6 March'07 :
I reached Guruvayoor (around 25 kms from Trichur) around 8.00 pm. Enroute you pass the Westfort Hospital and three colossal car showrooms of Toyota, General Motors & Ford & then the Amala Medical College & Hospital. As you enter Guruvayoor you find the town brightly illuminated with strings & necklaces of colour bulbs. You see the Town Municipal Building and the Public Library & Reading Room also similarly lighted. The temple town is celebrating the 10 day Annual "Ulsavam" or festival which commenced on 28 February & will conclude on 9th March. The entire approach corridor to the temple is beautifully decorated with multi coloured paper on the ceiling.
I first went to Koustubam Guest House belonging to the devasthanam (temple) and checked into an A/c room.The room was simple and neat with attached bath but no towels or soap are provided.The tariff is unbelievably low at Rs.500/-. There are two other devasthanam guest houses- Panchajanyam & Srivalsam where you can seek accomodation. I had already mentioned in my blog written in Jan'07 that Krishna Residency is recommended for those who look for multi star comfort. Other good hotels are Vysakh, Supreme & Elite where room tariffs range from Rs.800-1500.
I quickly have a wash, change to my white veshti, remove my shirt & vest, apply chandanam & vibhuti to my forehead and proceed through the long corridor towards the temple. The crowd is relatively thin and there were no long queues as you normally find inspite of the local ulsavam celebrations. On the left I see the auditorium(covered at the top ,open on the sides) where a dance performance was in progress and a small crowd witnessing the same. There are no chairs and people squat on the auditoium floor . Then I enter the temple through an electronic scanner. Cameras, mobile phones etc are not permitted into the temple.
I enter comfortably and can straightaway see Guruvayoorappan gloriously seated in his brightly lit shrine and pay obeisance from near the dwaja sthambam- a tall impressive brass structure. Entry to the inner sanctum (antara haara) is closed as it was time for Seeveli. After praying I go around the temple passing the Thula Bharam counter,Koothambalam, Ayyappan Sannithi, cooking area, money counting room, Anna Prasanam booking counter,the Seevelipura, the prasadam counters, then the Bhagavati Sannithi from where you pray to Mammiyoorappan (no visit to Guruvayoor is considered complete unless you visit Mammiyoor temple) and finally back to the entrance. A new and more spacious enclosure has been built for Thulabharam which is yet to be inaugurated. Meanwhile the crowd density had increased as time for Seeveli was drawing near. It was delightful to see so many ladies elegantly and traditionally dressed in "mundu nerithu" & girls in "pavadai chattai" and their well oiled flowing hair tied simply with a rubber band or coloured ribbon
Cooking was in progress for the next days lunch offering for devotees. Cooking of massive quantites of Nellu was in progress in several large "charakkus" (large circular brass vessels traditionally used in Kerala temples) placed on a simple fire place heated by wood. Other teams of volunteers were busy chopping huge quantities of chakkai and elavan/matthan. The speed and expertise with which this was being done was amazing. When I enquired I was told the menu for next day was "kanji & puzhukku".
There is only a solitary elephant that day for the seeveli (also known as sree bali). The utsava murthy is taken around the temple 3 times atop the elephant, a tusker. Preceding the elephant is the priest sprinkling holy water followed by two assitants one carring a vilakku and another carrying balls of cooked rice which is dropped at the bali peethams. After sreeveli the temple is closed for the night. As I exited from the rear entrance I saw the rest of the tuskers (five of them) suitably chained and quietly and patiently chewing on & enjoying a meal of palm leaves stacked in front of them.
I was back again next morning to have a darshan at 4.30 am. This time the passage to the agathe balivattom is open and chanting "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare" you pray to Guruvayoorappan. After this you go around the Vinayakar Sannithi and then visit the sculpture of Vishnu in Ananthasayanam pose. You collect prasadam from a counter by offerring money. The outer walls of the temple carry beautiful murals reasonably well preserved. The crowd is considerably thinner and the priests do not rush you and I get a peaceful darshan. There were a few devotees doing anga pradarshanam in the outer prakaram. Others were queueing up for Thulabharam where you weigh yourself in a balance against various items like vegetables,bananas,rice,sugar,oil,coins etc. and the same is then given as offerring to the lord. There were also some couples performing Annaprasanam for their children. The solitary tusker was lying down on its side in the seevelipura and was being given a thorough scrubbing by its keeper and hosed down with water probably in preparation for some morning ceremoney which was to follow.