

The Ullanad Panickers rescued and looked after the temple for good 75 years (1825 to 1900). Like Chempakassery Namboodiri and Deshavarma Namboodiri, the Panickers offered everything from service to property. Thus with their help daily pooja and annual festival ‘Utsavam’ were once again restored. From 1859 to 1892, the Chuttambalam, the Vilakkumatam, the Koothambalam and Sastha shrine were renovated and roofed with copper sheeting. In 1900, Sri Konthi Menon, as a manager fixed the hours of worship and led the drive to keep the temple premises clean. He set up the big bell and reconstructed ‘Pathayapura’ (granary). In 1928, the Zamorin once again become the administrator of Guruvayur. In 1970, in a fire accident, almost all the temple except the Shreekovil was destroyed and the temple was reinstated in its shape in 1971.

According to the stories, Shri Aadi Shankara who is believed to have extra ordinary powers was once travelling by air from Kalady to Shringeri. Even he, who never believed in the worshiping of idols, was forced to come down while crossing Guruvayoor. To appease Guruvayoorappan he worshiped the deity by eight 'Shloka' (four lines of poetry). This is now known as the 'Govindashtakam'. He then spent 41 days worshiping Guruvayoorappan.

Ekadasi, the eleventh day of every lunar fortnight, is very auspicious to the Hindus. Of the 24 Ekadasis in an year, the Vrishchika Ekadasi (Suklapaksha) which falls in Mandala season has got special significance in Guruvayur. The 9th day, Navami and 10th day Dasami are also very important. Until the temple entry for all Hindus in 1947, Avarnas (lower caste) were allowed to come up to Thiyyarambalam on Dasami day (in between Manjulal and Eastern Gopuram). On Ekadasi after night pooja the famous Ekadasi Vilakku with elephant procession takes place and provides a fitting finale to the festival.

Sri. Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar was a well renowned Carnatic musician and an ardent devotee of Lord Sree Guruvayurappan. In 1931, on the Ekadasi day, a musical concert was organised at Calicut under the auspices of Zamorin Rajah. When he entered for appearance on the platform he found that his vocal chord had snapped and his performance was postponed. He rushed to Guruvayur and on that Ekadasi day he poured his heart before Lord Guruvayurappan. A non descript Namboodiri whom he met there administered some medicine and he regained his voice immediately and gave the performance in Calicut out of schedule. After his death on 16th October 1974, his disciples and Guruvayur Devaswom decided to commemorate Chembai's name by conducting Chembai Sangeetholsavam every year during Ekadasi. There are lots of stories about Guruvayor. This is a simple example.