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God of Preservation
God of Guruvayur
Sanskrit transliterationGuruvāyūrappan
Sanskrit, Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, Gujaratiगुरु वायूर अप्पन, ഗുരുവായൂരപ്പന്‍, குருவாயூரப்பன், ಗುರುವಾಯೂರಪ್ಪ, गुरुवायूरप्पन, ગુરુવાયુરપ્પં
AffiliationVaishnavism, Krishnaism
MantraOm Namo Narayanaya
WeaponSudarshana Chakra, Panchajanya, Kaumodaki
SymbolPadma (Vishnu)

Guruvayurappan (Malayalam: ഗുരുവായൂരപ്പന്‍; guruvāyūrappan) (lit. Lord / Father of Guruvayoor) also rendered as Guruvayoorappan, is a form of Vishnu worshipped mainly in Kerala, India. He is the presiding deity of the Guruvayur Temple,[1] who is worshipped as Krishna in his child form, also known as Guruvayur Unnikkannan (lit.'Little Krishna' of Guruvayoor). The temple is located in the town of Guruvayur, Thrissur, Kerala, which is named after the deity.

Even though the deity is that of chaturbahu (four-handed) Vishnu, the sankalpam (concept) of the worshipers is that the deity is the infant form of 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. Hence, the deity represents both Krishna and Vishnu.


The word Guruvayurappan (meaning 'Father / Lord of Guruvayur') originates from the amalgamation of the two words: Guru (ഗുരു) referring to Brihaspati, the Guru (Teacher of Devas); Vayu (വായു) (God of winds); and Appan (അപ്പന്‍), meaning 'father' or 'lord' in Malayalam and Tamil.

Guru and Vayu brought the presiding idol of the deity Krishna to present-day Guruvayur. The name Guruvayurappan was given to the deity.[2][3]


It is believed that the idol of Guruvayurappan was worshipped by Vasudeva and Devaki, the parents of Krishna, and represents the full manifestation of Vishnu, and was worshipped by Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu. The deity is made of a stone called Patala Anjanam ('black bismuth'), and is in the standing pose with four arms, carrying the Panchajanya (shanku or conch), the Sudarshana Chakra (chakra or disc), the Kaumodaki (gada or mace) and padma (lotus).[4][better source needed]

Mythological origin

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Sri Guruvaayoorappan Temple in Morganville, New Jersey, United States
Sree Guruvayurappan Temple, Salem

Though the main story about the idol starts with the story of Krishna, it is regarded to be older in regional tradition, since it is believed to have been constructed by Vishnu himself. The story is told in detail in the section 'Gurupavanapura Mahatmyam', from the Narada Purana.[5]

Chapter of Vishnu

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 had fallen upon him. King Janamejaya, his son, wanted to avenge his father's death by killing all snakes, including Takshaka. He conducted a vigorous yajna called the Sarpahuti Yajna ('snake sacrifice'). Thousands of innocent snakes died in the yajna fire, but Takshaka could not be killed because he had consumed amrita, the nectar of immortality. Due to this act, Janamejaya was affected by the curse of snakes, and contracted incurable leprosy. At that time, the sage Atreya (the son of sage Atri) visited and told him to worship Vishnu in Guruvayur. He also told of the glory of the temple:

Long ago, in the beginning of Padma Kalpa,[a] when Brahma was undergoing his work of creation, Vishnu appeared before him. When the creator deity[b] said that he and his creations wanted mukti (liberation) without the bondage of karma, Vishnu made an idol of himself and presented it to his friend. Brahma worshipped the idol with deep obeisance for a long time, and in the Varaha Kalpa, he gifted it to a sage named Sutapas and his wife Prashni, who were meditating upon Vishnu for begetting a child. Sutapas and Prashni continued their prayer after getting the idol, and finally Vishnu appeared before them. When they expressed their wish—that they wanted a son just like Vishnu—he told them that he would himself be born as their son in three successive births, and in all the three births, they could worship his idol.

Chapter of Krishna

The first birth occurred in the Satya Yuga, when Vishnu took form as Prsnigarbha, the son of Sutapas and Prashni. In this birth, he prophesied the importance of brahmacharya and offered darshana (a divine view of his form) to his devotee Dhruva, to whom he made a realm called Dhruvaloka. In the Treta Yuga, when Sutapas and Prashni were reborn as Kashyapa and Aditi, Vishnu was born as their son Vamana. Finally, in the Dvapara Yuga, when they were reborn as Vasudeva and Devaki, Vishnu was born as their eighth son, Krishna. In all the three births, they had the fortune to worship the holy idol of Vishnu made by Vishnu himself.

