This was my first visit to the God’s own country. I have always wanted to visit the place for its lush greenery and backwaters. Though there are so many other tourists’ places to visit in Kerala, me and my friend wanted to visit Guruvayurappan and get His blessings. And so it was Guruvayur
It was an overnight journey and the moment we reached Palakkad, the scenery changed into lush green paddy fields lined up with coconut trees. The road was bumpy but my eyes were not tired as I wanted to see more of it. We did not get a direct bus to Guruvayur. We had our bus to and from Thrissur. Thrissur bus terminus was buzzing in the morning with adjacent markets and private buses plying their services to different places. There are buses to Guruvayur from Thrissur almost every 15 min. We hoped into one with empty seats and the conductor clad in shirt and dhoti/lungi/mundu gave our tickets and the driver in lungi started the bus. What a comfortable clothing everyone was in! As the bus moved more people got in and out of the bus with men in lungi or women in curly wet oil braided hair. Not sure if the driver was an auto driver before for that was how he drove the bus and in 30min we were in Guruvayur.
The whole city of Guruvayur is around the temple. The temple being the center of the city, there is east, west, south and north nada streets and a railway station. That is the entire city. But mind you it is huge temple, with huge lengthy streets around. We refreshed ourselves in a hotel and the chetta in the reception was kind enough to explain the darshan timings and other places in Guruvayur. Before visiting the Guruvayur temple, you must pay visit to the Lord Shiva at the Mammiyoor temple. Mammiyoor was said to be walkable from the temple and we kept on walking and walking for more than a kilometer to reach the temple. We ladies were in salwar but it is a must to wear saree here. While we were blinking as what to do, a chetta rented out lungi to us! So now we were also clad in lungi! Mammiyoor was the first of the many beautiful temples we saw. The generic style of the Kerala temples was this, the sanctum sanctorum has a very small entrance and only thin priests can go in and come out. There were no artificial lights and God was sitting among hundreds of oil lamp lit up. They do pooja and handover the prasada to you which is usually flowers and sandalwood paste; you have to extend your hand and they kind of drop it in your hand, not give it to you. The temples are tiled roofs and usually the walls of the temple have lamps which will completely be lit on occasions. The inside prahara usually has a shrine for God and Goddess, a small well, a side seating were people make garlands while someone grinds sandal wood paste and loads of coconuts and other pooja items. The outside prahara has other shrines and a must shrine for Lord Iyappa. After getting blessings and permission from the Lord we head towards Guruvayurappan. Legend says the visit to Guruvayur is incomplete without visiting Mamiyur Mahadevan temple.
Guruvayur temple was much bigger and much much crowded than I had imagined. There were number of shops lining on each side towards the entrance selling chips, God’ photo, Kerala handloom sarees, devotional CDs and much more. They no longer have strict dress code however I wish they had, for the saree cladded women and dhoti cladded men were looking so pretty. Men should not wear shirt which is common across all the temples. The queue was really really really lengthy. If you go with family it will easily take 2 to 3hrs. The temple is closed between 12pm to 4pm but I don’t think that stops from standing in the queue. There is a ladies queue which was like a boon to us. This queue is generally short and moves quickly. You need to enter the temple praharam and ask for the queue. In about 30 min, we were inside the shrine! Almost everyone was falling on me and such was the rush. The beautiful kochu kutty Krishnan was smiling at me from the sanctum sanctorum. The Lord was looking so divine and beautiful that I wanted to stand there for long but then the crowd was mad and we were pushed away. We were out of the shrine quickly and we wanted to watch the Siveli pooja. There was enough time and the eagerness to catch glimpse of Kochu kutty Krishnan was more that we stood in the queue again. Outside the prahara is the thoola baram where you can contribute things to the lord like banana, sugar, jaggery,etc. Usually kids are made to sit on one side of the balance and things are kept on the other side. Near the Kodi Maram or the Dhvaja Stambam is a pot kept with red colored seeds in it. It seems if you toss coin into it and ruffle the seeds you will become smart. Also near the hundi is a priest with miniatures in front of him like house, healthy body, baby etc. We can wish for what we want and offer something in the hundi. As the night fell there were classical dance shows arranged outside. It was time for the Siveli. Siveli is the procession of elephants within the temple with the Lord Krishna idol on top of one of the elephants. It is nice to watch the elephants being brought in and decked up for the procession amongst huge crowd. Though the temple closing time says 9.15pm, by the time Siveli got over it was 9.30pm and still there was a swell of crowd in the queue. It was not clear to get the temple prasadham. You need to get the token a day before or your hotel staff will help you to get one.
