The word “Parthasarathy” could be understood as “Sarathy” (charioteer) to “Partha” (Arjuna), a direct reference to Lord Krishna’s role in the Mahabharata war, wherein the he became Arjuna’s charioteer and in the process gave a spiritual discourse, which became “The Bhagavad Gita” – the holy book of the Hindus. An idol of Sri Krishna was worshipped by Kunti Devi in Dwapara Yuga. The same, apparently got lost or misplaced due to efflux of time and was supposed to be floating in the River Ganges, Adi Sankara in his travels located the same and consecrated the idol in the very same place where we find the temple of Lord Parthasarathy today in Guruvayur.
Lord Krishna as Parthasarathy
For some time, it was under Naduvil Madom Swamiyar; later on it came into the hands of Mallissery Mana nearby. During the invasion of Tipu Sultan, the temple was abandoned by everyone and subsequently the temple faded into oblivion for quite a while. It is worth recollecting here that Tipu Sultan ruled over his Kingdom for about 16.5 years (07.12.1782 to 04.05.1799). He was killed by the British in the Battle of Srirangapatna on 04th May 1799. Tipu Sultan is said to have invaded Guruvayur in 1789 A.D.From historical data, it is evident that the destruction of the Parthasarathy Temple should have taken place almost during the same Period viz.,1789 A.D.
The Parthasarathy temple is located at a very short distance from Guruvayur railway station. When the roof of this dilapidated structure of what remained of the erstwhile Parthasarathy temple gave way in 1971, the debris came to be inspected by the devotees and local villagers. The sacred idol of Lord Parthasarathy was unearthed during the course of excavation. It was then that the process of resurrecting the temple to its pristine glory was initiated.
The rituals in Parthasarathy temple are more or less similar to those followed in Guruvayur temple. The main pujas such as Ucha pooja, Usha Pooja, Seeveli, Deeparadhana and Udayasthamana Pooja are all followed in this temple quite similar to the traditions and customs of other Kerala temples. There is a link between the Sri Krishna temple at Guruvayur and the Parthasarathy temple. On Guruvayur Ekadasi day, a procession is taken from the Guruvayur temple accompanied by three caparisoned elephants and they return by noon. Soon after Deepa Ardhana, a beautifully decorated chariot with an idol of Sri Krishna would be taken from Parthasarathy temple to Guruvayur temple. Mostly temples in Kerala do not have Navagrahas as deities. Parasarathy temple, here is an exception. Here there is an enclosure where the Navagrahas are worshipped and this makes it quite unique in Kerala. There is also a separate shrine for Adi Shankara inside the temple.
Elephants during the Rituals
How Sri Krishna came to be known as Parthasarathy is sought to be explained by this following anecdote from Mahabharata. Both the Pandavas and the Kauravas started enlisting the support of like-minded kings to bolster the strength of their respective armies prior to the Mahabharatha war. One particular day both Arjuna as well as Duryodhana decided to meet Sri Krishna so as to take his support for the war. When they reached the palace of Sri Krishna, he was asleep in his cot. Duryodhana occupied a seat near his head, while Arjuna sat near his feet. As Krishna woke up, he first sighted Arjuna and requested him as to why he had come to meet him. Next, he turned towards Duryodhana and asked him the reason for his visit. Both Arjuna and Duryodhana came up with a similar request – they both wanted Sri Krishna’s help in the war. Sri Krishna asked them- What kind of help you need – me or my army? Duryodhana chose the latter, while Arjuna opted for the former. So, it was an unarmed Krishna, who opted to be on the side of Arjuna in the Mahabharata war. Since he took up the role of a charioteer for Arjuna, he came to be known as Parthasarathy. The rest is history – Pandavas guided by Krishna won but not Krishna’s army. The biggest achievement of “Parthasarathy” in the war was his discourse on Dharma which has since become the Gita ,Gospel of the Hindus, the world over. It occupies an exalted place in Hindu literature and it encompasses almost all schools of Hindu thought be it Dwaita, Adwaita, Yoga, Mimamsa or Samkhya.
In and around Guruvayur, there are a few temples which one ought not to miss. Basically, anyone going to Guruvayur would normally visit the shrine of Lord Shiva at Mammiyur, the Venkatachalapathy temple and the temple under discussion viz., Parthasarathy temple. There is a widespread belief that a pilgrimage to Guruvayur is infructuous or rather incomplete, without a darshan of Lord Shiva at Mammiyur, which is why most devotees choose to visit Mammiyur after completing their darshan of Guruvayur.
About one kilometer north east of the Guruvayur temple is the Thiruvenkidomdesam wherein is located the Thiruvenkatachalapathy temple. The deity worshipped here is Lord Balaji, same as the celebrated Lord Balaji of Tirumala hills, Andhrapradesh.
According to astrological findings about 1000 years back, a sage from Tirumala temple came to Guruvayur, to establish a temple for Venkatachalapathy. Bringing an idol from Tirupati, he obtained the permissions of Lord Krishna of Guruvayur, for establishing a Venkatachalapathy temple in Guruvayur. It is interesting to know that this place from time immemorial has been known as Thiruvenkidom. About 3 kilometres east of the Guruvayur temple is the Balarama temple. Lord Balarama is known as the “God of Farmers” Farmers in India worship him before undertaking any important task. Balarama’s weapon is the “plough” which is also worshipped by farmers. This temple originally belonged to the Nenmini mana and was handed over to the Guruvayur Devaswom on 10th March, 1989.
Thus,Guruvayur is a holy spot where one can see four great manifestations of Vishnu – as Sri Krishna, as Parthasarathy ,as Balarama and as Venkatachalapathy.
Devotees desirous of having darshan of Lord Parthasarathy can avail of all modes of transport – road, rail or air. Given the popularity of the Guruvayur temple as the fourth biggest temple in India in terms of the number of devotees who visit the temple per day, the Government of India thought it fit to have a railway line connecting the cultural capital of Kerala, Thrissur with the Temple town of Guruvayur, a distance of 23 Kilometers. This railway line was opened for traffic in 1994. Kerala state Road transport corporation runs frequent bus services to Guruvayur. Guruvayur is 23 kms from Thrissur by rail ;Thrissur is on the Chennai – Mangalore railway route. Kochi International Airport (Nedumbassery) is 80 kilometres from Guruvayur while Calicut airport is 100 kilometres away. Lots of good hotels have recently come up in Guruvayur making travel a pleasure for pilgrims.