TODAY -

Krishna Leela
September 06 – Janmashtami /Sri Krishna Jayanthi

S Balakrishnan *

 Krishna idols
Krishna idols



As I was approaching the Shri Guruvayur Temple I was attracted by small idols of Little Krishna sitting amidst red seeds. My wife dragged me to the temple saying, ‘first darshan, then only shopping or sightseeing’. I meekly followed her, only to find a big vessel inside the temple with such red seeds.

Devotees were picking up the seeds with their cupped palms, prayed and dropped the seeds back into the big vessel (uruli). This was new to me, a surprising temple practice I have not witnessed so far. Here is the legend behind this practice in Krishnan temples in Kerala, especially in Guruvayur Krishnan temple –

Long, long back there was an old lady in another part of Kerala. Oh, well, now it is Keralam, after the name was changed with an addition of letter ‘m’ at the end. But as we are talking of the past, let us stick to Kerala. This old woman was a great devotee of Lord Krishnan of Guruvayur or Guruvayurappan; it was her desire to visit Guruvayur and darshan Krishnan at least once before she breathed her last.

But she was also poor who could not afford to carry with her any costly offering. And the distance to be covered on foot was too much for her to carry any fresh vegetables or fruits from her little garden. It was then she remembered the shiny red seeds that lay strewn on the ground from the nearby tree. She was exited! Little Krishnan would happily play with these lovely seeds and so He would indeed love my offering, she decided.

The old woman, therefore, started gathering these red seeds (Adenanthera pavonina; manjadi/manjadikuru in Malayalam) from under that tree, daily. She would pick them up tenderly, wipe them gently and store them expectantly in a small cloth pouch. The pouch slowly started filling up and, at last, it was time for her to start the yatra to Guruvayur.

  Lord Guruvayurappan
Lord Guruvayurappan



Trudging slowly & steadily from her home, the old woman at last reached the sacred temple of Lord Guruvayurappan. She noticed hectic activities going on in the temple; it was the first day of yet another month of Malayalam almanac when the local ruler (Naaduvazhi) would invariably visit the temple for worshiping. So she was careful to avoid the crowd and inched her way into the temple, clutching her precious pouch of offering.

The retinue of the local ruler which was getting ready the temple for his visit pushed the lay devotees to the sideline. In the mêlée the old woman fell down on temple floor; her little pouch opened up and the red seeds sprinted in every direction.

She was aghast that all her efforts and pain have gone waste in a blink. At the same time, the royal elephant went berserk and ran wildly within the temple, pushing and pulling everything. The shocked Naaduvazhi ran inside to the deity and prayed for solution.

A divine voice told him about the old woman devotee, the offering she had brought, how she was insulted by the servants and how He was expecting her and her offering. The baffled ruler asked for forgiveness and he, along with everyone present, picked up all the manjadi seeds, put them back in the pouch and gave it to her.

Then, with due respect, she was led into the sanctum sanctorum to offer her simple but sincere offering of manjadi seeds to Lord Guruvayurappan, proving that devotion is what matters ultimately, and not riches.

To remind this truth, every Krishnan temple in Keralam has a thick-bottomed vessel (uruli) filled to the brim with the bright red manjadi seeds. The devotees put their palms into the heap of these red seeds and, as if offering, put them back, praying for fulfillment of their wishes and good health.

In some places, manjadi is replaced by kundrumani (Adenanthera bicolor), which is a climber and not a tree. It has a black tip and hence more attractive than the pure red manjadi.

New to this tradition, I was hesitant to follow this practice fearing that I could commit some mistake and offend local sentiments. Then, as we came out to the line of shops, sensing my desire to buy one such doll, my wife said, ‘First lunch, then shopping’, and dragged me away in search of a hotel.

‘Take a quick snap, if you want, and hurry up’, she ordered. My stomach won over my heart and we never bought this idol of cute little Krishnan playing with manjadi/kundrumani!


* S Balakrishnan wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is from Chennai and can be reached at krishnanbala2004(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(DOT)in
This article was webcasted on September 06 2023.



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