The expression “Hantha! Bhagyam Jananaam!”, comprising the last
words of the opening sloka of this great work, Srimad Narayaneeyam, has
become the watch-word of Guruvayoor, because devotees of Guruvayoorappan
believe that Narayaneeyam, known as the “Gospel of Guruvayoor” is
identical with the Lord. They consider themselves extremely fortunate
and blessed even to have been able to have a Darsanam of the Lord, who
is the same as Brahman, the Supreme Consciousness. One can find the
above-cited words inscribed right at the entrance of the shrine.
The image of the Lord at Guruvayoor, believed to be of divine
origin, is said to have been worshipped by Vasudeva and then by Lord
Krishna Himself at Dwaraka. Before the divine ascent of Lord Krishna, He
had instructed Uddhava, His devotee and minister, that this image would
come floating when Dwaraka would be engulfed by the sea, after His
departure. At his behest, Guru (Brihaspati, the Deva-guru), along with
Vayu (the Wind-god), looked for a suitable spot which was located by
Parasurama, and as instructed by Lord Siva, installed the same at the
present location, which later came to be known as “GURU-VAYU-OOR”,
meaning the place of Guru and Vayu, the sanskritised name being “GURU-PAVANA-PURAM”.
As the Divine ascent was at the beginning of Kali-yuga, the temple is
believed to be about 5,100 years old. As the image had its origin in
Vaikuntam, the divine abode of Lord Vishnu, devotees consider this
shrine as Vaikuntam on earth, or Bhooloka-Vaikuntam.
The following story stands testimony to the antiquity and divine
origin of the image of the Lord at Guruvayoor.
Long time ago, in the period Swayambhuva Manvantharam, King
Suthapas, along with his spouse Prisni, desirous of begetting a child,
performed penance for twelve thousand divine years before the idol of
Lord Vishnu, given to them by Lord Brahma. Immensely pleased by their
devotion, the Lord appeared before them in the form of Lord Vishnu and
asked them to seek a desired boon. Filled with great joy on seeing the
comely divine form that appeared, Suthapas prayed thrice with
considerable desire: "It would be good if a son equal to Thee is born".
The Lord, lover of devotees that He is, stated thus: "Only I am equal to
Me. Therefore, I shall Myself incarnate as your son, in order to fulfil
your desire. Since you have repeated your prayer thrice, I shall be
assuming the aspect of your son in three births." Saying thus, the Lord
disappeared. Not long afterwards, the Lord manifested Himself under the
name,"Prisnigarbha", son of Prisni and Suthapas.
It is the same couple who were born as Kasyapa and Adithi in the
next birth. They also worshipped and prayed to the same idol of the Lord
as in their previous birth. Thereafter, Adithi, who was very sad at the
plight of their sons, the Devas, being tormented by the Asuras, observed
the austerity known as "Payovratha" (details of Payovratha are given
under the commentary of Sloka 2, Dasakam 30 which deals with the Vamana
Incarnation) and, as a result of that, the Lord manifested Himself as
their son, Vamana.
Later, the self-same couple, in their third birth, was born as
Vasudeva and Devaki in the city of Mathura.
Sage Dhoumya presented them with the same idol of the Lord, which was
worshipped by them in the earlier births. Owing to the force of habit or
"Vasana", Devaki and Vasudeva worshipped that idol again with unstinted
devotion. The Lord manifested Himself as their son, in this, their third
birth also. It was to remind them of the story of the two earlier
births, that the Lord manifested Himself with the insignia of Lord
Vishnu when He was born as their child, Sri Krishna.
After the slaying of Kamsa, the Lord Himself installed and
consecrated His own idol, the very same divine idol, which, in times
gone by, was given by the Lord to Brahma, by Brahma to Prisni-Suthapas,
then to Adithi-Kasyapa and then to Devaki-Vasudeva. That idol became the
object of worship of all, including the Lord. Later, at the time of the
Ascent of the Lord, at His own behest, the idol was recovered and
reinstalled at the present location at Guruvayoor by Guru (Bruhaspati or
Jupiter) and Pavana (Wind-god) for worship by those born in Kali yuga!
Hantha! Bhagyam Jananaam! Fortunate indeed are those born in Kali-yuga!
