Guruvayurappan, is a form of Vishnu worshipped mainly in Kerala. He is the presiding deity of Guruvayur Temple, being worshiped as Shri Krishna in his child form, also known as Guruvayur Unnikkannan. Even though the deity is in the form of chaturbahu (four handed) Vishnu,the deity is considered as the infant form of Lord Krishna. The deity represents the purna rupa (full manifestation) revealed by baby Krishna to his parents Vasudeva and Devaki immediately after his advent in Kamsa’s jail. The temple is located in the town of Guruvayur, Thrissur, Kerala, India, named after the deity himself.
The main story goes long back, since it is believed to have been constructed by Lord Vishnu himself. King Parikshit, the grandson of Arjuna and the son of Abhimanyu, died of a bite by the poisonous snake Takshaka, due to a curse which fell upon him. King Janamejaya, his son, wanted to avenge his father’s death by killing all the snakes, including Takshaka, and for that, he conducted a fierce yajna called ‘Sarpaahuti Yajna’ (Snake sacrifice). Thousands of innocent snakes died in the yajna fire, but Takshaka could not be killed because he had consumed amrit. Due to this act, Janamejaya was affected by the curse of snakes, and got affected by leprosy. He tried numerous ways to cure his disease, but none of them worked. He lost his hope to live. At that time, sage Atreya (the son of sage Atri) came to visit him and told him to worship Lord Mahavishnu in Guruvayur. He then also told the glory of the temple. It is as follows:
Long ago, when Lord Brahma, the Creator said that he and his creations want ‘mukthi’ without the bondage of ‘karma’, Lord Vishnu made an idol of himself and presented it to his friend. Lord Brahma worshipped the idol with deep obeisances for a long time and later, he gifted it to a sage named Sutapas and his wife Prsni, who were meditating upon Lord Vishnu for begetting a child. Sutapas and Prsni continued their prayer after getting the idol, and finally the Lord appeared before them. When they expressed their wish, which was that they want a son just like the Lord, he told that would himself be born as their son in three successive births, and in all the three births, they could worship his idol made by himself.
As he said, in the first birth, the Lord took birth as Prsnigarbha, the son of Sutapas and Prsni. In that birth, he prophesied the importance of brahmacharya and gave darshan to his devotee Dhruva, to whom he made a special universe called ‘Dhruvaloka’. When Sutapas and Prsni were reborn as Kashyapa and Aditi, the Lord took birth as their son Vamana. Finally, when they were reborn as Vasudeva and Devaki, the Lord took birth as their eighth son Krishna. In all the three births, they had the fortune to worship the holy idol of Lord Vishnu made by the Lord himself.
One day Lord Krishna took the idol worshipped by his parents to Dwarka, his new abode. He built a temple for the idol here, and daily worshipped the idol with deep obeisance, despite being an avatar of Lord Vishnu himself.
Now it was time for the Lord to return to his original abode. Before leaving to Vaikuntha, he called his friend and disciple Uddhava and told that Dwarka would be affected by a serious Tsunami a week later, and the lone non-natural survivor of the flood will be the divine idol worshipped by his parents in three births. He also advised him to hand over the idol to Brihaspati, the Guru of Devas who would come at that moment, and leave to Badrikashram for doing penance for the rest of the lifetime.
As the Lord prophesied, there came a huge Tsunami on the week followed. Dwarka, which was filled by beautiful palaces, gardens and lush greenery, was completely destroyed in the Tsunami. Only the top of a huge mountain survived. Uddhava had already left to Badrikashram for doing penance, and before leaving, he called Brihaspati and informed him about the idol. By the time Brihaspati reached Dwarka, everything was over. But soon, he saw the holy idol of Lord Vishnu floating on the seawater. Brihaspati was overjoyed, but he could not go near the idol due to the nature of the Tsunami and also it was floating towards the other side. Then he called Vayu, the wind god and one among his important disciples. Vayu, with the help of Varuna, the sea god, created huge waves towards the point where Brihaspati was standing. Brihaspati took the idol in his hands, but he was not sure of where to install the idol. Suddenly, sage Parashurama appeared there and told them to install the idol in an apt location in Bhargava Kshetra, the land made by him with his axe.
