A Temple is not only a place for worship, but also a center for social gathering and an area for cultural programs. People from far and near, gather here in their fortune best to participate in the merriment. The festivals of special significance in Guruvayur temple includes:
This is conducted in the month of Kumbha (Feb-March) and lasts for 10 days. The hoisting of the temple flag atop the flagstaff (Dwajastambham) about 70 feet high heralds the festival. On the 1st day, an elephant race is held. On the next 6 days, there are elephant processions in the morning, afternoon and night. In the morning, there is the Sribhuta Bali (Offering of oblation at various altar). There are various cultural programs like dance, music, religious discusses are held at Melpathur Auditorium (outside the temple) on all these days. On the 8th day, ‘Utsavabali’ (from 10 am to 4 pm) or oblations are offered to the Lord’s lieutenants. A sumptuous feast then awaits the devotees. Pallivetta or the hunting expedition of the Lord takes place on the 9th day. This hunt is symbolic of the destruction of Kama (desire), Krodha (anger) and other such evils that plague us in our life. After that the Lord's Thidambu is takan to the Rudratheertha (temple pond) for Aarattu, amidst the chanting of mantras. Thousands of devotees also take the dip, chanting the Lord’s name to purge them of their sins. Then ucha Pooja (i.e, noon worship –this takes place at night only on this day) is held at the Bhagavati shrine. Finally, the Lord returns to the sanctum sanctorum after 11 circumambulations. The temple flag is then lowered signifying the end of the festival.
The first day of Medam (mid April) is the new year day for Malayalees. People believe that the fortunes for the next year depend on the nature of the objects one sees in the morning of Vishu. For this purpose, Kani (an omen) with articles like yellow flowers, rice, betel nuts, golden coins etc. is displayed in front of the deity. Thousands prefer to see Kani at Guruvayur on Vishu morning. Crowds stay overnight inside the courtyard of temple, which is specially permitted on this day. They close their eyes and set their eyes on the Kani and deity, as the doors are opened at 2.30 am for darshan
In the month of Chingam (July-Aug), under the Rohini Nakshatra, on the 8th day of the waning moon of Sravana is the day of Lord Krishna’s birth i.e. Janmashtami. A very special day in all Sree Krishna temples, Guruvayur Devaswom itself offer a niramala (full of garlands and vilakku), devotees flock in with appam (Cakes of rice paste and jaggery) considered the most favourite food of the Lord on that day.
Ekadasi, the eleventh day of every lunar fortnight, is very auspicious to the Hindus. Of the 24 Ekadasis in an year, the Vrishchika Ekadasi (Suklapaksha) has got special significance in Guruvayur. It falls in the Mandala season. The Navami (9th day) and Dasami (10th day) are also very important. Ekadasi Vilakku starts a month before the Ekadasi day as offerings by different persons, families and organisations. On Navami day, the Vilakku is lit with ghee as an offering by Kolady family. The Dasami Vilakku which used to be an offering of Zamorin Raja, is now conducted by Guruvayurappan Sankeerthana Trust. After the temple is open on this day for Nirmalya darshan ( 3.00AM ), it is closed only at 9.00 am on Dwadasi Day (12th day), thus allowing continues darshan for devotees throughout Dasami and Ekadasi Days. On Dwadasi day there is a custom of offering a token amount called Dwadasi Panam in Koothambalam for the welfare of the family.
Other important festivals: Mandalam,Kuchela’s Day , Vaishka, Chembai music festival & Narayaneeyam day.