SRIMAD NARAYANEEYAM is the story of Lord Narayana. It is a work
consisting of 1036 slokas or verses, divided into 100 dasakams or
chapters, each dasakam consisting of approximately 10 slokas. Composed
by Melpathur Narayana Bhattatiri, it is a condensed version of Srimad
Bhagavata Mahapuranam, which consists of 18,000 slokas authored by Veda
Vyasa (Bhagavata-artha-sangraha). It is said that the work has the
blessings of Lord Krishna or Guruvayoorappan, the presiding Deity of the
shrine of Guruvayoor.
As the story goes, the author, Melpathur Narayana Bhattatiri
voluntarily transferred onto himself, the ailment of paralysis from his
Guru and relative, Trikandiyur Achuta Pisharoti ritualistically, in
order to save him. In the process, he himself became a paralytic. He
then got himself carried to the shrine at Guruvayoor where he could take
shelter at the feet of Lord Krishna and get divine intervention.
As he was continuing to suffer from excruciating pain due to his
malady, he sought advice from the celebrated contemporary poet, Thunjath
Ezhuthatchan, who suggested that Bhattatiri should “start with the
fish”. Bhattatiri, being quick to understand the implication of this
suggestion, viz., that he should compose a hymn in praise of Lord
Guruvayoorappan giving an account of all His sportive incarnations
beginning with the incarnation as fish (Matsya-avatara), he sat at the
feet of the Lord and composed this great work, a dasakam a day, with
ardent devotion. At the end of the hundredth day, when he had completed
all the one hundred dasakams, it is said that he had a glorious vision
of the Lord and he was completely cured of his ailment. Bhattatiri
composed Narayaneeyam when he was twenty-seven, completing it on November 27, 1587.
This work, composed in praise of Lord Krishna, and which is said to
have received divine intervention at different stages, is considered to
be a short and sweet substitute for Srimad Bhagavata Mahapuranam and is
recited by devotees all over the world as a general prayer and also as a
panacea for all ailments causing impairment or loss of motor function of
nerves. Innumerable devotees flock to the Guruvayoor temple and offer
worship to the Lord, reciting this hymn of prayer in the firm hope,
belief and trust that they would be cured of their ailments.
Melpathur Narayana Bhattatiri
Although volumes can be written about this devotee-poet, who will
be remembered forever for his contribution of composing this great
devotional work, only a very short historical background is given here
for the sake of brevity.
The author, Melpathur Narayana Bhattatiri, was an erudite scholar
in Sanskrit, well-versed in the choice of words which make the work
highly rhythmic and flowing, with a very high literary value, comparable
to any of the compositions of classical Sanskrit poets.
Bhattatiri has authored many works in Sanskrit, major and minor,
totalling about forty, which can be classified into different groups,
viz., sastric or technical, Prabandhas or narratives, Prasastis or
panegyrics and devotional hymns or Stotras. In the first category, fall
the Prakriya-sarvasva, Apaniniya-pramana and Dhatu-kavya, which are
books on grammar. Mana-meyodaya is a philosophical work on Purva-mimamsa.
Among his narrative writings, the Ramayanam, Maha-bharatam and
Bhagavatam written in Champu style (prose and poetry mixed) are
renowned. Some of the Prasastis devoted to some rulers (of the small
principalities which comprise the present Kerala), are said to have been
written much against his own wishes.
Among the devotional hymns, Srimad Narayaneeyam is the major work.
The devotional fervour of this work is extremely high and the exposition
of the Vedanta philosophy, especially in the last ten chapters, has no
comparison. The ruling sentiment is Bhakti or devotion to the Lord,
which serves as the means for attaining the four Purusharthas or values
of life, viz. Dharma (righteousness), Artha (worldly prosperity), Kama
(desire for sensual enjoyments) and last, but not the least, Moksha
(emancipation from worldly ties). Totally devoted to the path of
devotion and mentally committed to the task of inspiring the readers
over and above the immediate need of curing himself of his ailment, he
took upon himself the stupendous task of epitomizing Srimad Bhagavata
Mahapuranam describing the sportive incarnations of the Lord, ending up
every chapter with a fervent appeal for help.