Basilica of Our Lady of Dolores (Puthan palli)   Leave a comment

With its three storied facade and even higher steeples towering above the town’s skyline, this is claimed to be the largest and highest church in Asia. It is adorned with Gothic towers and an  array of 15 altars and church bells imported from Germany

Historical Background

Sakthan Thampuran, the great Maharaja of Cochin, paved the way for Urban Development and Commercial Progress of Trichur.  As he understood keenly that the presence of Christians was quite essential for the development of the town where there were only a few Hindu families inhabiting, he took measures, around the year of 1794, for bringing and rehabilitating 52 Syrian Christian families from the neighboring centers of Aranattukara, Ollur and Kottekkad.  He rendered all necessary help to these Christians.  The option of the number 52 was as if to perpetuate the great Apostle’s arrival in Kerala.  Since there was no Christian Church in the town, they had to go their parent churches to fulfill their spiritual needs.  The Maharaja who perceived their difficulties, promptly permitted them to build a church.

In 1814, His Ex. Dominicos, Archbishop and Governor of Cranganore (Kodungallur) Arch diocese, gave his approval and blessing to build the first Catholic church in the name of Our Lady of Dolours.  From 1814 to 1838, this church was under the jurisdiction of the Cranganore (Kodungallur) Archdiocese.  On 24th April, 1838, H.H. Pope Gregory XVI issued a proclamation, “Multa Praeclara”, whereby the Cranganore (Kodungallur) diocese ceased to exist.  Consequently the Church of Our Lady of Dolours came under the authority of the Bishop of Verapoly which continued till 1861.  Unfortunately, with the advent of the Persian Catholic Bishops Rocos and Melus, who came here without the necessary permission from the pope, there started differences among the Catholics of Trichur and its suburbs.  The differences resulted in the so-called Rocos-and-Melus Schisms. Bishops Rocos and Melus had to go back owing to strong protest from the people in 1862 and 1882 respectively.  In the year 1886 Pope Leo XIII suppressed the Archdiocese of Cranganore (Kodungallur) and  in 1887 separated the Kerala Syrian Catholics from Verapoly and brought them under the Syro lMalabar Vicariates of Trichur and Kottayam.  He appointed His Ex. Adolph Medleykot as the first Bishop of Trichur.

In the fickle vagaries of history that followed, the Catholics lost possession of the Church of Our Lady of Dolours which they constructed in 1814.  To compensate that loss, the Catholics of Trichur decided to build another church.  Petitions seeking permission for this were sent to the Maharaja of Cochin, the Governor of Madras, the Viceroy and the British Emperor.  Eventually on 8th October, 1925 , as per the order of H.H. Ramavarma Maharaja of Cochin, the Cochin Sarkar issued royal sanction to build a new church within the premises of the fort city of Trichur

At sharp 10 a.m. on 10th October, 1925, His Ex. Bishop Vazhappilly Mar Francis blessed and offered Holy Mass on the altar built temporarily in the School hall which stood in front of the present church.  He named the Church as the church of Lady of Dolours and Proclaimed St. Theresa of Infant Jesus (Little flower) as the Co-patroness.  As the small temporary church was not spacious enough for the convenience of the believers, they tried to build a church  conforming fully to their needs and grandeur of the town.  His Ex Bishop Mar. Francis Vazhapilly visited Rome and European countries keenly observing the architecture of the churches there.  The present church, known as the largest in Asia was built on the plan he drew on his return from abroad.  On 21st December, 1929, His Ex. Bishop Mar Francis Vazhappilly laid the foundation of the colossal church.  It took eleven years under the supervision of the famous Engineer Jnanaprakasam and the superintendent Ambros to almost complete the construction of the new church.  On 18thSeptember 1935 Sri. Ramavarma Thampuran, the Maharaja of Cochin, saw in person, the Progress in the building of the Church, and donated all the teak wood needed for building it.  On 24th November, 1940 His Ex. Bishop Mar Francis Vazhappilly consecrated the Church.  It was then under  the jurisdiction of the Lourdes Cathedral Church.

New Church

At sharp 10 a.m. on 10th October, 1925, His Ex. Bishop Vazhappilly Mar Francis blessed and offered Holy Mass on the altar built temporarily in the School hall which stood in front of the present church.  He named the Church as the church of Lady of Dolours and Proclaimed St. Theresa of Infant Jesus (Little flower) as the Co-patroness.  As the small temporary church was not spacious enough for the convenience of the believers, they tried to build a church  conforming fully to their needs and grandeur of the town.  His Ex Bishop Mar. Francis Vazhapilly visited Rome and European countries keenly observing the architecture of the churches there.  The present church, known as the largest in Asia was built on the plan he drew on his return from abroad.  On 21st December, 1929, His Ex. Bishop Mar Francis Vazhappilly laid the foundation of the colossal church.  It took eleven years under the supervision of the famous Engineer Jnanaprakasam and the superintendent Ambros to almost complete the construction of the new church.  On 18thSeptember 1935 Sri. Ramavarma Thampuran, the Maharaja of Cochin, saw in person, the Progress in the building of the Church, and donated all the teak wood needed for building it.  On 24th November, 1940 His Ex. Bishop Mar Francis Vazhappilly consecrated the Church.  It was then under  the jurisdiction of the Lourdes Cathedral Church. 

Considering the need of the time, Mar joseph Kundukulam constituted this famous shrine also as a parish on 17th September, 1978.  It was made the headquarters of a forane division on August 1980.  The historic visit of Pope John Paul II to Trichur on 7th February 1986 was within the environs of this parish.

