The Story of the Guruvayurappan Sri Krishna Temple at Guruvayurpur (Guruvayur)
This story is dedicated to all the Devotees of Lord Krishna.
I cannot claim this to be an authentic story. I am not an authority on the Vedas. I have taken information from various websites, synthesized it, and using the English language, come up with a story which I hope does justice to the legend of Lord Guruvayurappan.
I shall consider this project successful, if it appeals to the reader and lovingly reminds him or her of Lord Krishna and Lord Mahavishnu.
Thus benefitting both, the reader and myself.
While transforming the material on the topic into something of narrative and literary value, I have taken the liberty to inject considerable drama and emotion into it. At every instance or step, I have sat back and thought, ‘How must that character in that scene have felt?’ or ‘how must that scene have appeared to a person present there, witnessing it?’ etc.
I have done this in an attempt to get the reader more interested and involved in the story.
I have also done this because I enjoy doing it. Perhaps this enjoyment stems from a childish desire to exist during those exciting times of yore, to be able to witness those events as they occurred in real time, to be able to actually participate in those Krishna-leelas!
But since that is not possible, I can only imagine and fantasize about what must have happened then, and try to put my own ideas and interpretations on paper.
While doing the above however, I have tried my very best to adhere to the facts and I pray to Lord Mahavishnu that I have been successful in doing so.
Yes, this story has been written by me and yet I cannot claim any credit for the same.
Lord Krishna instilled in me the inspiration to come up with the idea of writing the story. Lord Krishna made available to me all the research material from the Internet, as and when I required it. Finally, Lord Krishna gave me the ability to convert that information into prose.
Thus, Lord Krishna is responsible for this product, from start to end. So if you have enjoyed the story, please remember our beloved, blue-complexioned, gorgeous Friend and thank Him for it.
If I am to be credited with anything at all, then it is for the mistakes and technical errors that I may have made while writing the story. I beg the Lord’s and His Devotees’ forgiveness for the same.
I also urge readers who come across such mistakes to let me know of the same so I can make the necessary corrections.
Some of these mistakes may be due to the fact that some of the events are described differently in different places. Also, some details in a particular situation are not given at all making it necessary for me to ‘fill in the gaps’ with data that appears the most logical and apt to that situation.
I have added a Glossary at the end of the story giving the meanings of the non-English words that I have used in the story (courtesy Wikipedia). The glossary does not include the meanings of words that are already explained in the story itself, and Names of Characters e.g. Lord Brahma etc. Please Google/ Wikipedia search them for information on the same.
For those readers who wish to download and read this story offline, I have uploaded this story in a pdf format. This contains the original (and better) formatting style. It can be downloaded from:
If the links go 'dead', please inform me and I shall upload it again.
This story may be copied, published, disseminated in any publication or on any website, on the single, cardinal condition that the reader should be requested to say a prayer to Lord Krishna to grant me His mercy.
Ask each reader to close his or her eyes, think of Lord Krishna and say, ‘Dear Lord Krishna, please grant Your mercy to the eternal muser.’
It’s as simple as that!
All Glories to Lord Krishna!
All Glories to Lord Mahavishnu!
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The Guruvayurappan Sri Krishna Temple is situated at Guruvayurpur or Guruvayur as it is known today. This town is located in the Thrissur district in the state of Kerala, India.
The presiding Deity of the Temple is Lord Mahavishnu appearing as a 4 feet tall Idol.
The Deity is supposed to represent the same form of Narayana that was revealed to Vasudeva and Devaki, when the Krishna avatar was born to them.
Lord Mahavishnu is depicted as a blue-complexioned Person with a radiant smile. His four graceful arms carry the conch Panchajanya, the discus Sudarshan Chakra, the mace Kaumodaki and a lotus. The swan-like neck of the Deity is adorned with His favourite Tulsi garland.
The story of the Deity is mentioned in the Guruvanapura-Mahatmya, a section of the Narada Purana.
The Story of the Guruvayurappan Sri Krishna Temple at Guruvayurpur (Guruvayur)
The day was a significant one of many, about 5000 years ago. King Janamejaya, descendent of the Kuru dynasty that ruled from Hastinapura, stood trembling in wrath at the news that he had just received from the Brahmin Utanka. The curse cast upon his father, the devout Maharaj Parikshit, had been fulfilled by a snake. Takshak, the King of Nagas had surreptitiously gained access to Maharaj Parikshit’s presence and bitten him, causing him to leave his mortal body. King Janamejaya had been consoled by the sages present that despite the seeming tragedy, all had gone well for his father; Maharaj Parikshit had gained the Supreme Abode of Lord Krishna, Vaikuntha Dham.
