Since I had heard about the Bhooloka Vaikuntham, "Guruvayur", I wanted to get blessed by the sacred darshan of Krishna.
April 10, Friday, was holiday so being long weekend, I booked the tickets through Karnataka SRTC. Though I booked 15 days in advance, there was only one ticket left that too the last seat. But I took that. Kenny also joined me later. But he could not get in same bus. He got the ticket in one special bus arranged by Karnataka SRTC.
So our journey happened through different Buses and Different routes, but we synced up after reaching Kerala.
From Bangalore there are two routes to Thrisur (or Ernakulam). One shorter route is
Bangalore - Hosur- Coimbatoor - Thrisur (- Ernakulam). Another route is Bangalore- Mysore - Gundlupet - Sulthan Battery - Calicut - Thrisur (- Ernakuklam)
The route via Mysore is longer by about 1-1/2 hours.
My Bus (Karnataka SRTC, Volvo Via Coimbatoor) started at 9:30 PM, on Thursday, 9th April. It was behind 30 minute schedule, Kenny was in another Volvo, which was via Mysore.
Through Hosur route, the distance from Bangalore to Thrisur is about 460 KMs. I had got the last seat, but did not had much issues. I was in great bliss as I was going to be in Sannidhi of Krishna. Though the Bus was good, still I could not sleep properly.
The Bus was going like crazy, I feel many a times it was above 100 KMPS.
I reached Thrisur at around 06:15 AM. Then send an SMS to Kenny. Kenny replied back in next one hour. He reached Thrisur by around 8 AM. By then I had already had my breakfast in a Vegetarin Hotel. In most of the Hotels in Kerala, beef is also served and this is horrible!
After Kenny reached Thrisur, we took the Kerala SRTC bus to Guruvayur, which is about 30 KMs from Thrisur. Bus tickest are cheaper in Kerala.
In next 45 minutes we were at Guruvayur.
Generally people in Kerala does not know English and/or Hindi so one should plan accordingly,
There was big rush so initially at few hotels we could not get any room but finally got one decent room at Hotel Vrindavan near Guruvayur SRTC bus stand.
After taking bath etc. we dressed in Dhoti and started for temple. Males are not allowed inside temple except in Dhoti and also they should be without shirt or banian.
Even at other temples that we visited (Like Kodungallur Bhagwati Temple as well as ChhotaNikkara Bhagwati Temple, males are required to remove shirt and banian, but Dhoti is not mandatory there.)
Queue was much bigger than my expectation. The queue startes from "East Nada". We had entered the temple through "West Nada" so we went to East Nada to be in queue. It was quite humid so in few minutes we were sweating. I did another big mistake that I was not carrying any water bottle.
It is advisable to carry a water bottle, even when you are in queue for darshan.
When we reached near temple gate, one noble soul was distributing water so we quenched our thirst.
It took us 3 hours to be in queue before we could have a Darshan of Merciful, Almighty and Sweet Lord....
The presiding deity is Shri Krishna, in the standing posture with four hands (Chaturbahu) that carry the Sankhu (conch), the Sudarshana chakram (a serrated disk), the lotus and the mace.
But I got a little confused as Lord was with flute in his hand....then next day morning, when we came for another Darshan, then I could not see the flute..I am little confused, but it is not surprising. Lord has so many manisfestations.
The idol of the deity is made of a rare stone known as Patala Anjanam. The hereditary Tantri (Head Priest) of the temple is from the Chennas Mana.
The earliest reference for Guruvayur is found in a fourteenth century Tamil work 'Kokasandesam', in which it is described as Kuruvayur. Many references about Guruvayur can be seen in many works dated as early as 16th century. It was Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri's Narayaneeyam that made the Temple more famous.
Sri Narada purana mentions Guruvayurpura mahatmyan and describes how Janamejaya was
cured of leprosy by taking refuge under the feet of Guruvayuruppa. The Pandavas handed over the kingdom to their grandson Parikshit, and left for the forest to spend their last days. Parikshit died of the curse of a saint, who cursed that Parikshit will die of snake bite by Taksaka, the king of serpents. After the death of Parikshit he was succeeded by his son Janamejaya. Janamejaya conducted a sacrifice to destroy all the snakes of the world including Takshaka, who was the
cause of his father's death . Hundreds of thousands of snakes fell into the sacrificial fire and were killed, but the sacrifice was stopped by a Brahmin called Astika, before Takshaka was killed.