We also went to Punathoor kota which is the elephant camp. These are the elephants used to perform temple duties and they participate in the processions. Children will love this place to see so many elephants. However animal lovers will not like this place.
There are other temples in Guruvayur such as Parthasarathy temple, Venkatachalapathy temple and Chamundeshwari temple. There was a sign board right opposite our hotel which pointed to Venkatachalapathy temple however the lane was a small mud path with no one going there and we hesitated to enter in. We stopped an auto guy and asked him for a drop. He looked at us and said, “Nadakka iyallai?” Meaning, “You cannot walk?” We looked perplexed and said we don’t know where it is. He said it is close by near the railway station and left us. We decided to take the lane opposite the hotel and we were nadaking and nadaking and nadaking. The mud path went narrow and narrow and turned into slush and soon there was nothing!! We crossed the path and the other end of the road was closed! Wish they had done it the other side of the road to. The temple was not in vicinity still and we kept on nadaking! We crossed the railway station and there was the Venkatachalapathy temple tucked away in a silent corner! The temple was serene and extremely beautiful. The Lord Srinivasa was beautiful and the whole place was divine. Since there is no crowd we can spend time here peacefully. There was a big tank also adjacent to the temple. We had our darshan and then decided to go to Parthasarathy temple. It was almost closing time. The priest said it is around the corner and we rushed. Again we were nadaking and nadaking and nadaking! These people are too fit to walk everywhere I believe. The Parthasarathy temple had its own charm. The entire sanctum sanctorum was in the form of chariot and Parthasarathy was cutely smiling at us. It was closing time and we had to rush back. There was a better road from the railway station to these temples. But these temples are not close as it was told. We were under the impression that they are right across but no..
We vacated our room by noon to catch a glimpse of Thrissur Vadakunathar. This is the temple where the famous Thrissur pooram is usually held. By the time we reached the temple was not yet open. Right opposite Vadakunathar temple is the Paramekkavu temple. This one was right across and yes walk able!! It is a Bhagawathi temple and yes, visit to the temple is must. After getting blessings from Bhagawathi amman we headed to Vadakkunathar which is Lord Shiva. The temple from outside looked very small. But once we passed through the main entrance it was too huge for us to get lost. The temple has four big entrances of which two were closed. There was a specific way to pray the Lord mentioned near the entrance. But then there was too much of information for us to remember. It describes the order of shrines to visit. Probably only the localite will know the order. Within the inner praharam apart from the Vadakunnathar shrine, there are other shrines which you need to worship in order. And the outside prahara has numerous others. There are shrines for Vettaikaran, Murugar, Ganapathy, Gokula Krishna, Iyappa, Navagraha and also Adhi Shankara. The four corners of the temple have places marked with Shiva temples present in that direction. So you can stand in that place think of the Shiva temple present in that direction and pray. There are also some significantly important trees marked in few places. The temple had some serious nadaking to do and we were exhausted at the end of the day.
The place is divine and pure not just because of the temple but also the people. People were very friendly. The auto guys never duped us, very honest fair and they returned the right change. It got late in the night after the Guruvayur temple darshan and though the hotel was close by we decided to take a rick as the roads got deserted. There were no autos to be found at that time of the night and one auto man even though he had retired for the day came forward to drop us. The hotel staffs were always courteous in explaining us the various places around the city. And while we were leaving Thrissur, there were a bunch of people who made sure we knew the route to the bus stop road by road so that we don’t get kidnapped. They would have walked down to get us an auto but we insisted them to stay back. And so they managed to stop themselves with just, “jaakirdaaaitu poi varu kutty..” which meant, “careful and come back” or “take care”? Well English can never get the right sense of tone..