In commemoration of the centenary of the diocese of Trichur, His     Eminence Simon D. Cardinal Lourdu Swami, head of the Congregation of the Oriental churches in Rome, inaugurated the Perpetual Adoration Center in this Church. On 25th April 1992, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II issued a decree, elevating the church of Our Lady of Dolours to the status of a “Minor Basilica”. 20th May 1992, was a monumental day in the history of this Church.  His Eminence Cardinal Antony Padiyara consecrated the Church as a Basilica.  There after the Church has come to be called” Basilica of Our Lady of Dolours”
This basilica is not only a highly visited pilgrim center, but also a tourist attraction.  It has two colossal belfries built in gothic style.  The church is 370 feet long east-west side and 180 feet wide along north-south side.  The total plinth area of the church measures 25,000 square feet.  The rear side of the Church has a tower measuring 260 feet in height.

Altars of the Church

As one enters the Church through the massive main door (elephant door) one notices the expansive nave that leads to the main altar.  As he steps into the church and looks up, he finds, poised perpendicularly above him on the ceiling, the breath taking beautiful mural  painting of the Holy Trinity.  On both sides of the naves are a number of rock pillars wrapped in mosaic.  Thousands can participate in the liturgy, occupying the nave, aisles, transepts and the balcony on both sides.  The floor of the Church is paved with mosaic bricks and the whole church is gorgeously illuminated with varied varieties of electric lamps.  The main altar of the church is about 100 feet high.  There is a grand array of 10 altars, spread adjacent to the main one, fine altars on wither wing, all of them as grand and solemn as the main altar, but not in height.  In the center of the main altar, is the statue of Our Lady of Dolours and sides of this statue, are two beautiful statues of Holy angels Raphael and Michael.  Just below them there are the twelve apostles of Christ.  The magnificent dome resting on four gigantic pillars is above the main altar.  Inside the dome are painted in gorgeous colours of the Mother of dolours and pictures showing her seven Dolours.  There are the pictures of the four Gospel writers in the four corners of the dome.  In the front right corner of the main altar is installed the Episcopal throne – an elaborately carved sculptural marvel (It is noteworthy that H.H. Pope John Paul II was seated on this throne when he made his historic visit  to Trichur on 7th February 1986). The beautifully engraved lectern which was sanctified by His holy touch and which is preserved as a memento of his visit to Trichur, adorns the front left corner of the main altar.  On the right side of the main altar, there is a beautiful picture depicting the miracle of Jesus feeding 5000 people with two fish and five loaves.  The other side shows the picture of Holy Mary’s assumption.  The ten altars to the right and left wings of the main altar are consecrated with the statues of St. Francis Xavier, Little flower, St Thomas the Apostle of Christ, Christ the King, The Holy Family, St. George, St. Joseph, St. Antony, St. Sebastian and St. Maria Gorethy.  The statues of the Mother of Rosary in the altar in the end of the northern aisle are exquisite in their forms.  There are two more altars under the belfries on both sides of the entrance of the Church.  These altars are dedicated to St. Francis Assisi and St. Vincent De Paul.  Thus there are in all fifteen altars in the Church
Septic Cell Model Cemetery
Beneath the main altar of the Church can be seen tombs interring the mortal remains of bishops. It is in one of these tombs H. Ex. Bishop Vazhappilly, founder of the Church, rests eternally. On the southern wing of the Church there are crypts for burying priests. One of the belfries of the Church has eight bell carillon which chimes melodiously. The ‘Septic-cell model cemetery’, the largest of its kind in India, stands in the northern side of the rear of the church.
Perpetual Adoration
Day by day, people in large numbers come to pray at the Perpetual Adoration Centre. On all Fridays, believers assemble in the church to participate in the Novena of the Mother of Dolours. The main feast of the church is celebrated on the last Sunday of November every year. This feast is considered as the second biggest festival of Thrissur. The landscape of Thrissur includes a mighty monument of architectural skill, sculptural excellence and the sturdy faith of the Catholics of Trichur, attracting the solemn devotion of a large number of visitors including foreigners and art-lovers.

Posted May 30, 2011 by davis in Uncategorized

Sri Kurumba Bhagavati Temple   Leave a comment

Sri Kurumba Bhagavathi Temple, located at Kodungallur, 40 kilometers from Thrissur, is a renowned pilgrimage centre which worships Goddess Kali. The main attraction at Sri Kurumba Bhagavathi Temple will be Meena Bharani festival. The temple has a historic relevance because it is one of the first temples in Kerala that allowed entry for all devotees irrespective of their caste and religion.

Sri Kurumba Bhagavathi Temple is believed to have been built by the Chera King Cheran Chenguttuvan, for Kannaki – the heroine of Silappathikaram

Situated in a sprawling 10 acre land having plenty of trees, the temple has a very beautiful surrounding. There is a mystical aura attached to it, thanks to secret pathways, chambers and peculiar rituals

Posted May 29, 2011 by davis in Uncategorized

Koodalmanikyam Temple   Leave a comment

Koodalmanikyam Temple or Kudal Manikkam Temple[1] is an ancient Hindu temple in Irinjalakuda, a small town in Trissur district, Kerala, India. Koodalmanikyam Temple has two unique features: the temple holds the deity of Bharata represented as a sage than Bharata as the prince; and it is also the only temple in India dedicated to the worship of Bharata (Lord Sangameshwara), the brother of Lord Rama. The temple is one of four in Kerala that form a set called Nalambalam[2], with each temple dedicated to one of the four brothers in the Ramayana epic: Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna.


The earliest historical reference to Koodalmanikyam Temple is found in a stone inscription attributed to the Chera king Stanu Ravi Varman dated 854 A.D, donating vast extents of land for the Temple. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that the Temple must have been in existence for quite some time before this date and that even then Koodalmanickyam was occupying a place of importance among the temples of Kerala.

