Once Sankaracharya was on his aerial journey to Shringeri. While above Guruvayur
he smiled at the pompousness and vividity of the procession of Sreebhootha Bali
(feeding celestial attendants) and tried to pass the temple without making any obeisance
to the Lord. Suddenly his forward movement stopped the procession there at the northwest
corner. He soon recovered and saw the Lord in all his royalty. Realizing the cause
of his fall, Sankaracharya prostrated before the Lord and tried to win the Lord's
favour by chanting 8 slokas in praise of Govinda, known as Govinda Ashtakam. The
small opening in the roof over the North- West courtyard is in commemoration of
this event. Sankaracharya is believed to have instituted the Mandala Vilakku (lighting
of lamps for 41days).
She was convinced, kept the garland there and happily went home. Next day morning,
the Melsanthi removed all the garlands from the idol, but one garland remained stuck
on the idol. The devotees were puzzled but Poonthanam realised last night's event.
It was the garland, which Manjula had placed on the stone at the foot of the banyan
Poonthanam told the story to everyone and then the garland slipped down from the
idol. Devotees started chanting the name of the Lord and struggled to collect the
flower from the garland. Worshipers went to the banyan tree to make their obeisance.
Since then, the banyan tree came to be known as Manjulal.
Once a Nenmini Namboodiri was the priest at Guruvayur temple. There was only one
priest on those days and had to go out on an urgent and unavoidable situation. He
told his 12 year old son to offer the Nivedyam to the Lord and left. At the prescribed
time he offered Nivedyam (cooked rice) to the Lord and thought in simplicity that
the Lord will eat the rice, but the idol did not move. Unni went outside and brought
some salted mangoes and curd from neighborhood in the belief that the Lord like
food this way. He mixed the curd with rice and offered it again. But the idol again
remained unmoved. He cajoled , requested, coaxed and in the end threatened , but
idol still unmoved . He started crying on his failure and shouting towards the Lord
that his 4 father would beat him. The Lord could not bear it any more, and suddenly
the Nivedyam got disappeared. The boy left the place satisfactorily. The Nivedyam
offered to the Lord was the Variyar's prerequisite. On seeing the empty plate, he
became very angry with the Unni, but Unni still could not understand and told Variyar
that God ate up the rice with the curd and salted mangoes. The Unni's innocent word
made Variyar more furious. On santhi's arrival, Variyar told the complaint that
Unni himself had eaten the Nivedyam, and that he was making a false story. Though
Unni told his version, father could not believe it. He raised his hands to beat
him, but just then an asareeri (celestial voice) was heard saying, "I am the guilty,
Unni is innocent".
On Arattu day, the Utsava vigraha will be taken out and tender coconut water abhishekam
(pouring of coconut water over the idol) will be done. An Ezhava family called Tampuran
Patikkal brings these tender coconuts for this important rite. The legend behind
this practice goes like this.Once, on the Arattu day, one Keezhsanthi went to a
Kittai of Tampuran Patikkal and asked for some tender coconut to quench his thirst.
Kittai was a bit slow to get the coconut and the Keezhsanthi went away in a hurry.
As soon as he left, the coconuts began to fall from the trees, on their own, one
after the other. The Kittai got shocked on seeing this, he took a head load full
of 25 coconuts and ran to the temple. He met one of the uralars or trustees of the
temple and described the whole incident. On enquiring it was found that neither
of the two Keezhsanthis had gone that way. It was evident that the Keezhsanthi was
none other than the Lord himself and that He wanted the fun of an abhishekam with
tender coconut water. Thus started this rite of tender coconut water abhishekam
on the Arattu day. The privilege of bringing the tender-coconuts was conferred on
the descendants of that family.
Once Guruvayur was a Keezhedam (subordinate temple) of Thrikanamathilakam (Trikkunavay).
The festival of Trikkunavay used to finish two days before the beginning of Guruvayur
Utsavam . The elephants used to come from Trikkunavay for the Guruvayur utsavam.
