Ekadashi is a spiritual day dedicated to the Supreme Preserver, Vishnu. Guruvayur Ekadashi falls in the Shukla Paksha (the waxing phase of the moon) in the Malayalam month of Vrishchika.

The state of Kerala celebrates Vrishchika Ekadashi as Guruvayur Ekadashi. This auspicious day falls in the Mandala season.

Significance of Guruvayur Ekadashi

The Shri Krishna Guruvayur temple in Kerala, observes the Guruvayur Ekadashi.

The doors of the temple Sanctum Sanctorum remain open throughout this auspicious day and do not close. The temple doors open on Dasami, the day before Ekadashi. The lighting of the Ekadashi Vilakku (lamp) commemorating Guruvayur Ekadashi is a highlight of the event, and the lamp is lit a month before the Ekadashi day. The lamp burns continuously for a month.

Memorial Service for Gajarajan Guruvayur Kesavan

On Guruvayur Ekadashi, the temple conducts a spiritual Ekadashi memorial to honor the memory of Gajarajan (king of elephants), Guruvayur Kesavan. He was the most celebrated temple elephant in Kerala. The great elephant achieved legendary status as he served Shri Krishna, also called Guruvayurappan, the deity in the famed Guruvayur Shri Krishna Temple in Kerala for years. The majestic elephant faithfully served Guruvayurappan for 54 long years.
The elephant’s sincerity was legendary, and he was honored as Gajarajan in 1973 on account of his great personality and his pure and sincere devotion to the deity. He was unique in his dedication to Guruvayurappan, and his legend will remain in people’s memories forever.

The legendary elephant breathed his last on a Guruvayur Ekadashi day. Every year on Guruvayur Ekadashi, the leader of the elephants at the Guruvayur temple places a wreath at the statue of Guruvayur Kesavan. All elephants of the temple come together to pay their respects to the legendary Guruvayur Kesavan.

The temple then takes the elephants out in a grand procession to the nearby Parthasarathy temple. On this day, Shri Krishna rendered the Bhagawad Gita to Arjuna. Keralites observe the Gita Jayanti as the Geethopadesam Day here.

Legend of Guruvayur Ekadashi

There are some stories associated with Guruvayur Ekadashi. Legend has it that Vishnu was once visiting Yama, the God of Death at his abode. The Supreme Preserver heard the anguished cries of people being tortured for their sins. His compassion was such that he wanted them to be relieved of their suffering. God uttered the word Ekadashi to save them, and immediately, the people were relieved of their sins.

Another legend has it that Vishnu was once in Yog Nidra (dynamic sleep). An asura by the name of Murdanav challenged him to a duel. A beautiful lady arose from the Ekadashi (eleven) Indriya (organs) of Vishnu, and the asura, smitten by her beauty, wanted to marry her. He approached the damsel, and she agreed, but on the condition that he fight a duel with her. The asura agreed, and in the battle that ensued, the damsel killed him. Vishnu granted the damsel a boon. She requested to be named Ekadashi and wanted people to observe the Ekadashi fast to control their Ekadashi Indriya on this day. Vishnu granted her the boon.

Rituals and Celebrations Associated with Guruvayur Ekadashi

Devotees eat only lunch on Dashami day. They observe a fast on Ekadashi day. The people take a holy dip early in the morning and visit the temple. They do meditation and chant prayers of Narayana (another name for Vishnu).

Devotees do not pluck Tulsi leaves or apply oil on this day. Most people spend the day in self-purification and chant the Vishnu Sahasranamam, Vishnu Ashtothram, or simply chant Aum Namo Narayana. Most devotees keep a vigil at the temple for the night, chanting Slokas or reading stories associated with Vishnu. On Ekadashi day, the temple celebrates Udayasthamana Pooja. A music festival is held outside the temple for devotional music lovers.

On Dwadashi, the temple holds a unique ritual of offering Dwadashi Panam (money) in the Koothambalam, of the temple. It is a token amount offered to God and is considered highly auspicious. Devotees break the fast on this day and visit the temple. People who are unable to visit the temple bathe early, offer prayers at home, and light a lamp. The temple doors at Guruvayur close on Dwadashi day.