Koodalmanikyam temple plays a key role in the history of Irinjalakuda as most land in and around Irinjalakuda belonged to the Koodalmanikyam Temple. Temple has allotted Devaswam land to accommodate Governmental institutions, Christ College and for public use to facilitate development activities around the region. Much land that belonged to Koodalmanikyam was subjected to encroachment.[3]The government appointed a special tahsildar under the Kerala Land Conservancy Act to recover encroached land for the Kochi Devaswom Board and a tahsildar and a surveyor for the Koodalmanikyam Devaswom. The temple also attract devotees and tourists which is a source of revenue for the town.

Rituals & Annual festival

The custom in most of the Temples in Kerala is to have five Poojas and three Sivelis a day. But in Koodalmanikyam there are only three Poojas and no Siveli. There is no Usha Puja and Pantheeradi Puja at this shrine. The deity is taken out for ceremonial procession only during the Annual Festival. There is no Deeparadhana. This is the worst problem of this temple and there are plans to start deeparadhana here. This is the only temple without this. Sticks and camphor are not used for the pooja. The floral offerings to the deity consist of Lotus, Tulasi(ocimum sanctum) and Chethi(ixora). But they are not grown in the temple compound. No other flower is taken for Pooja or for making garlands. Lotus garland is an important offering to the deity. A garland will be offered to the deity which does have not less than 101 lotus flowers.

The temple holds its chief annual festival for ten days each year in the month of Medam (April/May). The first day of the festival is calculated by the appearance of the Uthram asterism, and signified by hoisting a ceremonial flag. (The start day falls one day after the famous Thrissur Pooram festival in nearby Thrissur.)

Each day of the festival, a seeveli (procession of caparisoned temple elephants) is held twice, one in the morning and once at night, to the accompaniment of Panchari melam (sacred music). Seventeen elephants take part. Two features of the seeveli are unique to the Koodalmanikyam Temple: first that two baby elephants are included in the procession, one standing on each side of the elephant carrying the deity. Second, while the headdresses (‘Netti pattam’ in Malayalam) of seven elephants are made of pure gold, the rest are made of pure silver. The last two days of the festival feature Panchavadyam (sacred music from an orchestra of five instruments), and the festival ends at the Thiruvonam asterism.


There are four ponds that are located in and around the temple. The largest of the four are Kuttan Kulam, located outside the compound on the eastern side, and Kulipini Theertham, located inside the compound. Kulipini Theertham is believed to be sanctified by the sage Kulipini Maharshi, who held a great ritual sacrifice, a yajna, at the spot. Water from this source is used for rituals and ceremonies within the temple.

Priests are allowed to take part in the ceremonies after clensing themselves at the “Kuttan Kulam” outside the temple and then have to take a dip in “Kulipini Theertham” before entering Sanctum Sanctorum. The pond outside the compound located at the western side is called “Padinjare Kulam” and the pond outside the compound located at the southern side is called “Thekke Kulam”. These three water bodies constitute a significant area as much as the size of the temple itself. Except “Kulipini Theertham” the other three water bodies are open to the public.

See also

Koodalmanikyam Temple or Koodal Manikyam Bharatha Temple is an ancient Hindu temple located in Irinjalakuda, a small town in Thrissur District of Kerala. Kudal Manikkam Temple is the only temple in India dedicated to Lord Bharata, the brother of Lord Rama. He is worshiped here as Lord Sangameshwara. Sangameswara is a Sanskrit word which in Malayalam translation means Koodalmanickyam. Koodalmanikyam Bharatha Temple is also one of the four temples in Kerala which form a set known as Nalambalam (Four Temples), of which each temple dedicated to the 4 brothers Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna of the

The Koodalmanikyam Temple sanctum sanctorum is round shaped and is covered with copper plates. There is a six-foot Thaazhikakudam at the pinnacle which adds beauty to the temple structure. The lord here is Chathurbahu Vishnu with Conch, Chakra, Gada and Japamaala. However, it is believed that the Lord is Bharatha, the brother of Lord Rama. According to myths, Bharatha was anxiously waiting for the return of Rama from exile for fourteen years. He heard from Hanuman that Rama has reached Ayodhya and was much relieved and happy. Bharatha is worshipped in his happiest mood here. Lord Hanuman is seen at Thidappilly (the holy kitchen).

The annual 11 days Koodalmanikyam Temple festival 2011 is from 13th May 2011 to 23rd May 2011.
Temple Structure

Koodalmanikyam Temple is a 9th century temple with splendid architectural beauty. Built in traditional Kerala style of architecture, the temple spreads over a wide area and is surrounded by massive wall with gorgeous gateways on the East, South and West. The temple’s Western and Eastern approach ways to the inner temple features huge porches which can accommodate even 21 elephants. The eastern gateway (Gopuram) is a remarkable structure with numerous carvings embedded into its front wall. One can enter the outer quadrangle from the Gopuram. Located on the southern courtyard is the Koothambalam, the temple hall for performing Koothu and Koodiyattam. There are murals on the walls on either side of the eastern entry to Chuttambalam.

Koodalmanikyam Temple is surrounded by four vast ponds. Of which the Kuttan Kulam, located outside the compound on the eastern side, and Kulipini Theertham, located inside the compound are the two largest. Legend has it that Kulipini Maharshi performed a great ritual sacrifice, at the spot of Kulipini Theertham. Kudal Manikkam Temple is also a centre of temple arts like Kathakali, Koothu, Koodiyattom and Thullal.