But that information had not brought him balm. Janamejaya seethed with revenge. Furthermore, he had heard how the snake Takshak had bribed the Brahmin Kashyap who possessed the antidote for the poison, into not providing the same.
Rage clouds one’s intellect and blinds him to the inescapability of the dealings of Destiny. He cursed the snake again in his mind and fumed, ‘That antidote could have saved my father.’ He reflected for a while and made his harsh decision.
King Janamejaya summoned his attendants and ordered them to make arrangements for a specific Mahayagna, a great sacrifice. The news sent a current of fear throughout the land. Even some of the priests who were asked to conduct the Yagna were appalled at the idea. For the Yagna that was asked of them was the nemesis of all snakes; the terrible Sarpayagna- snake sacrifice.
The King intended to unleash his fury on all of serpent-kind.
Within days, the Yagna was underway. The officiating priests, attired in somber black to symbolize the destructiveness of their endeavor, began chanting the mantras in equally somber voices. And with each name that was called, the serpent by that name was irrepressibly drawn from his abode and consumed by the hungry flames. Screams from the dying serpents rent the air as they fed the voracious appetite of the blazing fire, in their hundreds and thousands.
The guilty Takshak quivered in terror and wound himself more tightly around the legs of the throne of the God Indra, whose protection he had sought. But it was only a question of time, for the chanting of his name soon arose from the Earth below, swirled into the Darbar of the King of Gods like the grim hand of God of Death- Yama Himself, and began to drag Takshak down to his death, with the throne and Indra in tow!
Horrified at his own predicament, Indra leapt from his throne to safety and watched helplessly as Takshak plummeted down towards the sacrificial fire. Death, it appeared, had finally claimed the King of Nagas.
But that was not to be!
Takshak suddenly found his deadly descent halted; the result of a command from the Sage Astika, who was a guest at the Sacrifice below. King Janamejaya on his part was nonplussed as well, and more so, on being asked by the great sage to spare the life of Takshak and end the sacrifice. Sage Astika revealed that he was the son of Jaratkaru, the sister of the respected snake Vasuki. On their behalf, he sought to save the race of serpents, or what was left of it.
As per Vedic norms, the Host of the Sacrifice is supposed to generously compensate all the attending Brahmins and gift them as they pleased. Being a guest Brahmin at the Mahayagna, Sage Astika was now asking King Janamejaya to fulfill his request accordingly.
King Janamejaya’s mind was plunged into a dilemma. Here he was was on the very threshold of quenching his thirst for revenge, and yet protocol demanded that he could not turn down Sage Astika’s request. Finally it was the words of the author of the Vedas, the venerable Vyasadeva that quelled the King’s emotions. Prudence and protocol won, and Takshak was granted his wretched life! The sacrifice was ended and all the attending Brahmins were munificently compensated.
The tears and curses of the innocent however, do not go in vain. In his folly, King Janamejaya had slain an umpteen number of virtuous and faultless Nagas by way of the Yagna. Thousands of snake-wives were rendered widows and their children, orphans.
King Janamejaya incurred their ire.
Tragically for the King, the event took place on his wedding day, several months later. By the mere touch of his beautiful bride, the charming Jyotishmati of Avanti, Janamejaya suddenly found himself covered with festering sores, the worst form of leprosy. His body racked with pain and he writhed on his royal bed in anguish. The most renowned vaidyas and doctors were summoned and they tended to him day and night, while his wives wrung their hands in frustration and grief. Finally the medicine-men admitted their confounder at the nature and severity of his ailment, and confessed their inability to cure the King of his affliction.
The severity of the disease grew with time and a day came when King Janamejaya could tolerate it no more. One of the four unavoidable miseries that constitute an inseparable part of material life, Disease robs a man of his happiness, no matter how magnificent and opulent his position. Janamejaya’s disease had robbed him, not only of his happiness, but of his very will to live.
King Janamejaya decided to end his own life.
It was when the King lay on his bed one early morning, brooding and pondering on how he should perform that ignoble task, that the darkness surrounding him was suddenly replaced by a blinding light. He could feel, rather than see the presence of a personality of an extraordinary kind. There soon became visible to him, the form of a muni.
But this was no ordinary muni. His three faces shone with the knowledge of the Absolute. His six long arms bore the trishul, drum, chakra, conch shell, japa-mala and the kamandalu. He was none other than the author of the Avadhut Gita, the original Lord of mystic yoga, the plenary expansion of Lord Vishnu, Lord Dattatreya himself.
Despite his infirmity, King Janmejaya fell at his feet, for such a privileged darshan cannot be had by all. Besides, he realized that the Lord’s visit was no mere coincidence. With folded hands, he paid obeisance to the great Sage.
