Guruvayur Shri Krishna temple is located in Thrissur District of Kerala. The very famous temple is the abode of Lord Krishna in the child form. This temple is visited by thousands daily and is known for its unique rituals.
I’ve been a regular visitor to this temple. A vacation was deemed to be incomplete without visiting this place. Though crowded at all times, there is some peace and tranquillity that this temple offers. Right from the times I remember, I’ve visited this place whenever I had gone to Kerala. The only exception was in 2015, when I could not make it due to some issues.
The Temple and its Unique Rituals
The temple is known for its unique rituals dating back to centuries. Some of the famous ones are Thulabharam, the Aanayottam (elephant race), Krishnattam etc. (More about it later).
Perhaps the most unique ritual about this temple is the elephant donation. Male elephants are offered to Lord Krishna seeking blessings. As far as I know, this activity is now stopped and the last elephant donated was by the late Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalitha in 2004.
Punnathur Kota or Aanakota
The elephant sanctuary is located in Punnathur Kota (Punnathur Fort) which is now known as the Aanakota (The elephant fort). The elephants offered to the temple are kept here. When I visited, there were around 50 elephants over here
The Sanctuary is located around 3 kms away from the Guruvayoor temple. You can take a rickshaw from here which will drop you at. the entrance. It cost me 120 INR for a return ride.
You’ve to purchase tickets at the entrance (There are separate costs for photography and videography. Due to the time gap I do not remember the exact ticket costs).
Once the palace of the local king, the Punnathur Kota grounds now houses the sanctuary for elephants that belong to the Guruvayur temple. The elephants are offerings made to Lord Krishna by the devotees of the temple. These elephants are looked after here and are also trained to participate in the various festivals that occur through out the year in the temple. The sanctuary also functions at the training school for the mahouts.
Inside the Elephant Sanctuary
Once inside, you can walk around the circular pathway on the sprawling complex. The most enchanting sight are of course the elephants who are chained inside the enclosures along the way. There are boards along the ways warning the visitors not to get too close to the enclosures. Several elephants are undergoing treatments for various aliments and hence the warning.
Elephants are known to be highly intelligent species. They are also worshipped as God Ganapati who is considered to be remover of obstacles. Watching so many of these noble creatures at a single place was exciting and at the same time intimidating.
After spending some time, it was time to leave. But even after 2 years, those memories are very fresh. It’s not often that you see so many elephants up close and this remains one of the most exciting and scariest trip ever.