Temple Poojas

Most of the temples in Kerala conduct five poojas and 3 seevelis a day. While Koodalmanikyam Temple conducts only three Poojas per daily and seevelis are performed only during the annual arattu festival. Floral offerings include Lotus, Tulasi and Chethi. No other flower is taken for Pooja.


Thamaramala (Lotus garland) is an important offering to the deity. It is believed that if a lotus garland is offered before starting any new project or before the commencement of any important function, the deity bestows success.
Temple Festivals

Koodalmanikyam Temple is renowned for the annual Kudalmanikyam Arattu Festival held for 11 days in the Malayalam month of Edavam (April – May). This famous event starts one day after the Thrissur Pooram and ends on the next Thiruvonam day. The festival attracts a number of devotees to watch the color, music, Orchestra and Fine Arts which cannot be seen anywhere in Kerala.
Another major festival celebrated is the Thriputhari on the Thiruvonam nakshatram in the Malayalam month of Thulam (October-November). The newly harvested rice is first cooked and offered to deity and then distributed to devotees. Next day is a special offering called Mukkudi, an Ayurvedic mixture, a divine medicine for all diseases.
Nalambalam Yatra

Nalambalam Yatra, also spelled Nalanbala Yathra, is a unique pilgrimage conducted during the Malayalam month of Karkitakam, the last month of Malayalam Calendar. The pilgrims visit four temples in Kerala – Sri Rama Temple at Triprayar (22 Km North west of Irinjalakuda), Koodalmanikyam Bharatha Temple at Irinjalakuda, Lakshmana temple at Moozhikkulam (30 km south-west of Irinjalakuda) in Ernakulam District and Satrugna Temple at Payammal (5 km south of Irinjalakuda). It is believed that worship at these four temples on the same day is exceptionally worthy.
Temple Timings

The temple is opened from 03:00 am to 11.30 am and from 05:00 pm to 8.15pm.

How to reach Koodalmanikyam Bharatha Temple

Irinjalakuda is located 20 km south of Thrissur and 16 km north of Kodungallur (Cranganore) famous for the Kodungallur Bhagavathy Temple.

Irinjalakuda Railway Station, managed by the Southern Railways, is just 9 km from the Koodalmanikyam Bharatha Temple. Guruvayoor – Chennai Egmore Express, Venad Express, Kanyakumari – Bangalore Express, Parasuram Express, Thiruvananthapuram-Kannur Express and Chennai-Alappuzha Express passes through Irinjalakuda Railway Station.

Thrissur Railway Station or Thrissivaperur Railway Station is another major railhead around 20 km from Irinjalakuda.

Koodalmanikyam Bharatha Temple is about 45 km from International Airport at Kochi.

Posted May 27, 2011 by davis in Uncategorized

Guruvayur Temple   Leave a comment

The Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple (Malayalam: ഗുരുവായൂര്‍ ക്ഷേത്രം, Guruvayūr Ksheṭram) is a famous Krishna temple located in the town of Guruvayur in the Thrissur district of Kerala. It is one of the most important places of worship for Hindus and is often referred to as “Bhooloka Vaikuntam[2] which translates to the holy abode of Vishnu on Earth. The divine idol installed here represents the enchanting form of Sree Krishna endowed with the four lustrous arms carrying the conch Panchajanya, the discus Sudarshana Chakra, the mace Kaumodaki and the lotus. Adorned with the divine Tulasi garland the idol represents the majestic form of Maha Vishnu as revealed to Vasudeva and Devaki at the time of Krishna Avatar; Hence it is also known as Dwaraka of the south (of India). Shri Krishna is popularly known here by different names such as Kannan, Unni-Kannan (Baby Krishnan), Unni-Krishnan, Balakrishnan, and Guruvayoorappan.

The presiding deity in the sanctum-sanctorum is Mahavishnu. He is worshipped according to the pooja routines laid down by Adi Sankaracharya and later written formally in the Tantric way by Chennas Narayanan Namboodiri (born in 1427). The Chennas Namboodiris are the hereditary Tantris of the Guruvayur temple.[3] The temple/pooja routines are strictly followed without any compromise. The Tantri is available full time at the Temple to ensure this. The Melsanti (Chief Priest) enters the Sri Kovil (sanctum sanctorum) at 2:30 AM and does not drink even a glass of water up to the completion of noon poojas at 12:30 PM.[4] The vedic traditions being followed here with absolute perfection and sincerity is the hallmark of the Guruvayur temple. It is important to note here that, even though the shrine is considered to be one of the holiest spots for Vaishnavites, the temple is not a part of the 108 Divya Desams.

Divinity of the location

Lord Siva (Rudra) performed tapas and worshipped Maha Vishnu for years under the waters of the sacred tank located on the northern side of the present day temple and hence this body of water got the name of Rudra-Theertham. In the ancient days, Rudra-Theertham extended up to Mammiyur and Thamarayur (about 3 km away) and was known for its ever blooming lotus flowers. Prechethas (the ten sons of King Pracheenabarhis and Suvarna) came to this place to do tapas to attain Prajapathithwam (to become the king of all kings) from Lord Mahavishnu. Sensing the motive of the Prechethas, Lord Siva emerged out of the Rudratheertham and revealed to them the Rudrageetham, a hymn in praise of Mahavishnu. Siva suggested them to chant it with all their heart to get their wishes fulfilled. The Princes won the favour of Mahavishnu after rigorous tapas for 10,000 years under the waters of Rudra-Theertham by chanting the Rudrageetham.

Story of the Deity

The Deity of the Guruvayur temple is unique, since it is carved out of a material called Pathalanjana Sila, and is considered extremely sacred. This idol was once worshipped by Lord Vishnu in Vaikunta and Vishnu handed it over to Brahma. King Suthapas and his wife worshipped Brahma for a child and being gratified with their devotion, they received this idol from him and advised them to start worshipping it. Being pleased with their worship, Lord Vishnu appeared before them and blessed them with the boon that he himself will be born as their child in their three re-births in three different forms and in three different situations, with the idol.

