Festivals in Guruvayur
A Temple is not only a place for worship, but also a center for social gathering and an area for cultural programs. People from far and near, gather here in their fortune best to participate in the merriment. The festivals of special significance in Guruvayur temple includes:
Ulsavam (Festival): This is conducted in the month of Kumbha (Feb-March) and lasts for 10 days. The hoisting of the temple flag atop the flagstaff (Dwajastambham) about 70 feet high heralds the festival. On the 1st day, an elephant race is held. On the next 6 days, there are elephant processions in the morning, afternoon and night. In the morning, there is the Sribhuta Bali (Offering of oblation at various altar). There are various cultural programs like dance, music, religious discusses are held at Melpathur Auditorium (outside the temple) on all these days. On the 8th day, ‘Utsavabali’ (from 10 am to 4 pm) or oblations are offered to the Lord’s lieutenants. A sumptuous feast then awaits the devotees. Pallivetta or the hunting expedition of the Lord takes place on the 9th day. This hunt is symbolic of the destruction of Kama (desire), Krodha (anger) and other such evils that plague us in our life. After that the Lord's Thidambu is takan to the Rudratheertha (temple pond) for Aarattu, amidst the chanting of mantras. Thousands of devotees also take the dip, chanting the Lord’s name to purge them of their sins. Then ucha Pooja (i.e, noon worship –this takes place at night only on this day) is held at the Bhagavati shrine. Finally, the Lord returns to the sanctum sanctorum after 11 circumambulations. The temple flag is then lowered signifying the end of the festival.
Ekadasi: Ekadasi is one of the greatest annual celebrations of Guruvayur temple. Ekadasi falling in the Veluthapaksham in the month of Vrischikam is celebrated as the historical Guruvayur Ekadasi. Lamp lighting in connection with the celebration starts a month before. Illumination using oil lamps on Ashtami, Navami, Dasami and Ekadasi attracts a lot of people to the temple. Special feast is supplied to devtees coming to the temple on Ekadasi, Dwadasi and Thrayodasi. Thousands reach the temple to participate in the celebration from different parts of the countr
Vishu: The Malayali New Year day, Vishu, falls on the 1st of Medam month (mid-April). As the belief goes, one’s fortunes for the year depends on the auspiciousness of the objects that one sees first at dawn on this day. Accordingly a kani (omen) consisting of konna flowers , raw rice, gold, betel leaves and nuts, yellow cucumber and coins, are so arranged in front of the family deity in the previous night itself, so that one sees them at first glimpse on waking up in the morning. Seeing the kani at Guruvayur is considered very auspicious and hence millions of devotees stay overnight, blindfold themselves and set their eyes on the Kani and the glorious deity as the doors are as usual opened for the dharshan at 3 a.m.
Vaishka: The lunar month from the day following the new moon of Metam (April-May) to the following new moon. The observance of austerities or ‘Vratha’ during this month is considered especially sacred to Vishnu.
Ashtami Rohini: In the month of Chingam (July-Aug), under the Rohini Nakshatra, on the 8th day of the waning moon of Sravana is the day of Lord Krishna’s birth i.e. Janmashtami. A very special day in all Sree Krishna temples, Guruvayur Devaswom itself offer a niramala (full of garlands and vilakku), devotees flock in with appam (Cakes of rice paste and jaggery) considered the most favourite food of the Lord on that day.
Kuchela’s Day: This is observed on the first Wednesday of Dhanu (December-January). Kuchela was a poverty-stricken Brahmin and a childhood friend of Lord Krishna. One day, he went to seek Krishna’s help, at the instance of his life. He carried with him a small gift of beaten rice to offer his friend. On reaching Dwaraka, he was not only welcomed warmly by Krishna, and made to feel at home, but was also asked what he had brought for him.
Other important festivals: Mandalam, Chembai music festival & Narayaneeyam day.