Lord Dattatreya regarded the hapless King with compassion. The King’s eyes gushed with tears of sorrow and they seemed to beg the Sage for a solution to his condition. No words were necessary, for the great Sage knew all that was in the past, present and the future.
Lord Dattatreya revealed to the hapless King the cause of his wretched condition and the latter covered his face in shame and grief. Placing a hand on the King’s shoulder consolingly, Lord Dattatreya reassured him that there was indeed, a way out of his misery.
The great Sage’s words were to the King, as the first rains are to the trees after the blazing hot summer. Lord Dattatreya continued that the King had sinned gravely, and for any sin, repentance was the key. Repentance felt and expressed from the heart, and in certain conditions, acts of repentance performed in the prescribed manner, could wash oneself of the worst sins.
But the King’s sin was by far no ordinary one, and would need an appropriately potent means of Prayashchitta or act of repentance. He was advised by the Sage to propitiate Lord Hari of Guruvayurpur for his redemption.
The King was intrigued. He had not come across this information earlier. He humbly requested the Sage to elaborate on it.
The Sage closed his eyes and intoned a prayer to the Supreme, for he was to deliberate on matters concerning that very same Person. Then he began to speak.
At the beginning of the Padma Kalpa (narrated Lord Dattatreya), a very worried Lord Brahma sat contemplating his task of creation. For some unknown reason, he found himself unable to begin his work.
At that time, he was suddenly blessed with the appearance of Narayana Himself. The Latter gave Lord Brahma, a fabulous Idol.
Lord Brahma accepted It reverently and tears of bhakti began to uncontrollably stream down the face of the Grandsire. For it was the wonderful form of Mahavishnu.
He beheld it in wonder. It was made of the sacred ‘Pathalanjana Sila’ and was exquisitely carved. The face was adorned with a bewitching smile and shone as if illuminated by a thousand lamps. It was as if Lord Mahavishnu Himself was resting on his palms. An overwhelming, divine stream of energy coursed through Lord Brahma’s body as he held It.
Lord Vishnu smiled and revealed to Lord Brahma that He Himself had worshipped the Idol in Vaikuntha Dham. The Idol was therefore doubly blessed. He advised Lord Brahma to worship the Deity.
Trembling with gratitude, Lord Brahma set the Idol in front of him and worshipped this form of Lord Mahavishnu with utmost sincerity. And lo! The inspiration and knowledge to create began to flow into him from the Idol in waves. Lord Brahma smiled with relief, raised his arms and singing the praises of Lord Hari, launched into his mission.
Thus by the Mercy of the Deity of Lord Mahavishnu, Lord Brahma was able to complete his task of creation.
Later, at the beginning of the Varaha kalpa, there lived a king named Sutepas. He was a just ruler and well-loved by his subjects. His wife was a chaste lady, named Prishni. The kingdom's coffers were full and there was no dearth of anything. The land was blessed with ample rain and as a result, the harvest of the land was bountiful. Everything was perfect, but for one drawback that constantly hovered overhead like a dark cloud, blotting out the sunshine in their lives.
The royal couple was childless.
The fact that there was no pitter-patter of tiny feet in their grand hallways, or the delighted shrieks of a child's laughter echoing in their vast chambers greatly depressed the Queen and her husband.
To beget a virtuous child is considered a blessing. So the good King Sutepas and his Queen Prishni undertook a deep penance to please Lord Brahma, for they were sure that he would grant them their wish.
Sometimes, even the seeking of a materialistic favour from a great Devotee of Lord Vishnu like Lord Brahma has its merits. For one, it grants us the mercy and association of that Devotee which is like nectar itself. And secondly, that merciful Devotee acts to further advance our progress towards Krishna.
Lord Brahma did precisely that, for King Sutepas and his wife.
King Sutepas and his wife Prishni suddenly became aware of the resplendent form of Lord Brahma. The Grandsire smiled at them for he was well aware of their predicament. But he allowed them to pay him their respects and submit their plea to him.
In response, Lord Brahma smiled again, for he was aware of the magnificent plan Lord Hari had in store for the young couple.
Lord Brahma held out his empty hands and uttered some prayers himself.
And lo! Much to the surprise of the young couple, there appeared in his hands, the shining Murti of Lord Mahavishnu. The same Deity, that Lord Brahma himself had reverently worshipped at the beginning of creation!
Of course, King Sutepas and his wife were not aware of the antecedents of that Deity, but they were held spellbound by its beauty. The couple was further puzzled, when Lord Brahma held the Idol out to them and indicated them to accept It. Although beside himself with excitement, King Sutepas was not without the knowledge of the rules governing religious rituals. He immediately bowed low to the Deity, chanted the necessary mantras, performed the purification rites and held open a clean, new cloth to receive the Idol.