Thus they got the good fortune to worship the same deity in all three rebirths. They gave birth to Prsnigarbha who gave to the world the practice of Brahmacharya Vratha (Celibacy). In their next birth, Suthapas and his wife were born as Kashyapa and Aditi and their son was Vamana. In the third rebirth as Vasudeva and Devaki, the Lord was born as their eighth son Krishna. In the long run, Lord Krishna himself installed this idol in Dwaraka and worshipped it.

At the time of Lord Krishna’s Swargarohana (ascension to Vaikunta), his devotee Uddhava became sad thinking of the departure of the Lord. The Lord then gave his foremost disciple and devotee Uddhava this idol and instructed him to entrust Brihaspathi (the Guru of the Devas) with the task of taking the idol to a suitable location. Uddhava was plunged in grief thinking of the fate that would befall the world in Kali yuga during his absence. The Lord pacified Uddhava and promised him that he himself would manifest in the idol and shower his blessings on the devotees who take refuge in him.

A deluge had closed in on Dwaraka, but Guru salvaged the idol floating in the water, with the help of his prime disciple Vayu. Guru and Vayu went around the world in search of an ideal place. At last they entered Kerala through the Palakkad gap where they met Parasurama who was going to Dwaraka in search of the very idol they were bringing. Parashurama led Guru and Vayu to a lush green spot with a beautiful lotus lake where they felt the presence of Lord Siva. Lord Siva along with Parvathy welcomed them and told them that this would be the ideal spot for installing the deity. Siva permitted Guru and Vayu to perform the consecration rites and blessed them that henceforth this place would be known as Guruvayur (since the installation was done by Guru and Vayu). Siva with Parvathy then left to the opposite bank to Mammiyur.

It is in memory of this incident that a pilgrimage to Guruvayur is said to be complete only with a worship of Mammiyur Siva also. Vishwakarma, the divine architect built this temple. He made it in such a way that on the day of Vishu (Summer equinox) the first rays of the sun fall straight on to the Lord’s feet. The deity was installed in the solar month of Kumbha (February – March) and the ceremony was begun on the seventh asterism of Pooyam and completed on the day of Anizham[3]

The Temple of Guruvayoor

The Krishna temple in the town of Guruvayoor in Kerala is one of the five famous Krishna\Vishnu temples in India. The others are Jagannath Puri in Orissa, Venkatachalapati in Andhra Pradesh, Nathdwara in Rajasthan and Dwaraka in Gujarat. Of course there are many other famous ones of Vishnu as well as of Krishna but these are considered to be the most popular. Even though the idol in Guruvayoor is that of Vishnu it is still known as a Krishna temple since the boy Krishna is always said to be running around incognito in the temple precincts. Guruvayoor is known as “Bhuloka Vaikunta” or the abode of Vishnu on earth.

The whole life of this town revolves round the temple and there is very little activity beyond what is connected with the temple even though there are a few other noteworthy temples in the area. One can get to Guruvayoor by car or train from the town of Thrissur which is very close to Cochin. There are many flights connecting Cochin with all the big towns of India.

Lord Krishna in Guruvayoor is popularly called Sri Guruvayoorappan. Appan means lord or father so the title means the Lord of Guruvayoor. The small idol is made of the stone known as black antimony and is a magnetic stone said to have special medicinal properties. Every morning the Lord is anointed in til oil. He is then sprinkled with a special cleansing powder made of herbs known as “vaka”. This powder is light brown in colour and gives an added hue to the idol. Crowds go to the temple at 3 A.M in order to see this charming sight. Then water from the temple, consecrated with mantras is poured over the idol for his ritual bath. This holy water is then eagerly drunk by the devotees since it is said to contain a little of the miraculous properties of the stone of which the idol is made.

The history of the idol goes back to the hoary past to the age of Dwapara when Lord Krishna was alive. His parents were Vasudeva and Devaki. She was the sister of Kamsa, the cruel king of Mathura. They two of them had been great devotees of Lord Vishnu for many ages. After assiduously wooing him for many births, the Lord had manifested himself to them and promised that he would be born as their son for three lives in succession. He promised them liberation at the end of these three births. This was their last birth as Devaki and Vasudeva in the clan of the Yadavas in the city of Mathura and Krishna was born to them as their eighth son. The idol of Lord Vishnu which is found in Guruvayoor is one which had been worshipped by Devaki and Vasudeva and one can easily imagine that it must also have been worshipped by Lord Krishna himself. This is the greatness and glory of this particular idol of Lord Vishnu – that Vishnu himself had done puja to it in his incarnation as Krishna.

At the end of his earthly sojourn, Krishna prophesied to his friend and devotee, Uddhava that the island of Dwaraka, which had been his stronghold, would be swept away by the sea, seven days after he left his mortal body. He instructed him to rescue the precious idol of Vishnu which his parents had worshipped, and hand it over to Brihaspati, the guru of the gods who would come to him. After seven days, the island submerged in the sea as foretold by Lord Krishna. Uddhava went sadly to the seashore and saw the idol bobbing up and down on the waves far out in the sea. He begged the wind god – Vayu to bring it closer to him. The wind wafted it gently to the shore and Uddhava picked it up lovingly and cradled it in his arms. As he was wondering how to contact the guru of the gods, he found that Brihaspati himself was walking towards him. Uddhava told him the whole story of how Lord Krishna had instructed him and Brihaspati who knew everything agreed to take it and install it at some special place. He was sure that he would be given further instructions.