Since Janamejaya was responsible for the death of millions of snakes, he was afflicted with leprosy. He lost all hope of a cure. One day Sage Atreya (son of Atri) came before Janamejaya and told him to take refuge under the feet of Krishna at Guruvayoor. Atreya told that in the temple at Guruvayyoor the effulgence of Sri Hari is at its best and Vishnu showers his blessings on all devotees. Hearing this, Janamejaya wanted to know the full details of the Sthala purana and the greatness of the temple.
According to legends Lord Vishnu donated this idol to Brahma. Prajapati Sutapa and his wife Prsni prayed to Brahma, and pleased at their devotion Brahma gave them this idol. Sutapa and his wife Prsni worshipped the idol with such devotion that Mahavishnu Himself appeared before them for granting a boon. In their over enthusiasm they asked thrice "We need a son equivalent to thou" . Mahavishnu told them that he himself would take birth as their son in three different janmas (births) and in all those three janmas they would get the vigraha given to them by Brahma.
In the first janma in the Satya Yuga, Mahavishnu was born as Prsnigarbha, as son of Sutapa and Prsni. Prsnigarbha instructed the world the importance of Brahmacharya to the world. In the second janma, Sutapa and his wife Prsni were born as Kashyapa and Aditi and Mahavishnu was born as Vamana. In the Dwapara Yuga, Krishna was born to Vasudeva and Devaki. This idol was given to them by Daumya for worship. Sri Krishna established a big temple at Dwaraka and installed this idol there. At the time of swargaarohana Krishna instructed his devotee Udhava to install the idol at a sacred place with the help of Brihaspathi, the guru of the Devas and Vayu, the God of the winds. They (Guru and Vayu) took the idol and came down to a place down south and installed it. This is why the place got its name Guruvayu, where ur means place. It is also said that Bhagavan Shiva and his consort Devi Parvati were present at the auspicious moment and because there was a lack of space in the temple premises, Shiva moved a little further away, and gives his blessings from the nearby Mammiyoor Temple. Every devotee who goes to Guruvayur is supposed to go to Mammiyoor also, as per tradition. Only Hindus are allowed inside the temple premises. The temple pool is known as the Rudra Thirtham.
Temple is a classic example of the typical Kerala architecture style with a Koothambalam and an Aanappanthal. The walls of the temple sport mural paintings, depicting episopdes from the Puranas.
The Sreekovil, where the idol of the Lord is installed, is square in shape with pyramidal roofing. The walls of the sreekovil abound with mural paintings. The door, as well as the roof, is covered in gold. On either side of the door, two statues of 'dwarapalakas' are seen.
In front of the sreekovil, is the Namaskara Mandapam. It is rectangular in shape with pyramidal roofing. The sreekovil is surrounded by a wall structure called the Nallambalam or the Chuttambalam. On the left side of the Sreekovil, a small temple well known as the 'Manikkinar' is located. To the right of the Sreekovil, forming part of the Chuttambalam, the temple kitchen known as 'Madappalli'is seen. The 'Saraswathi Ara', where Saraswathi Pooja is conducted during Navaratri is close to this. The shrine of Ganapathi is to the left of the Sreekovil. Outside the
Nallambalam and in front of the entrance the Kodimaram or Dhwajastambham (Flagpole of the temple) can be seen. The balipeetams also are located here.
The Vilakkumatam, which is an intricate array of metal lamps, is attached to the outside walls of the Nallambalam. On auspicious occasions these lamps are lit thus illuminating the whole temple.
The whole area between the east gopuram and the west side of the Nalambalam is covered with a tiled roof called Aanappandal or Nadappura which provides shelter for elephants and for the pilgrims waiting for worship and is decorated with pictures and paintings. Annaprasnam and tulabharam are conducted here. To the south of the gopuram there is a very big Temple Bell.
The northern side of the building is called the Agrasala or the dining hall. This is also used for daily Narayanajapam, Bhagavata discourses and sometimes as the green-room for Krishnanattam.
The passage through the northern wall of the temple leads to the temple pond called Rudratirtham. It is here that the processional deity or the Utsava Vigraha is bathed on the last day of the Utsavam (the annual festival).
The temple is being run by the Guruvayur Devaswom Management Committee under the
directions of Government of Kerala. The temporary members of committee are "nominated" by the ruling party of the state government from time to time. The permanent members are the current heads of the families of Chennas Mana (the heridatory Thantri of the temple), Samuthiri and Mallisseri Mana.
Another attraction is the famous elephant sanctuary (Punnathur kotta) near the temple where jumbos are trained for temple purposes. The sanctuary currently has more than 60 elephants, all of whom were offered by devotees of Lord Guruvayurappan. One of the leading names associated with the city, Guruvayur Kesavan, is a legendary elephant that has found a place in the state's folklore.We could not go there. Though we met with many of these big creatures near Temple.