Lord Brahma nodded in appreciation and gently placed the Deity in the waiting hands of King Sutepas. He informed them, that this great Deity had been worshipped by Lord Hari Himself, and was the solution to all that ailed them.
Lord Brahma advised them, ‘Take charge of this Deity and worship Him as you have never done before. Shower Him with your devotion and love. Offer unto Him your time, your deeds, your actions, your thoughts, your very selves. And in return, He will shower you with his Mercy.’
And so saying, Lord Brahma ascended his vahana, the swan and vanished into thin air, leaving in his wake, the soft but distinct chanting of the Samaveda.
King Sutepas and his wife were ecstatic. They summoned the royal priests and installed the Diety as per the Vedic rules. Then they began their ‘tapa’ or penance. Their worship of the Deity progressed with such enthusiasm and fervor, that its warmth and fragrance permeated skywards into the cosmos, breached its way into the Spiritual world and awakened an Entity that lay resting on His giant snake-bed; the blue-hued, staggeringly handsome, the Creator of Creators, Lord Mahavishnu.
His siesta now interrupted, Lord Mahavishnu opened His lotus shaped eyes and gazed inquiringly at the lovely Goddess Lakshmi, who sat by His feet, ever massaging them with her fair hands. She smiled radiantly at Him, nodding her acquiescence. Lord Mahavishnu smiled in return and vanished. If there is anything that can coerce the Lord of the Gods to act immediately, it is the plea for help from His sincere, beloved Devotee.
King Sutepas and his wife were rendered shell-shocked. For it is no easy feat to bear the Darshan of the Creator of the Universe. And whence they had sufficiently recovered from the same, or indeed been empowered by Lord Mahavishnu to do so, they collapsed at His feet. Torrents of tears of devotion streamed from the eyes of the couple and washed the lotus feet of the Lord; even as they found their own selves dangerously getting swept away by the emotional ecstasy of seeing the Lord in Person!
Desire of a son, or anything belonging to this world left their minds in an instant, for having got the Darshan of Narayana Himself, everything else pales in comparison! Having once achieved His Darshan, there is nothing in this world that remains to be achieved.
And yet they had a role to play in the destiny of that same world.
By the Mercy of Lord Mahavishnu, they were once more reminded of their desire for an offspring. Such are the leelas of Lord Hari, where everyone and everything has a role to play, for His own divine reasons, and for His own divine entertainment!
So thrice, one after the other, the King and Queen expressed their desire for a child.
And thrice, one after the other, the Lord replied, ‘Tathaastu! So Be It!’
The Lord then smiled benevolently at the couple, and not without a hint of mischief in His eyes.
‘You have won My heart with your worship. And therefore my dear children, your child shall be none other than I! I shall be your progeny!’
King Sutepas and his wife were reeling in ecstasy. They were being blessed beyond their wildest expectations. And then they observed that Lord Mahavishnu was looking back at them intently, a conspiratorial smile playing on His lips. The couple looked back at Him, not understanding.
The Lord brought their attention to the fact that they had made their request to Him not once, but thrice! And He had consented to each one, separately.
‘And therefore, My children, I shall appear as your child, not once, but thrice. In this life and two consecutive lives thereafter, you shall be man and wife. And I, your son! And each time, I shall do you proud!’
And so saying, He vanished, leaving the overwhelmed royal couple desperately struggling to come to terms with what they had just heard!
And so it came to be. Nine expectant months later, amidst the tumultuous sounds of the nagaras, cymbals and mridangas, the royal midwife and her attendants rushed into the chambers of King Sutepas and announced to him that he was now the father of a baby boy, whose face shone like the Sun itself! The King sprang to his feet, closed his eyes and offered a heartfelt prayer to Lord Mahavishnu. Then, unable to contain himself, he rushed to the labor room to see his wife and newborn child.
Prince Prishni grew up and gifted the sacrifice of ‘Brahmacharya’ to the world. He taught the world how, through celibacy, one can control the most irresistible instinct that binds a human being to the material world.
Thousands of years passed and as prophesized, Sutepas and Prishni took rebirth as the famous Sage Kashyapa and his wife Aditi, respectively. By divine design, they too came to possess the same Deity of Lord Mahavishnu and worshipped Him earnestly.
One of the most celebrated avatars of Lord Krishna, the dwarf-brahmana Vamana was born to them and it was He who humbled the mighty Bali, grandson of the great Vaishnava, Prahlad Maharaja.
And finally in Dvapara Yuga, the blessed Sutepas and Prishni took their most glorious rebirths as King Vasudeva and Queen Devaki respectively. They too received the same Deity by the grace of Sage Dhaumya, the Chief Priest to the Pandavas. To this couple was born as their eighth son, the Emperor of all Creation, in His original bluish-hued, lotus eyed, flute-bearing form, Lord Krishna Himself.