Once they refused to send their elephants to Guruvayur for not making payment in
time. The elephants were chained but they broke the chain and ran to Guruvayur without
the mahouts on that night. From that day onwards the elephants used to leave Trikkunavay
on Punarvasu to reach Guruvayur in time for the festival. Trikkunavay was destroyed
by the Dutch in 1755. To keep the reminiscence of this unusual event, the elephant
race (aanayottam) is conducted every year and this marks the beginning of the Guruvayur
Utsavam. The elephants run from Manjulal, (the banyan tree half a kilometer away
from the eastern entrance to the temple) enter the temple, take 7 rounds and touch
the flagstaff in the end. The first elephant to touch the flagstaff will be given
special treatment inside the temple on the days of Utsavam and will get the privilege
of carrying the Lord's thidambu for the procession.
One day a devotee wanted a feast to be held for the Lord with a hundred measures
of rice. In Guruvayur the intended offering to the Lord is to be prepared by the
two Keezhsanthis. One of the Keezhsanthis was on leave due to illness. Mallisseri
Namboodiri was worried and he spent a sleepless night pondering over how to make
the next days' arrangements. He could do nothing other than pray to the Lord chanting
His name overnight for a solution. The next day he went to the temple, looked around,
and was relieved to see the Keezhsanthi who had been on leave returned and was preparing
the feast. After completion of cooking the Keezhsanthi went to Rudratheertham for
a bath but not to return. He was not seen the next day also. Mallisseri sent his
man to enquire about him. To his surprise he learned that the Keezhsanthi was actually
bed ridden ever since he had been on leave. It was unbelievable but Mallisseri understood
the whole thing. It was the Lord himself who came and helped him out of the difficulty.
Poonthanam a devout devotee of the Lord who used to walk about 100 kilometers to
take darshan of Guruvayurappan every month. Once on his way, he was attacked by
some robbers. Sensing the danger he closed his eyes and cried out for Lord's help.
After some time there spread a sweet scent of Vanamala, the garland worn by Sreekrishna,
and he opened his eyes to see Mangattachan (the Minister of the Zamurin Raja) standing
before him with his drawn sword drenched in blood and also the dead bodies of the
robbers around him. Quite relieved, Poonthanam cried out "Krishna!, Krishna!, your
leelas are wonderful!". He took the ring off his finger and presented to Mangattachan.
The Melsanthi of the Guruvayur temple, the same night, heard in a dream, an Unni
Namboodiri telling him "You will find a ring on the idol. give it to Poonthanam,
who will come tomorrow". Quite miraculously, he saw a ring on the idol when he opened
the Sreekovil next day. Shortly Poonthanam came for darshan and started his prayers.
Melsanthi came out from Sreekovil and gave Poonthanam the ring and told him what
had happened. Poonthanam was flabbergasted to see that the ring was his own, which
he had presented to Mangattachan, the day before!. It was Lord Guruvayurappan himself,
who came to the rescue of Poonthanam as Mangattachan.
The Jnanapana (means the song of wisdom) written in simple Malayalam is Poonthanam's
greatest work. Melpathurwas the most popular Sanskrit scholar of that time. Poonthanam
showed the draft of his Jnanapana to Melpathur. Malayalam was not accepted in the
learned circle those days and Melpathur had contempt for Malayalam, which was not
considered equal to Sanskrit. He refused to see Poonthanam's work and told him blatantly
to learn Sanskrit and then start writing. This act of Melpathur hurt Poonthanam.
Melpathur was composing Narayaneeyam in those days and when he came next day to
offer dasaka of ten slokas (ten stanzas) before the Lord, he could not utter a single
word. A small boy in his teens, never seen before presented himself and pointed
out mistakes after mistakes in the slokas composed by Melpathur. After ten mistakes
in ten slokas Melpathur realised the divinity of the boy. He fell at the feet of
the boy but the boy disappeared and there was an asareeri (celestial voice) saying,
"Poonthanam's Bhakthi (devotion) is more pleasing to me than Melpathur's Vibhakthi
(learning or knowledge in Sanskrit grammar)". Melpathur realised his mistake and
asked Poonthanam to pardon him and amended his arrogance by reading the works of
Though Poonthanam and Melpathur were great devotees of Lord Guruvayurappan, Poonthanam,
a great poet, who wrote his verses in the vernacular, was famous for his bhakthi
where as Melpathur, an erudite scholar and great poet in Sanskrit was known for
The Lord was partial towards Poonthanam than Melpathur. Melpathur used to laugh
at Poonthanam's Sanskrit reading and recitation. One day Poonthanam was wrongly
reciting "Padmanabho Maraprabhu",which means Lord of trees in Malayalam. Melpathur
openly laughed at Poonthanam and corrected saying, Padmanabha is not Maraprabhu
(Lord of trees) but Amaraprabhu (which means Lord of immortals in Sanskrit). Immediately,
there was an asareeri (celestial voice) from the inner shrine, "I am also Maraprabhu"
(Lord of trees).