Now Brihaspati asked Vayu, the wind god to transport him through the air so that they could choose a perfect spot for the installation. Carrying the precious idol in his hands, Brihaspati was wafted across the sub-continent of India till they came almost to the sea shore to the spot where the present town of Guruvayoor now stands. Looking down Brihaspati saw a beautiful lake filled with lotuses on the banks of which Shiva and Parvati were dancing. He was charmed by the sight and he requested Vayu to float him down. For some time he stood spell-bound by the dancing couple. When they had finished he prostrated to them and begged Shiva to tell him of a perfect spot to install the idol of Vishnu. Shiva said that this was indeed the ideal place. He told him to build the temple right there at one end of the lake where he and Parvati had been dancing. He magnanimously said that he himself would take up residence at the other end of the lake which was known as Rudrathirta. The temple of Mammiyoor to which Shiva shifted still exists. However during the course of time the lake dried up little by little and now only the temple tank adjoining the Guruvayoor temple remains to tell the tale of this ancient lake. The word Guruvayoor has special connotations. It is made up of two words “guru” and “vayu”. Guru means preceptor and vayu is wind. The idol was installed by Brihaspati, the guru of the gods and Vayu, the god of wind and hence came to be known as Guru-vayoor! The word also has an esoteric meaning. It stands for the body of the human being which is the abode of wind. The five pranas or vital breaths are what sustain the body and make it function properly.

Guruvayur Mahatmyam-early legends of Guruvayur temple

Sri Narada purana mentions how Janamejaya was cured of leprosy by taking refuge under the feet of Guruvayuruppan. The Pandavas handed over the kingdom to their grandson Parikshit, and left for the forest to spend their last days. Parikshit died of the curse of a saint, who cursed that Parikshit will die of snake bite by Takshaka, the king of serpents. After the death of Parikshit he was succeeded by his son Janamejaya. Janamejaya conducted a sacrifice to destroy all the snakes of the world including Takshaka, who was the cause of his father’s death . Hundreds of thousands of snakes fell into the sacrificial fire and were killed, but the sacrifice was stopped by a Brahmin called Astika, before Takshaka was killed.

Since Janamejaya was responsible for the death of millions of snakes, he was afflicted with leprosy. He lost all hope of a cure. One day Sage Atreya (son of Atri) came before Janamejaya and told him to take refuge under the feet of Krishna at Guruvayoor. Atreya told him that in the temple at Guruvayur the effulgence of Sri Hari is at its best and Vishnu showers his blessings on all devotees. He immediately rushed there and spent the next ten months worshipping the lord at Guruvayur. At the end of ten months, he returned home hale and hearty and took the astrologer to task for making a false prediction. The astrologer told him that he would find the mark of a snakebite on his left leg. He had escaped death only because he was at that time in a temple where Anantha (the emperor of serpents) was present and Anantha was the brother to the Lord at Guruvayur where he had finished worshipping.

The king being convinced of the astrologer’s verdict decided to build a full-fledged temple at Guruvayur. In course of time, this temple came to be downgraded and reduced to poverty during the days when Kerala was ruled by the Perumals. The Perumal rulers were mostly Shaivites and did not extend their patronage to Vaishnavite shrines. The Shiva temple at Mammiyur received their patronage and with the shift of royal patronage, the worshippers also swung more to the Shiva temple. The Guruvayur temple was thus reduced to utmost poverty, without even means to light the temple lamp. However, one day, a holy man went to the Mammiyur temple for food and hospitality for the night. Though the temple was affluent, the temple authorities pretended they had nothing and scornfully directed him to the neighbouring Guruvayur temple knowing fully well that the temple was in destitute conditions. When the holy man entered the precincts of that temple, he was courteously received by a brahmin boy and sumptuously fed. The holy man was very much pleased and he pronounced a blessing. “I came here from Mammiyur temple, because they said there is nothing there,” he said.”They told me also that there is plenty here. Well hereafter it will be exactly like that!” It is said from that day, Mammiyur Siva temple began to decline, and the fortunes of Guruvayur Vishnu temple progressed from strength to strength.

Early history to 20th century

According to legend, the idol worshipped here is more than 5000 years old.[9] But there are no historical records to establish it. In 14th century, ‘Kokasandesam’ (a Tamil literary work), references to a place called Kuruvayur are made. As early as the 16th century (50 years after the Narayaneeyam was composed) 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, Tamil saints,whose time-line is not exactly fixed.

Mamankam was a very famous event at Thirunavaya, on the bank of Bharathappuzha. The war between the Zamorins and the Raja of Valluvanad of Thirunavaya in a way popularised Guruvayur temple. Due to the prolonged war people across the riverbank started preferring Guruvayur. Even the Zamorin become a devotee and thus his subjects followed him completely. The central shrine that we see today is said to have been rebuilt in 1638 AD. Vishwabali was performed later to propitiate all the spirits, good and bad. By the end of 16th century Guruvayur had become most popular pilgrimage centre in Kerala.[11] In 1716 AD, the Dutch raided Guruvayur. They looted treasures, gold of the flagstaff, and set fire to the Western Gopuram. It was later rebuilt in 1747 AD. In 1755 AD, the Dutch in war with the Zamorin destroyed Trikkunavay temple and the Brahmins fled from there. Later the Zamorin become the trustee of both Guruvayur and Trikkunavay, and also their Melkoyma (Sovereign protector)

The flagstaff was completely enclosed in gold in January 1952. The temple flag can also be seen in this pic

In 1766 AD, Hyder Ali of Mysore captured Kozhikkode (Calicut) and then Guruvayur. He fined 10,000 fanams (a form of currency) to spare the temple. This fine was paid, but due to insecurity, pilgrims receded , the supply of rice was stopped and the tenants stopped annual dues. 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 Utsavam (annual festival) 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.

