Guruvayur is a bustling pilgrim town and a municipality in Thrissur district of the Indian state of Kerala. It lies 25 km to the northwest of Thrissur city.
Guruvayur is most famous for its temple, which is many centuries old and one of the most important in Kerala. The temple's deity is Lord Guruvayurappan in the form of Balagopalan (Krishna in the form of a child). While non-Hindus are not permitted to enter the temple, Lord Guruvayurappan has strong believers from many religions.
Krishnanattam Kali, a noted classical performing art that was instrumental in the initial development of the world-famous dance-drama Kathakali, has a good base in Guruvayur as the temple administration (Guruvayur Devaswom) runs a Krishnattam institute. In addition, Guruvayur temple is famous for two renowned classical literary works: Narayaneeyam by Melpathoor Narayana Bhattathiri and Jnanappana by Poonthanam, both (late) authors being ardent devotees of Guruvayurappan. While Narayaneeyam is a brisk walk through of the Dasaavatharam (10 incarnations of Maha Vishnu) in Sanskrit, Jnanappana is in native Malayalam, observing the naked truths of life and preaching the do's and dont's.
Guruvayur is a major venue for the south Indian classical Carnatic music, especially during its auspicious ekadasi day held in the memory of legendary vocalist Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, another ardent devotee of Guruvayurappan. The temple also holds the annual festival (ulsavam) in the Malayalam month of Kumbham (February-March) during which it hosts classical arts like Kathakali, Koodiyattam, Panchavadyam, Thayambaka and Panchari Melam. The place has given birth many noted percussionists of ethnic instruments like chenda, maddalam, timila, ilathalam and idakka.
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.
At the time of Tippu sulthan's invasion the holy idol of Sri Guruvayoorappan shifted to Ambalappuzha temple and then shifted to Mavelikkara sri Krishnaswamy Temple.
Another attraction is the famous elephant sanctuary (Punnathur kotta) near the temple where jumbo elephants 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 elephant names associated with the temple is that of Guruvayur Kesavan which was a legendary elephant. It has found a place in the temple's folklore.
The temple is a major venue for Hindu marriages in Kerala. A record number of marriages take place each day at the temple—sometimes crossing 100 in a single day. Devotees of Lord Guruvayurappan think it is highly auspicious to start married life in front of the lord.
If you are visiting Guruvayoor Temple the visit is not complete without visiting the near by Shiva Temple at Mammiyoor. There are other temples of interest if you have a day extra. Head to Thrissur (or Trichur) to see Lord Vadakkunnathan.The famous Thrissur Pooram is held at Swaraj round around this temple. Near by you can visit Paramelkavu (bhagavaty) Temple and Thuruvampadi Krishna temple. Then head to Irinjalakkuda to see Sangameshwarar at Koodalmanikyam temple.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has recently started a center and guest house for pilgrims to the town. The place has several hotels, lodges, restaurants and marriage halls and is a booming upmarket centre.