After getting darshan of Madhura Krishna, We went back to hotel, changed our cloths and headed for lunch.
After Lunch, we started for Kodungallur.It is about 45 KMs from Guruvayur.
Kodungallur is important not only in the history of Kerala but also of India. It is mentioned in the epics Ramayana and Mahabharatha. The poets Pathanjali and Karthiyayan have referred to it in their poems; it also finds reference in the Chilappathikaram. Kodungallur is mentioned in the stone writings of Asoka as well and mention is found in the travelogues of both Pliny and Ptolemy under different names.
The Kodungallur temple is one of the four Devi temples which Bhargava Raman is said to have installed at the four boundaries of Kerala. The popular belief is that in order to save the devotees from the epidemic of chicken pox the Lokambika was installed in the Kodungallur temple by Bhargava Raman. This is one of those rare temples where the Brahmins are not performing the pooja.
The ancient Greek explorer, Hippalus landed at this port after discovering the patterns of the Indian monsoon trade winds on his way from the East coast of Africa. The evidence of the Peutinger Table suggests that there was a temple to the Roman emperor Augustus.
The Greeks, the Romans (known locally as the Yavanas), and the Jews all have come to this place at different times in its ancient history. Roman gold and silver coins bearing impressions of Roman Emperors Tiberius and Nero were discovered in the village of Parur near the town during year 2000.
The flood of the river Periyar in 1341 AD resulted in the splitting of the left branch of the river into two just before Aluva. The flood silted the right branch (known as River Changala) and the natural harbour at the mouth of the river, and resulted in the creation of a new harbour at Kochi. An island was formed with the name Vypinkara between Vypin to Munambam during the flood.
Kodungallur Bagavathy temple is believed to have been constructed during the reign of Chera King, Cheran Senkuttuvan. This temple is famous for its Bharani and Thalappoli festival. The temple requires the pilgrim to carry pepper and turmeric powder as one of the offerings to the deity.
The mother Goddess blessed us with darshan.
We also saw Periyar river and Chinese fishing nets. Then we started back to Guruvayur.
Next day (saturday) morning, we woke up at 01:30 AM. At 03:00 AM we went into queue. The aim was to join in "Nirmalayam" pooja at 03:00 AM, but the rush was huge so we could get Darshan at round 05:00 AM.
After blissful darshan, we took breakfast and started for Kalady.
To go to Kalady, we have to come back to Thrisur and then from Thrisur, we get Bus to kalady. I heard that there are a few direct buses also available from Guruvayur to kalady. Thrisur to kalady is about 50 KMs.
We got down at kalady, on the way itself we saw Shri Aadi Shankara Stambha, so walked there.
Sri Adi Sankara Keerthi Sthamba Mandapam is an eight-story memorial built by Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt. The entrance to the memorial, guarded by two elephant statues, leads to the Paduka Mandapam. Two silver knobs represent the padukas, or wooden sandals of the Teacher. The walls of the memorial feature framed relief paintings that tell the story of Adi Sankaracharya. Several large statues of Ganapati, Adi Sankara, and others are also housed in this memorial. Adi Sankara's shrines in Kalady are open to all pilgrims, irrespective of religion and caste. Visitors can review the life of Sankara Acharya as they climb to the top.
Then we took auto and went to Shringeri Mutt. All other shrines are either here or are in close vicinity.
Temples dedicated to Sri Sankara, Sarada Devi, Sri Krishna and Sri Ramakrishna add to the sanctity of Kalady. A place called Crocodile Ghat is where Sri Sankara took his vows of renunciation. According to legends, a crocodile caught hold of him and refused to release him until Sankara's mother Aryamba permitted him to accept sanyas (renunciation)
Kalady is a village located east of the Periyar river, in the Ernakulam district of Kerala. It is the birthplace of Sri Adi Sankara.
Legend holds that one day, the widowed mother of Little Sankara, Aryadevi, fainted after walking three kilometers for her daily bath in the Periyar river. Feeling helpless, Little Sankara prayed to Lord Krishna. The tears of the child moved Krishna, who blessed him thus: "the river will flow where your little feet marks."
The Periyaar river took its new course in the place marked by the little boy's feet. That place came to be called Kalady (feet in Malayalam). Before this incident, the place was known as "Shalaka Gramam".
The Periyaar river began flowing through Little Sankara's home garden. Sankara then installed Lord Krishna into the present temple, and marked the occasion by reciting his famous Ätchutha Ashtakam.