The fire of 1970

On November 30, 1970, a massive fire broke out in the temple. It began from the western chuttambalam (circumambulatory temple) and raged all around for five hours, but the Sreekovil (sanctum-sanctorum), the Vigraha (main idol), sub-shrines of Ganapathy, Ayyappa, Bhagavathy and flagstaff remained unaffected. People from all walks of life, irrespective of age, caste and creed fought the fire to set a glorious example. Later, the temple was once again built to the glory of the Lord. This shocking incidence of fire took place on 29 November during the season of Ekadasi vilakku (Ekadasi lighting). On this day Vilakku was celebrated on a grand scale and all the lamps in the Vilakkumatam were lighted. After the (Seeveli) procession, the function came to an end and the gates of Gopuram were closed. Around 1.00 am, somebody in the immediate neighbourhood near the western chuttambalam saw a blaze from within the Temple. Roused by the news, the whole lot of people, irrespective of caste, colour or creed rushed to the Temple and joined in fighting the fire with water and sand. Later, the fire force units of Ponnani, Trichur and FACT arrived and started fighting the fire which seems to have started from the western Vilakkumatam. It was brought under control by 5.30 am. Seeing the uncontrollable fire, the authorities had already removed the valuables from the Sreekovil. The Ganapathy idol, Sastha idol and the main idol of Lord Guruvayurappan were shifted to the Koothambalam and then to a safer place, the residence of the Tantri. The fire gutted the whole of chuttambalam, the entire Vilakkumatam on the west, south and north sides. The Chuttambalam was only 3 yards off, but still the fierce fire did not touch even the dry flower garlands, which hung on the corner of the Sreekovil.

Two committees were formed to undertake the renovation work. One committee was headed by the Devaswom Minister, Government of Kerala and another technical committee to advice on the renovation work. It had eminent engineers, astrologers and the Tantri as the members.The foundation stone for the renovation was laid by Jagatguru of the Kanchi matha, Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamikal. After the great fire, the Vilakkumatam, for the first time, was lit on Vishu day,14 April 1973.

Location and transport

The temple is located about 30 km from Thrissur. The nearest railway station is at Guruvayur. Only Guruvayur-Chennai Egmore express train from Chennai via Thiruvananthapuram, Madurai and Tiruchirapalli runs up to this station. However, a regular passenger train service to Ernakulam via Thrissur is available. The nearest major railway station with better connectivity is at Thrissur. The nearest airport (75 km) is Cochin International Airport, at Nedumbassery near Kochi. Guruvayur is well connected from all major towns of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Various private and state government-owned bus companies operate regular services to this temple town.

Dress Code

Strict dress code exists for devotees who wish to enter the temple. Men are to wear Mundu around their waist, without any dress covering their chest. But it is allowed to cover the chest region with a small piece of cloth (Veshthi). Boys are allowed to wear shorts, but they are also prohibited from wearing a shirt. Girls and women are not supposed to wear any trouser like dresses or short skirts. Women are expected to wear Sari and young girls are to wear long skirt and blouses.Presently the dress code for women have been relaxed with Salwar Kameez/Churidar being allowed.[13] However most women who are strong believers still visit the temple wearing a Sari or traditional Kerala dresses. Unlike North India, in Kerala and other South Indian states Hindu women do not cover their heads in temples. In Kerala covering of head while worshiping is practised only by Christian and Muslim women. Like all other temples in India, footwear is strictly prohibited.

Posted May 26, 2011 by davis in Uncategorized

Vadakkunathan Temple   Leave a comment

Vadakkunnathan Temple ( Malayalam: വടക്കുന്നാഥ ക്ഷേത്രം ), also known as Thenkailasam and Vrishabhachalam, is an ancient Shiva temple located at the heart of Thrissur town. This temple is a classic example of the Kerala style of architecture and has formidable gopurams on all four sides and also a Koothambalam. Mural paintings that depict various episodes from the Mahabharata can be seen inside the temple.[1][2][3] The shrines and the Koothambalam display exquisite vignettes carved in wood. According to popular lore, the temple was built by Parasurama. The sprawling Thekkinkadu maidan, encircling the Vadakumnathan temple, is the main venue of the Thrissur Pooram.[1][2] The temple, along with the mural paintings, has been declared as a National Monument by the Union Government under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act.[4]

Temple Structure

Vadakkunnathan temple is surrounded by a massive stone wall enclosing an area of nearly 9 acres (36,000 m2). Inside this fortification, there are four gopurams each facing north, south, east and west directions. Apart from these four gopurams, there is a multi-shrined complex in the centre with three principal shrines dedicated to Shiva as Vadakkunnathan, Shankaranarayana and Rama. In the northern side, there is a circular structure with Lord Shiva facing west. Since facing the setting sun, he is in his angry form, as seen at Ettumanur. The figure of Parvati faces east and is just behind Shiva in the same shrine. These non facing installations denote the Ardhanariswara concept.The two-storied rectangular shrine of Sri Rama facing west is located in the south. Between these two srikovils stands a third one, circular and double-storied in shape, which is dedicated to Sankaranarayana and facing west. There are mukhamandapams in front of all the three central shrines.[5]

The temple is famous for the rarity of the temple murals; of which the Vasukishayana and Nrithanatha murals are of great importance and are worshipped daily.[6]The temple also has specified spots in the temple quadrangle at which the devotees can offer worship to Lord Shiva of Kasi, Lord Shiva of Rameswaram, Lord Chidambaranatha of Chidambaram, Lord Bharatha of Koodalmanikyam, Sree Kali of Kodungallur, Urakam Ammathiruvadi of Ammathiruvadi Temple, Veda Vyasa, Hanuman Swamy, and Nagaraja. Vadakkunnathan Temple also houses a museum of ancient wall paintings, wood carvings and art pieces of ancient times.[6]