After relieving the burden of Mother Earth by killing the Demon King Kamsa, Lord Krishna established His kingdom in Dwarka.
Lord Krishna is the Supreme Controller, the Supreme Benefactor; He is subservient to none. Yet He too installed that same great Deity, Lord Mahavishnu in a Temple and worshipped Him.
One must try and understand why He did this.
Not all those who existed in that era recognized the true position of Lord Krishna, either due to their own prarabdha (Fate), or by the design of the Lord Himself. The Supreme Lord, even when He appears in Person, is known to and perceived by only His true Devotees.
But at the same time, for the benefit of the non and semi-devotees who cannot approach Him directly, Lord Krishna also establishes means for them to approach Him gradually, step-by-step. By worshipping the Deity of Lord Mahavishnu, He wished to set an example for such people, who by worshipping the same Deity, would ultimately find their path to Him.
The wheel of Kaala or Time continued to turn inexorably and the end of Dvapara Yuga slowly loomed upon the horizon. One such day, the attendants guarding the private chambers of Lord Krishna looked up in surprise. For they could have sworn that they had seen their King entering His chambers just moments ago, and yet here He was again, approaching them from the outside!
One could not fault them on this occasion however, for the handsome gentleman approaching them was none other than the cousin, devotee and friend of their Lord, Shriman Uddhava himself. The latter’s resemblance to their Lord was legendary, and often fooled even those who interacted with Lord Krishna on a daily basis.
Uddhava was no mere personality, for he was blessed with instruction on Bhakti and Yoga by the Lord Himself, the dialogue between them being venerated as the Uddhava Gita.
One of the attendants hurried inside to inform Lord Krishna of Shriman Uddhava’s arrival, and the King of Dwarka being very fond of his cousin, immediately welcomed the latter inside and embraced him.
Being instructed by Lord Krishna Himself, and being fully capable of adhering to that instruction, Uddhava was assured of gaining the Supreme Abode upon leaving his mortal body. But true Devotees rarely think of their own welfare. They are more concerned with the welfare, especially the spiritual welfare of the entire world, nay, the entire creation itself.
Uddhava’s furrowed brow was not lost upon the All-knowing Lord Krishna, but He smiled and waited for his cousin to speak. At length, Uddhava looked up at Lord Krishna and summed up his fears before Him.
‘Kaliyuga fast approaches my Lord, and it must as well, for it is part of Your Divine Plan. And it will also bring in its wake all the dangers characteristic of it.’
Uddhava suddenly leaned forward and grasped Lord Krishna’s hand.
‘But I fear for mankind, my Lord. Once You have left this world to return to Vaikuntha Dham, we shall be all alone. Amongst us, there are many good men. Men who have faith in religion, but are not spiritually advanced enough. They will be rendered unprotected, helpless against the ravages of Kaliyuga and its evils. These good men and their families will fall prey to the temptations of this Yuga and succumb to degradation. There will be chaos and abomination all around. Is there no way You can remain behind and protect us from the same?’
If there is anything that draws the attention of Lord Krishna, it is the plight of those who are pure at heart. And that is more so if His pure Devotee petitions their cause. In response to Uddhava’s request, Lord Krishna smiled and got up from His seat, beckoning Uddhava to follow Him. He led him into a room that appeared to be illuminated by a thousand lamps. Shielding his eyes, Uddhava slowly began to realize that the source of effulgence stemmed, not from any oil-lamp, but from the Deity installed in the altar at the far end of the room.
They walked towards It and Lord Krishna announced to his companion, ‘My dear Uddhava, behold this Blessed Deity in front of you! After I leave this planet, I shall suffuse this Idol with My own energy, I shall ingrain My very own Self into it. And I hereby declare to you, that worshipping this Deity will protect all those pure at heart, or seeking to be so, from the evils of Kaliyuga!’
Uddhava stood stunned, overjoyed at his Cousin’s revelation. Then Lord Krishna gently lifted the Idol from Its place and handed It to a very surprised Uddhava. Lord Krishna smiled and said, ‘My dear Uddhava, what you hold in your arms is none other than the God of Gods, Lord Mahavishnu Himself. This Idol was handed down to me through the ages and now I charge you with Its care…’
Uddhava looked at Lord Krishna, nonplussed. He could not comprehend the reason for His request. Lord Krishna saw his puzzled expression and continued, ‘Uddhava, I must reveal to you what is to happen in the next few days. This kingdom of Dwarka will be overrun by the ocean, it will be completely submerged. I want you to take this Deity and with the help of the Spiritual Master of the Gods- the Sage Brihaspati and the Wind God- Vayu, install It in a place equally sacred to this one.’