After returning from his studies, Krishna took the idol worshipped by his parents to Dvaraka, his new abode. He built a temple for the idol here, and daily worshipped the idol with deep veneration (despite himself being an avatar of Vishnu). Finally, the Dvapara Yuga came to an end. Now, it was time for Vishnu to return to his Vaikuntha, his original abode. Before leaving, he told his friend and disciple Uddhava that Dvaraka would suffer a deluge in a week, and the lone non-natural survivor of the flood would be the divine idol worshipped by his parents in his three births. He advised Uddhava to hand over the idol to Brihaspati, the Guru of the Devas, and leave for Badrikashram to perform a penance for the rest of his life.

As Vishnu had prophesied, a huge deluge destroyed Dvaraka. Only the top of a huge mountain survived. Uddhava had sent a message to Brihaspati about the idol and left for Badrikashram. When Brihaspati reached Dvaraka, he saw the holy idol of Vishnu floating upon the seawater, but could not reach it. He called upon Vayu, the wind god and one among his important disciples. Vayu, with the help of Varuna, the sea god, created huge waves to wash the idol towards Brihaspati, who took it. Suddenly, the sage Parashurama appeared, and told them to install the idol in an appropriate location in Bhargava Kshetra,[c] the land he had created with his axe.

According to the wishes of the sage, Brihaspati and Vayu took the idol on their hands, and travelled southwards through the sky to find an appropriate location in the Bhargava Kshetra. On the western side of Bhargava Kshetra, very close to the sea, they saw a large, beautiful lake surrounded by lush, idyllic greenery. Brihaspati and Vayu realised that there was something divine about this place. They saw Shiva and his consort Parvati dancing on the lake shore. Brihaspati and Vayu landed on the ground and prostrated before the divine couple. Shiva told them that he had been waiting for their arrival, and that the perfect spot for installing the idol of Vishnu was none other the place that they were standing.[d] Shiva then declared that since the idol would be installed by Brihaspati the Guru and Vayu, the place would be called 'Guruvayur', and the devotees would find solace here from the troubles of the Kali Yuga.

After hearing this, Brihaspati called Vishvakarma, the divine architect, and told him to construct a temple for the deity. Vishvakarma constructed the temple within minutes, with all the necessary components. Brihaspati and Vayu installed the idol with all necessary rituals. Shiva performed the first pooja to the deity. Demigods, headed by Indra, showered flowers. The sage Narada sang a number of songs.[e] Since the idol had been installed by Brihaspati and Vayu, the place came to be known as 'Guruvayur', and the deity came to be known as 'Guruvayurappan', meaning, the 'God of Guruvayur'. Vishnu was considered to reside here with his full power, as in Vaikuntha, and thus the place was also called 'Bhuloka Vaikuntha'.

After hearing this story, Janamejaya proceeded to Guruvayur along with his family, and stayed there for a year. During these days, he worshipped Vishnu with much devotion, and also visited the Mammiyur temple to worship Shiva. Finally, on the day before the end of his worship, he had a darshana of Krishna, after which his disease was cured.

Guruvayoor temple

Regional myths

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King and the cobra

An astrologer told a Pandya King that he was destined to die from a cobra bite on a particular day. He was advised to go and pray before Guruvayurappan. The king spent years in meditation and prayer at the feet of the deity. One day, the King realized that the time of his death had passed. He came back to his palace and asked the astrologer why the prediction was wrong. The wise man showed him the mark on his left foot where the cobra had bitten him. Since the king was wholly absorbed in God, Who alone can dispense with fate, he did not feel the sting. In gratitude, the King built the temple at Guruvayur and set apart funds for the daily routine of the temple.

Most of the current temple building dates to the 16th and 17th centuries, although devotees funded extensions and additions later. The deepastamba (column of lights) was erected in 1836 by a devotee from Thiruvananthapuram. The temple has gopurams in the east and the west. The eastern gopuram has an inscription which refers to the town as "Gurupavanapura". The western gopuram was built in 1747.[6][5]


King Manaveda and Vilwamangalam

King Manaveda told Vilwamangalam about his ambition to view Krishna.[7][8] The next day, the Swamiyar told him that Guruvayurappan has given his consent—Manavedan was permitted to see (but not touch) Guruvayurappan playing in the early hours of the morning at the platform of the Elanji tree. But, when Manavedan saw Guruvayurappan in the form of little child Krishna, he was so excited that he forgot himself and rushed to embrace little Krishna. Guruvayoorappan immediately disappeared saying, "Vilwamangalam did not tell me that this will happen". However, Manavedan got one peacock feather from the headgear of Bhagavan Krishna.