Thus 'Kalady' signifies the love of an innocent child for his beloved mother and the blessings of Lord Krishna.
Adi Shankara was born in Kalady as the only son of Sivaguru and Aryamba, a Namboothiri couple. Shankara's shrine at Kalady, run by the Sringeri Mutt, is a large, partly open structure situated on the northern bank of the river Periyar, or Purna. There are two major shrines in the temple; one is dedicated to Sri Sankaracharya and the other to Goddess Saradamba, the main deity of Sringeri. The Samadhi of Sri Sankara's mother, Aryamba, is also located here. A small shrine to Vinayaka, or Ganapati, is the scene of evening prayers, chanted to the rhythmic ringing of cymbals. The worship in these temples is done by Tamil or Kannada Smartha Brahmins, and not by Nampoothiris.
We prayed to Goddess Sharda, Ganapati and paid our deep respect to Mother Aryamba and Aadi Shankara.
Many Brahmcharis were chanting vedic shloka in "Ghanam" method. I liked that very much and do sat there till they were done.
Then we went to Krishna Temple and Crocodile Ghat. Krishna Temple was closed till 05:00 PM, so we waited till that time to visit the shrine.
Meanwhile we visited Shri RamaKrishna Mutt. It was established by Shri Agamananda Swamiji in 1936 on the land donated by Shri Govind menon.It was also closed till 05:30 PM so we roamed in the prmises and the books counter for sometime and came back to Krishna Temple.
This temple is to the west of the Sringeri Mutt temple complex.This temple is known as the ancestral deity of Sree Sankara Acharya. It is mentioned as the Kula deva (ancestral deity) in verse 243 of Prabodha Sudhakaram of Sree Sankara Acharya. The temple is under Kalady Devasthanam, in trusteeship of two Namboothiri families who had close associations with the life of Sankara. It is also the only surviving structure from the time of Sankara. The worship in this temple is also conducted by Namboothiris.
Aryadevi Samadhi Mandapam is dedicated to Aryadevi, the mother of Sree Sankara Acharya, as the place of her cremation. Sree Sankara performed the cremation of his mother after her death. He was assisted by two of the ten Namboothiri families of Kalady. One family, Kappilly Mana, honoured the location with daily lamps for centuries.It was noticing the daily lamp Sree Nadukaveri Sreenivasa Sastrikal- special envoy of Sree Sringeri Mutt identified and accepted Kalady as birth Place of Sankara Acharya in 1905 .The Travancore Highness acquired the whole area from Kappilly Mana in the AD 1905 , and handed it over to the Sree Sringeri Mutt, which
now maintains the Mandap.
The three ghats below are adjacent, and span west to east in chronological order .
The Kalady Kadavu is the place where the river took its turn, and where Kalady was born. It was also the place where Sankara had first performed Aaraattu (a river bath of an idol) for his ancestral deity before installing it at its current location. For centuries, during the festival at Sree Krishna Temple, the Aarattu has been carried out at this ghat.
The "Muthala Kadavu," or Crocodile Ghat, is where Sankara's life turned to Sanyasam (Ascetic life). His mother, Aryadevi, did not agree with his desire to become a Sanyasin. Legend says that one day, Sankara was touched by a dog and, as per custom followed by the community, Sankara had to take bath. Accompanied by mother, Sankara went to river Poorna to bathe. While in the water, a crocodile caught hold of his leg. The drowning Sankara told his mother that the crocodile would leave him alone if she would allow him to take up Sanyasa. Helpless, his mother agreed, and the crocodile freed Sankara.
Another is the ghat where Sree Sankara Acharya performed the Ápara Kriyas (the rituals after death and cremation as per Nambudiri rituals) for his mother, Aryadevi. Today, the ghat is within the temple complex of Sree Sringeri Mutt.
800 AD -- Vyasa Darshan, Vijaya Yatra
804 AD -- Installing Shri Sharada at Shringeri. Arrival of Thotaka and Hasthamalaka, Writing Granthas
816 AD -- Demise of Mother
819 AD -- Sarvagyana Peeth Goudapada Darshanam, 4 Mutt establishment, Digvijyam
820 AD -- Attaining Siddhi
This is as per information at Shri Shringeri Shanakara Matham at Sri Aadi Shankara JanamBhumi Kshetram, Kalady.
There are many people who have contributed to the growth of Kalady from a small village to a village of educational institutions. The foremost among them is Swami Agamananda.
By the time, we came out of Shri Krishna Temple, it was around 06:00 PM. We decided to take bus to Ernakulam.