Uddhava’s mind was reeling with what he had just heard. But Krishna’s wish was his command, so he hurried out of the Palace holding the Idol of Lord Mahavishnu close to him, as if It was dearer to him than his own life!
Dwarka’s terrible fate was realized just a few days after Lord Krishna left the planet. One morning, a seemingly innocuous wave was seen off the seashore of Dwarka. In seconds it had grown in size and taken the form of a gigantic tsunami. Within minutes, it had enveloped the whole of the town of Dwarka. Wave after wave of sea water invaded the kingdom and within a couple of hours, all one could see was a seething expanse of water. There was no indication of an entire kingdom having ever existed there.
A somber man sat on the shores looking out at the ocean, utterly dejected. Tears of disappointment streamed down his face and fell to the ground along with the sea water still dripping from his clothes and hair. Uddhava’s eyes strained to pick up the Object he was assigned to protect, but without avail.
He had failed to preserve the Deity of Lord Mahavishnu.
He felt he had let down the whole of mankind.
Uddhava closed his eyes and prayed fervently to Lord Krishna for a way out. Then he prayed to the great Sage Brihaspati, the Guru of the demigods and Vayu, the God of wind for their help, for it was with their consultation that he was to choose a spot to reinstall the Deity.
Within seconds, Uddhava felt the wind pick up in its speed and rush past him towards the sea. The gale, now clearly visible, swirled above the waters in a spiral and formed an impressive tornado. Before his bewildered eyes, the twister soon assumed a human form which finally resolved into a handsome demigod, the God of Wind, Vayu.
Uddhava stood awestruck at the sight.
But Vayu was not alone! Beside the God of Wind, was a Sage whose face depicted venerability, his very presence causing Uddhava to bow low and deep in respect. The Sage was the Guru of the demigods, the Maharishi Brihaspati.
Hovering above the restless waters, they both smiled at and blessed Uddhava, but almost immediately turned their attention to the waters beneath them.
They had a mission to accomplish.
Their divine eyes scanned the surging waves below, looking for their Object of interest and lo! They could perceive the shining Idol bobbing between the waves. In a flash, Vayu had swooped into the waters, passed under It and emerged to the surface, reverently carrying the Deity on his own head.
On land, Uddhava jumped to his feet with a cry of ecstasy. ‘All hail!’ he cried, ‘All glories to Lord Mahavishnu! Glory to you all!’
There was hope yet for mankind!
With a smile and another blessing each for the magnanimous Uddhava, the sage Brihaspati and Vayu turned to face north and with the speed befitting the God of Wind, they disappeared from sight.
The divine duo scrounged every inch of land in the north but alas; they could not find a place equal to Dwarka in terms of sacredness.
Finally they turned and headed southwards. Within seconds, they had passed through the Palakkad gap and entered into the lush green tropical realm of another divine incarnation of Lord Krishna, Lord Parshurama.
And as if destined to be, they espied the heavily built, muscular form of the warrior-saint beckoning them from below.
They descended to earth and paid their respects to that individual who had taken upon himself to rid the earth of the Kshatriyas who had become arrogant and proud from their power and opulence.
Lord Parshurama revealed to them that he too was about to commence a journey of his own to Dwarka. At that given time, the subjects of his land were suffering from an epidemic of severe rheumatism and they had pleaded with Lord Parshurama to find a solution to their suffering. Narada Muni, the foremost Devotee of Lord Vishnu had been visiting Kerala at the time. That respected Vaishnava had advised Lord Parshurama to bring the Deity of Lord Mahavishnu from Dwarka and install the same in his land. The Muni had promised that by worshipping the Deity, his people would surely be rid of their ailment.
Lord Parshurama was delighted to learn that Vayu and Sage Brihaspati were carrying with them, that very same Deity, whose grace he sought for his people. ‘Please follow me, I know the perfect place for installing this Deity’, he said.
They travelled for a while and soon came upon a lake, which upon seeing, both the Sage Brihaspati and Vayu were rendered awestruck by the sight.
The lake was ablaze with lotuses of every size and color! Every blossom competed with its neighbor in beauty and fragrance. Their brilliant petals curved gracefully towards the heavens, as if offering themselves to Goddesses Laxmi Devi and Saraswati Devi as their ‘asana’ or divine seats.
The crystal-clear waters of the lake bespoke of a purity rivaling that of the waters at Gomukh, the origin of the Ganges in the Himalayas. They appeared to promise one relief and solace, not only from the heat of the most relentless summer, but in fact, from the scorching ill-effects of Kaliyuga itself.
