Often referred to as “BhoolokaVaikuntam” (the holy abode of Vishnu on Earth), the Guruvayoor Sree Krishna Temple is a located in the town of Guruvayoor with around 29 kilometres northwest to Thrissur Town. This temple is one of the most auspicious places of worship for Hindus. Also known as the Dwaraka of the South, this temple dates back to the Dwarapayugam. It is believed that the trusted disciple of Lord Vishnu, Udhava was asked to reinstall the idol of Vishnu from Dwaraka. Lord Vishnu had proclaimed that a true devotee would be able to sense his presence in this idol. The mission to reinstall the idol was taken on by Vayu and Guru Brihaspati. They travelled all over India in search of an ideal place and finally came across a Lake of Lotus with the help of Parashuram. Lord Shiva and his consort Lakshmi who were in the Lake of Lotus gave way to Lord Vishnu and moved to Mamiyoor. As this place was found by Guru and Vayu, this place came to be known as “Guruvayupura”.
The temple is said to be constructed around 3000 B.C., however there is no evidence to establish it. The earliest mention of the temple dates back to the 17th century in the songs of the Alwars (Tamil saints). The Guruvayoor temple is “currently governed by the Guruvayoor Devaswom.
The deity in the Sanctum sanctorum of the Guruvayur Temple is Lord Vishnu, worshipped in the form of Unnikrishna, his avatar. The main idol of Lord Krishna in Guruvayoor is depicted carrying the conch (Pancajanya), the discus (Sudarshana Chakra), the mace (Kaumodaki ) and a lotus with a Holy basil garland. Adi Shankara prescribed the rules and routine of worship to Lord Krishna. These rituals are followed in tandem by the temple tantris. The “Melsanti” or chief priest comes into the temple in the wee hours of morning and does not eat or drink till the pooja offering are completed at twelve in the noon.
The Srikoil or inner sanctum has three rooms. The innermost of the rooms is the Garbhagriha where the deity is installed. The walls of the Srikoil have paintings depicting the life of Lord Krishna.
There are five main poojas that are conducted in the Guruvayoor temple. They are Ushah, Etirthah, Pantirati, Ucha, and Athazha pooja. The Melsanti opens the doors to Lord Krishna for the first pooja of the day. It is believed that when the night pooja is completed and when the doors of the temple are closed, the Devas will appear there and start praying the deity. The “Melsanti” is selected by a system of lots by the chief tantric and holds office for a period of six months only. The “Melsanti” conducts four of the five poojas in the Guruvayoor temple.
The deity at Guruvayoor is carved out with a rare stone called the “Patala Anjamam” or the sulphured antimony. Water and oil used in bathing the idol are believed to possess curative properties. Hence a lot of devotees take this home and preserve it. Other deities in Guruvayoor include Ganapati, Ayyapan, and Bhagavati.
Of cultural programmes and religious discourses conducted at Guruvayoor, special mention must be made to the dance-drama known as the Krishnattam. It is believed that each day’s performance yields a particular benefit to devotees who make the offering. Avatara, Kaliyamardhana, Rasakreeda, Kamsavadha, Swayamvara, Banayudha, Vivida Vadha, and Swaragarohana are the episodes that are portrayed.
Ulsavam, Vishu, Ashtami-Rohini, Vaishaka, Kuchela’s day, Mandalam, and Ekadesi are the important festivals celebrated here.
The famous Mahatmas who received the vision of Lord Krishna at Guruvayoor are , Sankaracharya, Melpattur Narayana Bhattathiri, Poonthanam Namboodiri, Vilvamangalam Swamiyar, Kururamma , Prince Manadevan and Kudallur Kunjikkavu Namboodiri .
Strict dress codes are enforced for all the Hindus who visit the temple. Men are only allowed in a veshti with a mundu covering their chest being optional. Women are only allowed in sarees, salwars or long skirts.