October 21, 2011

Guruvayur- Abode of Lord Krishna...!!

Guruvayur is definitely the most visited destination (If I may call so) and temple by the Nomad. However, each time I visit this beautiful temple, am spell bound by its ambiance, the dhoti clad devotees, the numerous paraphernalia, the dressed up pachyderms, the fragrance of sandal and camphor, the sound of percussion and the unending long queues to have a glimpse of Lord Krishna.

Situated in the district of Thrissur in Central Kerala, this Krishna temple attracts large number of  devotees every day. People from all over the country visit this famous temple which also happens to be one of the richest in the country. Various ceremonies and rituals ( vaakacharthu, uchapooja, ushapooja, sheeveli ) are conducted inside the temple throughout the day. Devotees give various forms of offerings and prayers ( thulabharam, chuttuvilakku, shayanapradhakshinam) to please the almighty. Long queues from outside the temple take you inside and then further into the inner sanctum. Even though it is hot and humid always, devotees have always been happy to undergo all the troubles to take the Almighty's blessings. The temple looks astonishingly beautiful in the evening as the place is lit up with numerous lights and various processions and rituals take center stage.

As the temple closes with the elephant procession, which is supposedly the last ritual of the day, people get ready to enjoy Krishnanattom, a play which is conducted on most days inside the temple. Though it is similar to Kathakali, this play emphasises on the various mythological stories related to Krishna. Krishnanattom goes on till wee hours of the morning and as you walk out of the temple after the play, devotees would have already queued up for the the day's first ceremony at 3 a.m.

Guruvayur also has its special days of the year ( Sreekrishna Jayanthi, Thalapoli, Aanayottam, Guruvayur ekadashi, uthradasandhya) when devotees throng into the temple and create a miniature Kumbh mela. The temple is also known to conduct numerous marriages everyday. The numbers can be quite staggering and go up to more than 100 on certain days. The Melpathur auditorium outside the temple has seen many renowned artists perform various dance forms. There are  large number of shops outside the temple and they lure people with eateries, toys, paraphernalia, books, music and clothing. After the long struggle to take the blessings from the lord, most devotees end up window shopping through the alleys. This is indeed a peculiar experience that takes me down the memory lane to my childhood visits to the temple.

During my last visit to Guruvayur I also happened to visit the other near by temples, namely, Mammiyoor Shiva temple, Parthsarathy temple and Venkatachalapathy temple. I also ventured into the famous Punnathoor Kota, a few kilometers away from Guruvayur. This place is famous for elephant camps. All elephants that belong to the temple come here for their daily wash and rejuvenation. The place also has many elephants suffering from various ailments and a few that were offered to the temple by various celebrities and politicians.

Along with Mathura, Dwaraka, Udupi and many more, Guruvayur is one of the famous Krishna temples in the country where the devotees offer their prayers and take the Lord's blessings. There is strict prohibition on mobiles and cameras being taken inside the temple. Male devotees must be bare chested and should wear dhoti to enter the temple premises.

Signing Note: Undoubtedly my favourite pilgrimage centre.

Route- Cochin- Kodungallur- Chavakkad- Guruvayur
Distnace- 90 kms

October 4, 2011

Above the Abode of Goddess...!!

Kollur, a little hamlet in South Karnataka is known for Mookambika temple, dedicated to Goddess Mookambika. I have been to this temple quite a few times and my last visit to this temple led to a few explorations. Situated at the base of the Kodachadri hills in the Western Ghats, this temple town brings in a lot of pilgrims during the months of October and November. The Sowparnika river flows near to the temple and a dip in the same before visiting the temple is considered sacred. The river which flows down from the top of the hills is supposed to have medicinal values.

All my previous visits to the temple have been short and I have never got an opportunity to explore the surroundings. The first day of my visit ended with the rituals and the blessings. The evening rituals were a treat to watch and with hundreds of lamps being lit all over the place it was a beautiful sight. The smell of camphor, the ringing bells and the chanting of prayers absorbed me into a different world, a mesmerising one.

The next day was set aside for my trek to Kodachadri. Kodachadri, a few kilometers away from Kollur is known for trekking and I did not miss the opportunity this time. This trek leads to Sarvanja Peetham where the scholar, Sankaracharaya had meditated. Further down from this place is the Chitramoola.  Adventurous trekkers can begin their trek from Kollur. As I was travelling with my parents I had to skip that option and take a jeep up to a certain distance. This jeep ride can quite well be compared to the dune bashing that I experienced in Dubai (http://rajniranjandas.blogspot.com/2011/02/tunes-of-dunes.html ). Only jeeps with experienced drivers can manoeuvre this dirt track. It felt as though I was on a roller coaster ride. An unforgettable ride, indeed. As we went higher the thick forests gave way to green plains and blue hills.


We got dropped off near Bhatt's (temple priest) house. From there it was a long walk. I wouldn't call it a treacherous trek, but definitely it was a tough walk all the way from there to the Sarvanja Peetham. En route to the top we also came across a small cave where there was a deity and a young priest. With the sun spreading its rays, we gulped down a couple of bottles of water and walked towards the top. The views of the hills all along the path were beautiful. The blue and green hills engulfed by the mist and the clouds portrayed a fantastic vista.


After an hour of walking we reached the Sarvanja Peetham. The place might not seem worth the trek as it is a very small temple perched on top of the hill. A steep trek down from here leads to Chitramoola, which is supposedly a sacred place. We decided to give that a miss and started our return trek. We were taken back to Kollur through the same roller coaster ride. 

For trekkers, the options doesnt end at just the Sarvanja Peetham and Chitramoola. You can trek further deep and enjoy Hidlumane falls and Arisinagundi falls. I would definitely want to trek all these routes the next time am there to take the goddess's blessings.

Signing Note- One of the rare places where you can take the blessings before you trek...!!

Route- Bengaluru- Tumkur- Shimoga- Kollur

Distance- 415 Kms

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