The banks of the lake were adorned by equally beautiful trees, creepers and vines, bearing flowers and fruit, whose colors and heady scents seemed to take form, reach out to the visitors and intoxicate their senses. Multihued birds flitted from one branch to another singing their mellifluous songs, music to the ears! Squirrels, rabbits and other benign animals scampered around delightedly, adding to the ambience of joy and peace.
And yet despite this sensual buffet, there was also paradoxically apparent, the distinct, grave aura of Austerity and Detachment.
‘What is this place, my Lord,’ whispered the Sage to Lord Parshurama, ‘I have not witnessed such tranquility and sublime beauty even in Indraloka!’
Visibly enchanted as well, Vayu gazed around and nodded in agreement, ‘To me, this place seems to combine the sacredness of Vaikuntha Dham, the Abode of Lord Krishna and the Mount Kailash, where Lord Shankara dwells!’
Lord Parshurama smiled and replied, ‘You are right, this is no ordinary place. This place is sanctified by none other than Lord Shiva Himself. Long ago, Lord Shiva performed a very rigorous penance in the worship of Lord Mahavishnu. For years on end, submerged inside the waters of this very lake, Lord Shiva did the Latter’s namasmaran and in consequence, this holy place attained the name Rudrateertham.’
Lord Parshurama looked back into the distant past and continued, ‘Years later, there lived a King Pracheenabarbhis and his wife Suvarna, who bore him ten sons, who were known as the Prechethas. They journeyed to this very site in order to undertake the worship of Lord Mahavishnu. They wished to attain the status of Prajapathithwam or the King of all Kings. Sensing their presence and their desire, Lord Shiva appeared before them and revealed to them the Rudragitam, a hymn in praise of Lord Mahavishnu. He advised the Kings to chant the same with intense feeling and vigour. And indeed, they did so, submerged in the Rudrateertham, for 10,000 years. Needless to say, their wish was fulfilled…’
Lord Parshurama’s words were cut short by the sudden sound of gurgling water. All three turned to look at the centre of the lake, for it was from that place that the sound originated.
The placid waters of the lake began to part and before their very eyes, two stunningly beautiful forms arose to the surface.
The effulgence from their bodies penetrated the surroundings, bathing everyone and everything with an ethereal light. The small animals scampering around suddenly stood transfixed by the sight. The birds stopped singing and looked upon them with hushed awe, even the branches and leaves of the trees stood still in reverent silence.
The three individuals on the bank of the lake fell onto the ground in obeisance. For that is the first reaction of any jiva who witnesses Lord Shankara, the only God who exhibits the characteristics of both, the malignant Rudra and loving Shiva! The destroyer of the invincible asura city of Tripura, the drinker of the lethal poison ‘Halalal’ and the deliverer and protector of devotees like Markandeya!
And beside him, his lovely consort, the Goddess Parvati, whose legendary worship and feminine persistence won over the indomitable heart of Lord Shiva. And yet, also the one to take the terrible form of Shakti and hold the entire Universe to ransom, when angered by the killing of her son, Ganesha!
Lord Shiva blessed and welcomed the trio in his grave voice. ‘Yes, this is indeed the very place destined to house the Deity of the Supreme Lord Mahavishnu, who granted me His mercy years ago. I urge you, Munishwar Brihaspati and Vayu, to install Him at this sacred spot. Parvati and I shall move onto the bank of the lake opposite, to Mammiyur. It will be our privilege to do so.’
Lord Shiva continued with the benevolent smile so characteristic of him, ‘And because you both are involved in this fortunate task, this place shall henceforth be known by a combination of your names; Guru-vayu-rpur!’
Lord Shiva’s announcement was met with cries of ‘All Hail’ and showers of flowers and blessings from the denizens of the Heavens. Lord Parshuram, Sage Brihaspati and Vayu bent low with folded hands.
Vishwakarma, the architect to the Gods was assigned the task of building the Temple. It was a tremendously important project, for this was no ordinary Temple. Vishwakarma summoned all the divine skills at his disposal and applied himself to the task with his whole self. As a special consideration to the Sun God, the Temple was built in such a way that on the day of Vishu (Summer equinox), the Sun God could pay his obeisance to Lord Mahavishnu. His first rays on that day fall directly on the Lord's feet. The Idol was installed in the solar month of Kumbha. The ceremony was begun on the seventh asterism of Pooyam (Puozhya) and completed on the day of Anizham (Anuradha). The ceremony was supervised and blessed by Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati themselves.
