On a cool Friday night we boarded the Kanyakumari Express from Bangalore to reach the holy town Guruvayur, a very popular pilgrimage centre of Kerala. Guruvayur is referred as the Bhooloka Vaikunta. The train left at 9.40 p.m. and reached Trissur at about 8.00 a.m the next morning. Immediately we got into the connecting train to Guruvayur, which was waiting there. The distance from Trissur to Guruvayur is just 29 kms.
Since we had already booked a room in Hotel Elite, we took an autorikshaw and headed towards the hotel in the East Nada, which was just 1 km away from the railway station. It was just walking distance, but since we were already tired we preferred to take an autorikshaw.
After refreshing ourselves, we went straight to the temple nada to join the long serpentine queue and stood there for more than an hour, listening to the soothing devotional songs. The Sanctum Santorum opened and the crowd thronged in. The queue moved slowly and we at last had God's darshan. The darshan was really breath-taking.
It was a pleasant experience to observe the crowd, consisting of women, mostly clad in the typical traditional Kerala sari with their oily hair knotted at the end, and men with the off white dhothis and the cute angavastra on their chest, some holding babies, all with a hymn of 'Guruvayurappa' and some with 'Narayana' on their lips, eagerly waiting to have a glimpse of Lord Guruvayurappan, standing before the array of burning wick lamps. The pilgrims were not only from Kerala, but from other nearby States also. Few men were doing angapradakshanam (circumambulation around the inner temple) which they probably must have prayed for healing their sickness. Some young parents were making their children play with kunnikuru ( Abrus precatorius ) kept in the big tray (uruli), which is believed to be good for their health. Kunnikuru are bright red seeds with black color at the end.
According to legends, the idol of Guruvayurappan worshipped here is more than 5000 years old. The idol is said to have been worshipped by Lord Brahma himself at Dwaraka and gifted to Vishnu in his Krishnavatharam. The holy city of Dwaraka was to be submerged in water following Lord Krishna's departure from the earth to His heavenly abode. At that time, 'Guru', the preceptor of the Devas and 'Vayu', Lord of the winds were entrusted with the job of finding an equally holy spot for the idol to be installed. Finally they entered Kerala and met Parasurama, legendary creator of Kerala, and chose the spot and hence it got the name as Guruvayur. With the blessings of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi, the idol was installed there.
After the darshan, we were very tired and got into the nearby hotel. We enjoyed the traditional puttu and kadala curry for our breakfast, at a very reasonable rate.
We walked around for sometime in the east nada and in the west nada. Then we bought some devotional song cassettes and the traditional metal lamps. We did not forget to buy our regular items of Banana chips, the Black halwa and the Kerala Papadam.
Then it was time for lunch. We were planning to get into a hotel for our lunch. By then I had become friendly with another lady a bit older than me. She told me that during our visit to the temple, at least once we must stand in the long queue for the prasadam lunch, which is given free. I had seen the people standing in the long queue at the building above the temple pond, and I had never thought of standing there, instead I preferred to lunch in a hotel. But when I knew the importance of taking the prasadam lunch, I managed to convince my daughters and decided to stand once in the queue. We stood there for about forty five minutes, reading the thought-provoking slokas written on the ceilings, before we finally had our lunch. When we finished our prasadam lunch, we felt nice. We were told that daily about 5000 people are served with prasadam lunch there.
We returned to our hotel room and took some good rest. Evening we attended the Deeparadhana pooja. Then we had our dinner in the nearby hotel and stood again in the queue for the 'Athazha seeveli' pooja. My younger daughter was eagerly looking forward to this pooja. Seeveli is a ceremonial procession with caparisoned elephants. During this pooja, the idol of Lord Guruvayoorappan is taken on the elephant by the poojari and go around the temple three times, in a processions led by people playing panchavadyams (an orchestra played with five instruments.) We too joined the Seeveli procession. We actually wanted to sit and watch the Krishnattam play outside the main temple, but we also wanted to see the early morning pooja, and hence cancelled the idea. Having satisfied ourselves by seeing three types of poojas and darshan of Guruvayurappan, in a single day, we returned to the hotel room, ready to fall into the bed.
The next day early morning we attended the 'Vaakacharthu'pooja also at 3 a.m. That early morning, the streets were thronging with people, after having their bath and leaving their wet and oily hair free, who were rushing to stand in the queue to see a glimpse of Baby Krishna. At that moment I was transformed into a different world where a moment with God and only love and compassion existed there, forgetting about everything else in the world. After the darshan, we moved towards the other deities of Lord Ayyappa, Lord Ganapathy, Lord Subrahmaniam, Lord Anjaneya and Sri Bhagavathi to have their darshans. When I took few moments to look around I recognized many of my fellow pilgrims whom I had seen the previous night.
Many parents were waiting there inside with their tiny tots for annaprasam, the first rice feeding ceremony of a child. We collected the prasadam from the prasadam counter. After spending few minutes there sitting and praying silently, we came out. Many young couples were waiting near the kalyana mandapams outside the temple in the east nada, for their term, to get married. Kerala Nair weddings take just three minutes. Guruvayur is the place for weddings and annaprasam.
Many hotels are there to meet every budget. Cochin is the nearest airport which is about 80 kms away.
From Trissur buses are there to Guruvayur every few minutes.
Since our return train was in the evening, we decided to spend our time in the nearby Chavakkad beach. It was just about 5 kms away from there, for which we took an autorikshaw. We also visited the nearby Punathoor kotta, where the elephants are lodged by the temple Dewasom. More than 50 elephants were housed there. It was awesome watching them eat their food, especially the arecanut leaves. First they pluck the leaves from the main leaf, and eat them. Then they break the main vein into small twigs to hold them comfortably in their trunks like carrot or radish, and eat. The mahouts were there to control them.
Some important tips to remember '
1. Slippers are not allowed inside the temple.
2. Gents have to remove their shirt while entering the temple.
3. Ladies can wear sari or churidhars. Jeans or pants are not allowed.
4. No mobile or camera are allowed inside.
5. Only Hindus are allowed inside.
More information is available here.