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Guruvayur or Guruvayoor, alluded to as the 'Bhuloka Vaikunta' is the abode of Vishnu on earth. The temple is one of the Mahashetras - 'Great abodes of worship'. The temple is located in the town of Guruvayur in the Thrissur district of Kerala. The temple is said to be built by Guru (the preceptor of Gods) and Vayu (God of winds).
History of Guruvayur temple
Legends suggest that the idol in this temple is being worshipped for more than 5100 years now. There are historical records to back this claim. The Tamil literature Kokasandesam has references to Kuruvayur - here the term Kuruvai means sea and hence the village on the coast was called Kuruvayur.
The eminent historian Prof Krishna Iyer opines that Trikkunavay in Guruvayur is the same as Thrikkanamathilakkam or Mathilakam mentioned in the Dutch and British records. Guruvayur must have come into existence before 52 AD.
Deity of Sree Krishna
The presiding deity of the Guruvayur temple is Lord Krishna, depicted with four lustrous arms carrying the conch 'Panchajanya', the discus 'Sudarshana Chakra' and mace 'Kaumodaki' and the lotus flower. The deity is adorned with Tulasi garland. Lord Krishna of Guruvayur is also popularly called as Kannan, Unni Kannan, Unni Krishnan and Balakrishnan and Guruvayurappan, which means Lord or father.
The small idol is made up of the rare stone called 'Patala Anjana' (black antimony stone), which is magnetic and has medicinal properties as well. The Lord's idol is anointed with oil in the early morning and then sprinkled with special cleansing powder made of herbs known as 'vaka'. This powder lends an added hue to the idol. The idol is given a ritual bath with the water consecrated with mantras. Devotees throng from early morning to catch a glimpse of this holy ritual and drink the holy water, said to possess miraculous properties.
Other than the idol of Lord Krishna, one can find idols of Lord Ganesha, Lord Ayyappa and Goddess Durga.
History of the idol of Guruvayurappan
This image of the Lord at Guruvayur is believed to have been worshipped by Lord Vasudeva himself and then by Lord Krishna at Dwaraka. The story goes that before the divine ascent of Lord Krishna he instructed Uddhava, his devotee and Minister to carry this image. At his behest, Brihaspati, along with Vayu looked for a suitable spot. Parasurama located this spot and as instructed by Lord Shiva, he installed the idol at this location called 'Guru - Vayu - Oor'.
The temple is believed to be 5100 years old and the image of its origin in Vaikuntam, the divine abode of Lord Vishnu.
Traditions at the Guruvayur temple
The deity is worshipped according to the norms laid down for pooja by Adi Sankara. This was later written in the tantric way by Narayanan Namboodiri, the hereditary Namboodaris of this temple. And the concluding words of Srimad Narayaneeyam, 'Hantha! Bhagyam Jananaam!' embodies the spirit of Guruvayur, as devotees believe that Narayaneeyam is of vital importance to Guruvayoor and is identical with the Lord, the Supreme Consciousness.
There is no compromise in the temple pooja, and the Melsanti or the Chief priest ensures that it is followed strictly according to the set timings. He enters the temple at 2. 30 am on an empty stomach and does not even drink water till the completion of pooja at 12.30 pm. The hallmark of this temple is that the Vedic traditions are inherently followed with no deviation.
The temple is famous for holding weddings and 'Annaprasanam' - feeding rice to a child for the first time.
Dress code at the Guruvayur temple
There is a strict dress code that exists for the devotees of this temple. Men should wear 'Mundu' around their waist and there should be no dress over the chest. They can wear a small piece of cloth 'Veshthi'. Boys can wear shorts but not shirt.
Girls and women need to wear sari and young girls a long skirt with blouse. Short skirts and trousers are not allowed inside the temple. However, in the present times salwar kameez is allowed. There is no need for women to cover their heads in the temple.
Guruvayurappan temple art and architecture
The inner courtyard of the temple is adorned with some magnificent wall paintings made largely from vegetable dyes which date to antiquity. Many paintings belong to the 17th century.
The roof and the two doors of the temple are covered with gold. A Dhwajasthambam or flag post adorns the eastern side of the temple. This is 33 m tall and it entirely gold plated. A 7 m tall pillar of lamps known as Dipastambham is adjacent to this. This pillar of lamps has 13 circular receptacles on top of each other that look awesome in the evening when lit.
Recent constructions exhibit plenty of sculptures. Students are taught ancient wall paintings called 'chomiru chitram'. Reproductions of original paintings are made available to devotees.
No wonder then, the Guruvayurappan temple with its grandeur of festivals and festivities, is hailed as one of the prime pilgrimage centres for the Hindus. Yet, surprisingly, this holy spot for the Vaishnavites is not a part of the 108 Divya Desams, that is Hindu temples mentioned in the works of Azhvars or divine saints.
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