Guruvayoor is a temple town which is a sacred pilgrim destination and has grown up around the Guruvayoor temple. This is a Vishnu temple where the presiding deity is called the Guruvayoorappan. According to legend, the Vishnu idol was worshipped by Shri Krishna in Dwarka. When it was time for him to leave for his heavenly abode, he instructed the divine guru and Vayu, the wind god to put the idol in a safe place. Guru and Vayu carried it here and placed it where there was already a Shiva temple. Lord Shiva shifted the temple on guru’s request and the Guruvayoor temple was established. It is the third busiest temple in India and is so holy that it is regarded as bhooloka-baikuntha.
Location : State/District
Guruvayoor is located in the Trichur district in the state of Kerala located at the southern tip of India. The latitude of Guruvayoor is 10° 36' 0" N and the longitude is 76° 3' 0" E.
Guruvayoor is one of the holiest pilgrimages in India. More than seven million devotees visit this temple every year seeking blessings and benediction. It is also one of the most popular places to get married in Kerala. 100 to 150 marriages are performed daily in the temple.
Being a popular venue for marriage, a large number of families often visit this temple. Apart from this, pilgrims and devotees of Lord Vishnu and Sri Krishna also perform pilgrimage to this temple town.
This temple town enjoys a tropical humid climate. Summers are hot and humid. The monsoon season lasts from June to September and the area receives heavy rainfall. You should avoid the monsoon season if you are planning a tour to Guruvayoor. Winters last from November to March. The days are warm while the nights are pleasant. This is the best time to visit this pilgrim spot.
Indians do not require any special documents to travel to Guruvayoor. Foreigners must carry a valid passport with Indian visa. It must be mentioned here that non Hindus are strictly not allowed even within the temple complex. If you have converted to Hinduism, you will need to carry a conversion certificate endorsed by the Arya Samaj, Kozhikode. Otherwise you will not be allowed to enter the temple.
Places to Visit
There are a number of important sights in Guruvayoor. The Sri Krishna temple is the most important temple here. The presiding deity is known as Guruvayoorappan. The exact origin of the temple is not known. Though it is known as the Krishna temple, the deity is that of Lord Vishnu. It is always decorated with garland of tulsi. This temple is known as the Dwarka of the south and attracts 50000 to 60000 pilgrims every year. The original temple was thought to have been constructed by Parasurama and is was added to later by kings and other rich devotees. The inner sanctum has been estimated to be more than 1000 years old. In addition to the main idol, there are idols of gods Ganesh, Padmanabha, Ayyappa and goddess Bhagavathi.
Another temple of great importance in Guruvayoor is the Mammiyoor temple devoted to Lord Shiva. According to legends, this was the original temple which Lord Shiva later shifted to make space for the Guruvayoor temple. A pilgrimage is considered incomplete without a visit to this temple. The large mural of this temple is very famous.
A huge idol of a chariot on which is depicted Sri Krishna reciting the Bhagvad Gita to Arjun is placed in the Parthasarathy temple which is another famous shrine in Guruvayoor.
The Thiruvenkatachalapathy temple is presided over by an idol of Lord Venkatesh and is considered to be the equivalent of Tirupati in Kerala. Later, an idol of goddess Bhadrakali was installed in the temple.
One unique place in Guruvayoor is the Punathur elephant palace. The Guruvayoor temple owns 65 elephants who are housed in royal style in this palace. They are not allowed to work anywhere else and are used for ceremonial processions.
The institute of mural paintings is located near the main temple and was established by the renowned mural artist Shri Mammiyoor Krishnankutty. Students from all over the country come to this institute to study mural painting, sculpture, art and aesthetics.
Another interesting place to visit in Guruvayoor is the Devoswom museum. It contains a number of relicts and memorabilia connected to the temple. The works of some great religious poets are also displayed here. Ornaments used in local art like Kathakali and Krishnaattam are displayed in this museum.
You can offer different types of pujas in the Guruvayoor temple. The most popular is the Tulabharam. In this ritual, a devotee is weighed against commodities like fruits, sugar, water or gold etc and the commodity is donated. The advantage of this ritual is that even non Hindus can perform it outside the temple.
If you happen to visit this place in November, you can attend the Chembai Sangeetholsavam festival. A marathon program of classical Indian music is organized in the temple and about 1200 musicians visit here to perform. At any other time, you can watch the cultural performances held at the Melapathur hall just outside the Guruvayoor temple. Performances are held from morning till night and people from all religion and caste can watch here.
If you have an artistic flair, you can visit the Institute of mural painting. You can try to paint murals yourself. You can also watch the Krishnattam dancers practicing.
Shopping is an important activity in Guruvayoor. It is famous for savories like murukkus and padappadams. Celebrated for devotional music, this is also the ideal place to pick up records of such music.
There are a number of interesting places that you should visit from Guruvayoor. Kodungallur is such a city. It was an ancient port and is devoted to goddess Bhagavathi. It is famous for its spices. It is a port on the Arabian Sea and was widely used for trade with foreign countries.
You can also visit the Gokulum estates which is the largest dairy farm in Kerala. It has about 550 cows. In addition, it also has large plantations of palm, coconut and cashew trees.
A popular excursion is a visit to the Chavakkad beach located about 5 kms from Guruvayoor. There is a confluence of a river with the sea here. The beach has a pristine quality and is calm and quiet.
The Chetuva backwater is located about 9 kms from Guruvayoor. It extends from the Enamakkal lake to the Arabian Sea. You can gain a unique experience by living on a houseboat on this backwater.
The Athirapilly waterfall is a beautiful scenic spot near Guruvayoor. This 80 feet waterfall attracts weekend visitors.
Food and Accommodation
Though non vegetarian food is not prohibited, it is difficult to find in Guruvayoor. A number of restaurants serve good quality vegetarian food. Mostly South Indian foods are served. Saravana Bhawan, Woodland restaurant, Indian coffee house, Surabi and Mangallya offer good quality vegetarian food.
Devasom or the temple authorities of Guruvayoor maintain four accommodations to suit different budgets. These are Satram, Kaustavam, Panchajanyam and Sree Valsam. If you are looking for upscale hotels, check out the Sri Krishna Inn, Bhasuri inn, Kanoos residency, Horizon international etc. Budget hotels include Archana, Poornima, Maharaja and Nandanam. Elite, Ayodhya, Sunrise, Vysakh offer good accommodation at moderate prices.
Safety and Security
As Guruvayoor attracts a large number of devotees, security is quite tight. In addition to the local police, the temple employs security personnel of its own. But still there are light crimes like pickpocketing against which you should be careful. There are a number of medical clinics maintained by the temple authorities to meet any emergency.