Temple Architecture

Vadakkunnathan Temple is a 1,000 years old temple, built by Lord Parashurama, one of the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu. The statue of Shiva, which is not visible, is covered under a mount of ghee, formed by the daily abhishekam (ablution) with ghee over the years. A devotee looking into the sanctum can now see only a 16-foot-high (4.9 m) mount of ghee embellished with thirteen cascading crescents of gold and three serpent hoods at top. According to traditional belief, this represents the snow-clad Mount Kailash, the abode of Parvathy and Parameswara. This is the only temple without seeing Shivalinga.

It is said that the ghee offered here for centuries does not have any foul odor and it does not melt even during summer. Inside the Vadakkunnathan Temple is a multi-shrine complex called nalambalam or chuttamabalam in the center with three main shrines dedicated to Shiva or Vadakkunnathan, Shankaranarayana or Hari-Hara (a combined deity form of Shiva and Vishu), and Sri Rama. There is a circular structure in the northern side with the deity facing west. Parvati is seen facing east, just behind the idol of Shiva, in the same shrine.Located in the south is the two-storied shrine of Lord Rama facing west. The idol of Sankara-Narayana faces west and is placed between these two Sri Kovils (sanctum sanctorum). It is circular and double storied in shape. Mukhamandapams are found in front of all the three central

shrines. There is a shrine dedicated to Lord Vettekkaran (Shiva in a hunter form) within the nalambalam. The shrines of Lord Krishna, Vrishabha, Parasurama (sixth avatar of Maha Vishnu), Simhodara, Dharmasastha (Swamy Ayyappan) and Guru Adi Sankaracharya are located outside the nalambalam. Located on the verandah of the Nalambalam is a large white bullock Nandikeswara or Nandi bull.

The murals in the temple are known for its rarity and two of them – Vasukisayana and Nrithanatha – are even worshipped regularly. In the temple quadrangle, there are specified spots at which the devotees can offer their salutations to Lord Shiva of Kasi and Lord Chidambaranatha of Chidambaram, Lord of Shiva of Rameswaram, Sree Kali of Kodungallur, Urakam Ammathiruvadi, Lord Bharatha (Koodalmanickam) at Irinjalakuda, Sree Vyasa, Sree Hanuman and the serpent gods.[citation needed]

The temple theatre, known as koothambalam, has no parallel to cite anywhere else in the world. The four magnificent gateways called gopurams and the lofty masonry wall around the temple quadrangle are also imposing pieces of craftsmanship and skill. Ganapathi shrine is positioned facing the temple kitchen and offering of Appam (sweetened rice cake fried in ghee) to Mahaganapathy is one of the most important offerings at the temple. Propitiating Ganapathy here is believed to be a path to prosperity and wealth.

The devotees refer to elephants as Lord Ganesh’s incarnation. It has been the regular annual practice at the Vadakkunnathan Temple for the last 20 years to conduct a large-scale Ashta Dravya Maha Ganapathy Havana and Aanayoottu on the first day of the Karkidakom month of the malayalam calendar. Gajapooja also is conducted once every four years.[2]

Adi Shankara

Adi Shankara is believed to have been born to the Shivaguru-Aryamba couple of Kalady in answer to their prayers before Vadakkunnathan, as amsavatara of the Lord. Legend has it that Shiva appeared to both husband and wife in their dreams and offered them a choice. They could have either a mediocre son who would live a long life or an extraordinary son who would die early. Both Shivaguru and Aryamba chose the second option. In honour of Shiva, they named the son Adi Shankara.[7][8] According to legend, Adi Shankara attained videha mukti (“freedom from embodiment”) in Vadakkunnathan temple. One tradition, expounded by Keraliya Shankaravijaya, places his place of death as Vadakkunnathan temple in Thrissur, Kerala.[9]


Shiva here is more popularly known as Vadakkunnathan (Sanskrit Vrishabhachala -Tamil Vidaikunrunathan Vidai – Vrishabha, kunru – chala ). Apart from Lord Shiva, Sree Parvathy, Sree Ganapathi, Lord Sankaranarayana and Sree Rama are enshrined within the nalambalam of the temple. Lord Vettekkaran (Siva in a hunter form) was worshipped inside the nalambalam until 2005, but with a devaprasnam, it was taken back and gave a place at the south-west side of the temple facing east.

Temple Festivals

Vadakkunnathan Temple is famous for the Thrissur Pooram festival celebrated annually in the Malayalam month of Medam (April – May). One of the most colourful temple festivals of Kerala, Thrissur Pooram is a majestic event which combines the imposing elephant pomp with the furious playing of drums and cymbals. The fireworks at the occasion are fabulous sight.

Besides, there has been a regular annual practice at the temple to conduct Ashta Dravya Maha Ganapathy Havana and Aanayoottu (ceremonial feeding of elephants) on the 1st day of Karkadakam month of Malayalam calendar (July – August). Gajapooja is conducted once in four years. Maha Shivaratri is another major festival celebrated here with much religious importance.

Temple Timings

The temple opens daily at 03:00 AM and closes at 10:30 AM. The temple reopens at 04:00 PM and closes at 8.30 PM after ‘Trippuka’, the last rite for the day.[3] Non Hindus are not allowed entry into the temple.[3]

Posted May 22, 2011 by davis in Uncategorized

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Posted May 22, 2011 by davis in Uncategorized