As the Idol was once worshiped by Lord Mahavishnu Himself in Vaikuntha, Guruvayurpur became known as ‘Bhooloka Vaikuntha’ or the Abode of Lord Krishna on Earth. Worshipping this Deity has alleviated the suffering of millions of devotees since then. More importantly, worshipping Him has either sown the seed of, or nourished if already present, pure devotional love for that Supreme Being, that Cause of all Causes, that Fountainhead of Bliss, Lord Krishna…
Morning had gone on to become afternoon, evening and finally night. The oil-lamps had begun casting their soothing orange-yellow glow upon the Palace walls. But time stood still in the King’s bedroom. The room was enveloped in pin drop silence; even the air within it had been stilled with the profoundness and intensity of Lord Dattatreya’s sacred tale. And when the Lord had finished his narration, he found the King Janamejaya staring at him, unmoving, with folded hands, tears of ecstasy streaming down his leprosy-ravaged face.
After a considerable while, when the King found himself capable of speaking, he whispered, ‘O my Lord, your holy narrative is like balm to my tormented soul. I thank you a thousand times for relating it to me. I am indeed blessed a million times over to be able to hear it!’
Lord Dattatreya smiled and continued, ‘My King, your Prayaschitta or act of repentance is destined to be fulfilled at the blessed feet of Lord Mahavishnu at Guruvayurpur. Having done so, you will be free from the burden of sins that you have incurred from your Snake Sacrifice. Cleave, my dear King, cleave to the holy feet of Lord Mahavishnu and pray for His mercy, He will surely grant it to you!’
King Janamejaya stood abruptly, infused with new vigour. He fell at the feet of the Sage and said earnestly, ‘My Lord, You are my Saviour. I shall do as you say!’
Lord Dattatreya smiled and nodded in approval.
True to his word, the next morning, accompanied by Lord Dattatreya, the King left for Guruvayurpur clad in the simple garb of a mendicant.
They travelled to Guruvayurpur and took residence in a small hut near the Temple. For four months, under the expert guidance and supervision of Lord Dattatreya, King Janamejaya undertook severe penance and worship of Lord Mahavishnu. He spent hours in front of the Deity, chanting His holy name. Eating nothing but fruits and roots and then sometimes nothing at all, the King pursued his sadhana with rigid determination.
It is said that upon devotedly and constantly chanting the Name of Lord Hari, a time comes when the image of the Lord replaces every other thought in the Devotee’s mind. Every day, King Janamejaya awoke to the memory of the Lord, he ate, bathed, chanted, and went to sleep remembering Him. Indeed, there may have come a time when the King was so immersed in the contemplation of the Lord that his illness ceased to trouble him anymore!
But the sincere efforts of a Devotee in pleasing Lord Krishna never go unheeded.
One night, whilst asleep, the King experienced the sensation of soft lotus hands moving gently over his body. He woke up with a start, but in the darkness of the night, and drowsy as he was, the King was not able to ascertain anything.
King Janamejaya awoke next morning with a very queer sensation. For the past many months he had grown almost accustomed to the excruciating pain that rent his body on awakening from sleep. But this morning was different. Even before he opened his eyes, he was able to perceive the absolute absence of any kind of pain. He sat up with a start and gasped in surprise. His malady had completely disappeared. The painful sores, the purulent discharge, the deformities in his limbs, it was as if they had never existed!
King Janamejaya stood up slowly and looked up towards the heavens. Then he rushed into the Temple and fell at the lotus feet of Lord Mahavishnu. Tears of gratitude flowed from his eyes and threatened to drench his simple bark clothing. He was unable to speak and he could only intone the words ‘Thank you, my Lord’ over and over and over again.
King Janamejaya returned to his kingdom, blessed and healed by the mercy of the Lord Mahavishnu of Guruvayur.
King Janamejaya was not the first, nor was he the last. Lord Mahavishnu of Guruvayur has been the shelter and saviour of millions of devotees thereafter. It is said that He never disappoints those who are pure at heart and who seek his mercy.
Thus ends the legend of Lord Mahavishnu of Guruvayur, Lord Guruvayurappan.
All Glories to that benevolent Lord Mahavishnu of Guruvayur!
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Glossary (in alphabetical order):
Naga: King Cobra
Darshan: "Sight" in the sense of an instance of seeing or beholding
Leela: Stories of activities of God and his Devotees
Mantra: Sacred sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"
Mridanga: Type of percussion instrument
Muni: An ascetic who engages himself in devotion with silence
Nagara: Type of percussion instrument
Namasmaran: Chanting the holy Name of the Lord
Pathalanjana Sila: A sacred stone made of a material that is a type of black granite
Vaidya: Physician expert in the knowledge of Ayurveda
Yagna: Ritual of sacrifice (Monier-Williams gives the meanings "worship, prayer, praise; offering, oblation, sacrifice") derived from the practice of Vedic times. It is performed to please the gods or to attain certain wishes. An essential element is the sacrificial fire - the divine Agni - into which oblations are poured