There are only a few buses direct to Ernakulam from Kalady. So we took a local Bus to "Angamaly", from Angamaly we got the bus to Ernakulam. Angamaly is about 10 KMs from kalady. We had to wait for sometime there to get the Bus to Ernakulam.
Cochin International Airport, Nedumbassery is the nearest airport, 10 km away from Kalady. Angamaly (10 km away), or Aluva (22 km away), are the nearest railway stations. Buses and taxis are available from Angamaly to Kalady. The Main Central Road starts at Angamali and connects Kalady with important towns in Kerala, including Thrissur, Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad and Kozhikode.
We reached Cochin by 09:00 PM and took hotel near Ernakulam Railway Station (North Gate). There are planty of budget hotels available here.
Sunday morning again we woke up early and take the bus from Town Hall to go to ChhotaNikkara Bhawati temple. this is about 20 KMs from Cochin.
This is one of the most celebrated Hindu shrines of Kerala. Thousands of pilgrims and devotees of the Goddess visit here and make their reverential offerings to redeem them of their afflictions. A visit to the temple brings relief to them from the overburdening anguish and agonies of material life.
After having a darshan of Merciful Mother Goddess, we returned back to Ernakulam.
Next destination was Marine Drive and Bolghatty Island. But a little history first:
Kochi is one of the principal seaports of the country.In 1102 CE, Kochi became the seat of the Kingdom of Cochin, a princely state which traces its lineage to the Kulasekhara empire. Heralded as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, Kochi was an important spice trading centre on the Arabian Sea coast since the 14th century.
Ancient travellers and tradesmen referred to Kochi in their writings, variously alluding to it as Cocym, Cochym, Cochin, and Cochi. Occupied by the Portuguese in 1503, Kochi was the site of the first European colonial settlement in India. It remained the capital of Portuguese India until 1530, when they opted for Goa as their capital. The city was later occupied by the Dutch, the Mysore and the British. Kochi was the first princely state to willingly join the Indian Union,
when India gained independence in 1947.
From High Court Jetty (Sea Port), we took a ferry to go to Bolghatty Island. A dutch palace, which is not converted into a resort, is situated on Bolghatty island which is just a short boat ride away from the mainland.
After being there for some time we rturned back to High Court Jetty and walked about 1-1/2 KMs on Marine drive to go to Main Boat Jetty.
Marine drive is a stroll along the long tree-lined coastal pathway that lines the backwater is well worth the time spent, especially late afternoon or dusk. The bustling backwaters, dotted with fishing boats, speedboats, ships, tankers and passenger boats, can be observed from this walkway that lines the coast.
From Main Boat Jetty we took the ferry to go to Fort Kochi.
Here we came acroos, the chinese fishing nets (Cheenavala). These are distinctly unique to Cochin. It is believed that traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan introduced these nets here. Oddly, these nets are found only in Kochi, outside China! Many fishermen earn their livelihood by fishing using these massive nets. A whole stretch of the coast along Fort Kochi and Vypeen are dotted with these nets.
Fort Kochi is a stroll along the beach, particularly at sunset with the chinese fishing nets and sailing ships in the background, is a memorable experience. Many European style bungalows can be seen along the shoreline.
Then we visited Dutch cemetry and beach nearby.
After relaxing at beach for sometime, we took an auto and went to MattanCherry.
Here we visited the Dutch Palace, which was originally built by the Portuguese. Later, in 17th century, the Dutch modified it and presented it to the Raja of Kochi. Coronation of many Rajas of Kochi were held here. The palace has a fine collection of mural paintings depicting scenes from the Hindu epics Mahabharatha and Ramayana. Photos are not in condition. The whole palace needs good renovation efforts.
Then we went to Jew Town and Jewish Synagogue. The synagogue, built in 1568, is magnificently decorated by Chinese tiles and Belgian chandeliers. Giant scrolls of the Old Testament can be found here. It is located near the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry.
Then we again took Ferry to come back to Main Boat Jetty and then returned to hotel.
This brings us to the end of my three day wonderful trip. Weather was a little humid, but things were smooth.
Evening We took the Bus and were back to Bangalore early hours of Monday.
O Lord ! May those pair of eyes of Thine which are charming through the play of the eye-brows throbbing like the gentle rippling waves on the Ocean of Infinite Compassion; which are refulgent with rows of deep-blue gleaming eyelashes; which are soft, lustrous and shaped like the long petals of the red rose; (those eyes) possessing very comely pupils and cooling the world by their merciful glances; may those eyes be cast on me, who has no refuge other than Thee.
(......Shloka-3, Dashakam-100, Narayaneeyam)