The peacock feather was incorporated in the headgear for the character of Krishna in the dance drama Krishnanattam, based on his[whose?] own text Krishnageethi.[9] It was performed near the sanctum sanctorum of the Guruvayur Temple. On the ninth day, one play (Avatharam) of the drama was repeated, as the Samoothiri felt that it was not auspicious to end the series with the demise of Krishna. The blessed art form is still maintained by Guruvayur Devaswom and staged as an offering by devotees.

Shopkeeper and boy

Once, a poor, hungry boy 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 shopkeeper caught hold of the boy and accused him of the theft. The boy admitted his guilt. The shopkeeper 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 shopkeeper was aghast when he saw Lord Guruvayurappan follow the little boy around the temple. That night, God 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."[10]

Nenmini Unni

Once, a Nenmini Namboodiri, the main priest (melsanthi) at the Guruvayur Temple, instructed his twelve-year-old son, Unni, to offer the nivadyam to God. There was no assistant priest (keezhsanthi) on that day and the Nenmini Namboodiri had to go out on an emergency. The son offered a nivedyam of cooked rice to God; 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 God 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 God, exclaiming that his father would beat him. God 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 God was the Variyar's prerequisite. When Variyar returned to the temple, he saw the empty plate and became angry with Unni. Unni insisted that God had eaten the offering, but his 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".[11]

Nenmini family is still lives in Guruvayur, and is wealthy. It also sponsors the Saptami (7th day) Vilakku during the annual Ekadasi festival in the Malayalam month of Vrischikam.

Statue of Poonthanam Namboothiri, Guruvayur

Poonthanam and Melpathur

Poonthanam was a contemporary of Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri, another famous poet associated with Guruvayur. Melpathur, the author of the Sanskrit work Narayaneeyam, was a famed scholar who out of pride refused Poonthanam's request to read his Jnanappana, a work in Malayalam.[12] Legend has it that Guruvayurappan, impressed by Poonthanam's humility and devotion, preferred his works to those of Bhattathiri's, and once even rebuked Bhattathiri for ignoring Poonthanam's Santhanagopala Paana, saying he preferred Poonthanam's genuine bhakti to Bhattathiri's vibhakti.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Kalpa is a time period in Hinduism. There are 14 Kalpas, which are divided into 14 Manvantaras, which are themselves divided into 71 Chaturyugas each. It is believed that a Kalpa is one day for Lord Brahma, who is the Creator god in the Hindu mythology.
  2. ^ According to Hindu mythology, Lord Brahma is one among the Trimurtis, along with Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, though worshipped rarely. He undergoes the job of creating the universe, while Lord Vishnu preserves it and Lord Shiva destroys it.
  3. ^ Bhargava means the descendant of Bhrigu. Sage Parashurama, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, was a descendant of sage Bhrigu, and thus he was called Bhargava or Bhargava Rama (The latter being told to differentiate him from Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who was called Raghava and Raghurama being the descendant of King Raghu. Bhargava Kshetra is considered to be the land between Kanyakumari in the south and Gokarna in the north, which mainly includes the present-day Kerala, but now also includes parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka states too.
  4. ^ He also said this location was where the ten princes called Prachetas came for penance upon Vishnu for attaining the status of Prajapati, and he discoursed Rudra Gita to them.
  5. ^ Shiva and Parvati, who had been 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.


  1. ^ "The Hindu : Front Page : Dress code relaxed in Guruvayur". Archived from the original on 20 January 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  2. ^ Guruvayur website
  3. ^ "Guruvayoor Sri Krishna Temple|Ancient temples|Indian Panorama". Retrieved 8 January 2024.
  4. ^ "Guruvayur Devaswom". Archived from the original on 29 April 2005.
  5. ^ a b "Origin of Guruvayoorappan". GURUVAYOORAPPAN.
  6. ^ "Guruvayur Devaswom". Archived from the original on 16 February 2005.
  7. ^ "Sangeethasabha: Manavedan's 'Krishnageethi'-the story". 5 August 2010.
  8. ^ "Guruvayoorappan - Story, Miracles, Slokas, Guruvayur Temple". 13 March 2017.
  9. ^ Krishnanattam - History and Origin Archived 29 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine .
  10. ^ Lilas of Lord Guruvayurappan
  11. ^ Sevak (31 January 2013). "Stories Related to Guruvayur | Holy Dham". Retrieved 9 January 2024.
  12. ^ "Stage for Bhakti". The Hindu. 17 September 2010.
  13. ^ "To lovers of Krishna, in Tamil". The Hindu. 19 July 2012.