Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Around heaven

First sight of the Lord: Guruvayurappan appears in the most unexpected places; like the hands of this poster vendor. Priced Rs 20 each, these posters of the young Lord Krishna offer devotees a visual souvenir of a visit to Guruvayur
Heaven on earth. That’s how Pepita Seth describes Kerala’s Guruvayur Sree Krishna temple in her remarkable book Heaven on Earth: The Universe of Kerala’s Guruvayur Temple.
And for the millions of devotees who visit Guruvayur every year, it is indeed heaven on earth. For Guruvayur is where they get an audience — even if for just a fraction of a second — with Guruvayurappan, on earth.
Dispeller of darkness: This traditional stone lamp stands firm in the middle of the approach to the eastern nada or entrance to Guruvayur’s Sree Krishna temple. A metal fence protects it from vehicles and other trappings of the modern world.
For many devotees the relationship with Lord Krishna, Guruvayur’s presiding deity, or Guruvayurappan as he is affectionately called is intense and personal. A one-way relationship that is an amalgam of familiarity, reverence, complete adoration and total surrender.
I know many men and women whose devotion to Guruvayurappan knows no bounds; who speak to Him in their moments of joy, cry out for His protection in times of sorrow and sometimes even squabble with Him. Who believe with every fibre of their being that He will take care of them. As Seth writes in her book: “… indeed there is a firm belief that He will grant any request that is made…”
Even up to a few years ago, it was possible to plan to visit Guruvayur on a relatively less ‘busy’ day, when the number of devotees was in the hundreds rather than the thousands. Today though, it’s a different matter altogether. Every day is a ‘busy’ day and the queues for a darshan of the Lord are always long.

Beginning of a busy day: Every day, it seems, is a busy day in Guruvayur. At 7.30 am on a recent Sunday morning, thousands of people make their way towards the Guruvayur temple’s east nada to join the serpentine queues for a glimpse of Guruvayurappan.
On a recent Sunday, the temple was packed with devotees even at 6.30 in the morning. Most of them would spend hours in a queue for a momentary glimpse of Guruvayurappan. Even the secondary queue that takes you inside the temple walls, but not to the sanctum sanctorum, was disappointingly long; and all I could see of the sanctum sanctorum, when I eventually got in, was a blaze of light. But as someone later told me: “You could not see Him, but He saw you. That’s all that matters.” Indeed, that is all that matters.

You are in the queue: Most of these people will spend several hours in the 
queue for an all too brief audience with the Lord.

Waiting: Many of the devotees who come to worship in Guruvayur do so in these hired coaches that are parked in a large yard about a kilometre from the temple. Often, people travel to Guruvayur in an extended family group that sometimes includes friends and neighbours.

A whiff of jasmine: Garlands of jasmine coiled high on a flower-seller’s rickety counter. Some of these garlands will soon be a part of a woman’s coiffure.

All that glitter: Is brass and steel. Gleaming metal lamps and vessels and religious bric-a-brac burst out of this shop on the eastern approach to the Guruvayur temple. It is commerce, centered around the temple that keeps Guruvayur’s economy humming. 

Treats: Sweet and savoury snacks of all colours, shapes and sizes are stacked in this store near the temple’s east nada or entrance. From crisp banana chips and crunchy popcorn to pappadams and sticky halwa, this shop seems to have it all.

Temple wardrobe: Lots of grand dresses to choose from in this apparel shop, including a wide range of the pavadas and blouses traditionally worn by girls across South India.


Swarup said...

Kannilum, Vinnilum,
Thoonilum, Thurumbilum,
Eppol Hustonilum, New Jerseyilum.


manojharisree said...

A very descriptive article & pics of my hometown :)

Sankar Radhakrishnan said...

@manojharisree: glad you liked it and found it describes your home town.