Now there is a statue of "Maraprabhu" in the Sreevalsam Guest house (South side
of the temple) compound fully made of clay. This is the biggest idol made of clay
Villwamangalam's devotion and dedication towards the Lord was such that he could
have visions of the Lord, independent of the image. Wherever he went, he had visions.
He visualised Vishnu, Siva, and in Guruvayur it was Unnikrishna and the Lord's other
disguises. Whenever he came to Guruvayur for darshan, the Lord granted him vision
from the Sanctum-Sanctorum (central shrine). One day he did not get the Lord's vision
from there. He went around the temple in search of the Lord. The sound of tinkling
of bells from the northern nalambalam attracted his curiosity. He peeped in and
saw Unnikrishna dancing there. From that day onwards this place came to be known
as Nritham ( Nrithappura or dancing hall).
On another occasion also, he could not see the Lord's vision in the central shrine.
Later he found the Lord sitting amidst the Marar boys (drummer's boys) and sharing
feast with them, as the Lord was fond of the feast given to the Marar boys. It later
became an important offering with the devotees.
A third time also, he failed to have the Lord's vision in the central shrine. It
was night time and the Krishnanattam was being staged in the courtyard. The saint
ultimately found him on the stage with the 'gopikas'. Since then, Krishnanattam
came to be staged in the northern bahyankana (outer courtyard) instead of the eastern
bahyankana. And it begins only when the central shrine is closed after the last
pooja at night.
Kururamma was a childless widow. She adopted Unnikrishna as her son and gave Him
a lot of motherly love. Villwamangalam also saw the Lord in the form of Unnikrishna
but the Lord always preferred Kururamma for her devotion. Once an old Brahmin with
severe stomach ache approached Villwamangalam for relief. Villwamangalam could not
cure him and told that the pain is the result of his past karma. Dispirited and
dejected he unknowingly reached Kururamma's house. Kururamma thought he is hungry
and offered him some food. The Brahmin said that he could not eat any food because
of his stomach ache, which even Villwamangalam could not cure. After listening to
his grievances, she told the Brahmin to have a bath in the tank, in the name of
Lord. After his bath, he was served food. He realized that his stomach ache had
disappeared. He ate the food and expressed his gratitude to Kururamma.
One day Kururamma was washing her cloths. A few drops of water unintentionally fell
upon Chemmangatt Amma, another lady of the locality who had finished her bath. She
felt polluted and took a second plunge in water to purify. She sarcastically told
Kururamma that now she was doubly clean and stated that today Villwamangalam would
be coming to her illam (house of a Brahmin) for bhiksha (alms). By this she wanted
to show her acquaintance with the saint Villwamangalam. Kururamma replied that saint
would only come to her illam and not in Chemmangatt's illam. Kururamma sent a member
of her family to invite the saint, but he apologetically refused since he had promised
Chemmangatt earlier. After his daily worship, Villwamangalam started for Chemmangatt's
house for the bhiksha. But the pilot who was to lead his way by blowing conch to
announce his presence could not produce any sound from his conch (shankh). It was
a bad omen and Villwamangalam was bewildered. Then he remembered his refusal to
Kururamma's offer in the morning, and decided that it is the Lord's wish that he
should go to Kururamma's illam. On this thought itself, the conch started functioning
and filled the air with its resonant sound. The saint then turned his steps towards
Kururamma's house. The Lord was always partial to Kururamma.