Sunday, July 21, 2013


The famous poet and scholar, Meppathur Narayana Bhattathiri, composed the poem known as “Narayananeeyam”, which is a wonderful epic in Sanskrit consisting of one thousand and thirty six verses. The composition of the poem is connected with a miracle.Another miracle recorded in the temple history happened in the 16th century
Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri (AD 1559-1632)

Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri 
Narayana Bhattathiri was born is a family of Namboodiris, who are the Brahmin caste of Kerala. By the age of sixteen he was a great Vedic scholar. However he soon fell into bad company and began to neglect the daily duties enjoined on him by his caste and upbringing. His father-in-law was a very pious and learned astrologer. One morning when he was seated on the veranda scrutinising a yantra in front of him, Bhattathiri who had woken up late came rushing out and in his hurry to reach the yard he jumped over the sacred yantra. The old man rebuked him in strong terms for his negligence in the pursuit of his swadharma and for dissipating this human life which should have been spent in the pursuit of the final goal of liberation. Somehow the effect of this rebuke was electrical. He realised his mistake and promised to mend his ways and begged the old man to accept him as his disciple. 

Bhattathiri became one of his greatest disciples. In his later years the astrologer was stricken with crippling rheumatoid arthritis. Bhattathiri was a very great devotee of Lord Guruvayoorappan by this time and he begged the Lord to allow him to take over the disease of his master. Needless to say the old man improved and Bhattathiri contacted the dread disease. He was totally afflicted and could hardly move. He made his friends take him to Guruvayoor. Every morning he would take his bath and be carried to the temple. Here he sat propped up by the wooden pillar on the eastern side of the southern porch and composed his immortal classic called “The Narayaneeyam” which is a condensed version of the Srimad Bhagavata Purana which describes the glories of all the ten incarnations of Vishnu with special reference to the Krishnavatara.  The hundred-canto poem follows the original closely and describes all the incarnations of Lord Vishnu starting with the “Fish”. Naturally he elaborated at length on the life of Lord Krishna. Every day painfully, he would continue with his self imposed task and at the end of each canto he would beg the Lord to cure him of his dire disease.

 The special thing about “The Narayaneeyam” is that it is addressed directly to the Lord of Guruvayoor. Bhattathiri imagined the child Krishna sitting in front of him listening avidly to the stories of his own incarnations. Hence many of the stories sound as if they are being told to a child. At times the pain would be too intense for him and he would stop in the middle of a story and throw his stylus down and refuse to go any further even though the child was anxious to hear the end of the story. At this time it is said that the child Krishna would come close and stroke his limbs and make him fit to carry on with the tale the next day. 

As the days and months slipped by with Bhattathiri singing the praises of the Lord, he got progressively better. By the time he sang the last canto he was completely cured. Moreover he was blessed with a vision of the Lord standing inside the sanctum and smiling at him. The hundredth canto is a description of this beatific vision. He starts this canto with the words, “In front of me I am seeing…” Bhattathiri lived to the ripe old age of a hundred and six years. He spent most of his life in the temple worshipping the Lord of his heart. The poem is indeed a gem of both devotion and erudition. Even though most of the temple has been re-modelled and the pillars changed into marble, the wooden pillar on which Bhattathiri rested during his arduous labour of love is still retained. 

Mention should also be made here of some of the famous devotees of the Lord of Guruvayoor. The old Namboodiri Brahmin known as Poonthanam was a great devotee and many miracles took place during his lifetime. What he lacked in erudition he made up in devotion and his famous poem called “Jnanapana” is a masterpiece of devotion and wisdom. Vilvamangalam was another great devotee. Krishna is said to have appeared in person and sat before him whenever he did his puja! Another great devotee was Kururamma who was a childless widow. When she grew too old to attend to her own necessities it is said that the boy Krishna came to her in the form of a servant boy and did all her menial work for her! Prince Manavedan who was the Zamorin or ruler of Calicut was also a great devotee. He composed the ten chapters in the life of Krishna known as Krishnattom Kali which is a unique dance form of this temple. At one time these ten episodes in the life of Krishna, starting with his birth and ending with his ascension could only be played in the temple or the royal palace. However now due to its greatness it is now being played in other places also. Manavedan is said to have had the good fortune of embracing Krishna when he actually appeared during one of the scenes. 


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