According to the wishes of the Sage, Brihaspati and Vayu took the idol on their hands, and travelled by sky southwards to find an apt location in Bhargava Kshetra. Suddenly, they saw a large, beautiful lake on the western side of Bhargava Kshetra, very close to the sea. Nearby, there was lush greenery,birds chirped allover,animals roaming around, breeze spread everywhere. Brihaspati and Vayu realized something divine there. No sooner, they saw Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati dancing on the lake shore. Brihaspati and Vayu landed on the ground and prostrated before the divine parents of the world. Lord Shiva told them that he was waiting for their arrival, and that the apt location for installing the idol of Lord Vishnu was none other the place where they were standing. Lord Shiva then declared that since the idol is to be installed by Brihaspati (the Guru) and Vayu, the place will be called as ‘Guruvayur’, and devotees will find solace from the troubles of Kali Yuga.
After hearing this, Brihaspati called Vishwakarma, the divine architect and told him to construct a temple for the deity. Vishwakarma constructed the temple within minutes. Brihaspati and Vayu installed the idol with all necessary rituals. Lord Shiva performed the first pooja to the deity. Demigods headed by Indra showered flowers. Sage Narada sang songs. Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, who were present throughout the divine moment, later shifted themselves to Mammiyur, a place on the opposite bank of the lake, where they appeared as a Swayambhu Linga along with their children Ganesha, Kartikeya and Shasta. It is believed that Lord Vishnu resides here with his full power as in Vaikuntha, and thus the place is called ‘Bhuloka Vaikuntha’. A darshan here is considered to be complete only by worshipping Lord Shiva in Mammiyur.
After the recital, Janamejaya proceeded to Guruvayur along with his family, and stayed there for a year. During these days, he worshipped the Lord with deep obeisances and also visited Mammiyur temple to worship Lord Shiva. Finally, on the day before the end of his worship, he had a darshan of Lord Krishna, after which his disease was cured. He returned to his country, and lived happily thereafter.
Shopkeeper and boy: Once, a poor boy could not get even a morsel of food to appease his hunger, and stole a banana from a nearby fruit shop. Being a devotee of Lord Guruvayurappan, he dropped half the banana into the ‘hundi’ and he ate the other half. The shop-keeper caught hold of the boy and accused him of the theft. The boy admitted his guilt. The shop-keeper did not have the heart to punish this innocent boy, but to teach him a lesson, he ordered him to walk around the temple a certain number of times. The shop-keeper was aghast when he saw Lord Guruvayurappan follow the little boy around the temple. That night the Lord came to the shopkeeper in a dream and explained, “Since I have also had a share in the stolen banana, I am bound to share the punishment, too. So, I followed the boy around the temple.”
Nenmini Unni: Once a Nenmini Namboodiri, the main priest (melsanthi) at the Guruvayur temple, instructed his twelve-year-old son to offer the Nivedyam to the Lord. There was no assistant priest (keezhsanthi) on that day and the Nenmini Namboodiri had to go out on an urgent engagement, as called by a devotee. The son, Unni, offered a Nivedyam of cooked rice to the Lord; in his simplicity, he believed that the deity would eat the food, but the deity did not move. Unni bought some salted mangoes and curd from a neighborhood vendor, thinking that the Lord would prefer this, mixed the curd with rice and offered it again. The deity again remained unmoved. Unni cajoled, requested, coaxed and in the end threatened, but the deity remained unmoved. He wept because he believed he had failed and shouted at the Lord, exclaiming that his father would beat him. The Lord could not bear it anymore, and made the Nivedyam disappear. The boy left the temple satisfied. Unni did not know that the Nivedyam offered to the Lord was the Variyar’s prerequisite. When Variyar returned to the temple, he saw the empty plate and became very angry with Unni, but Unni insisted that God had, in fact, eaten the offering. Unni’s innocent words made Variyar furious, as he believed the boy had eaten the offering himself and was lying. His father was about to beat Unni, but just then an Asareeri (celestial voice) was heard saying, “What Unni told is right. I am guilty. Unni is innocent. I ate all the food that he had offered me. There’s no need to punish him”. Nenmini family still resides in Guruvayur.
Shripad S.R (Age: 10 Years)