Guruvayur Temple Administration

Guruvayur temple was facing series of troubles from hostile attacks in the early 18th century. In 1716 the Dutch plundered the temple treasures and even set fire to the western Gopuram. The Guruvayur temple was till then a subordinate temple (Kizhedam) of Trikkanamathilakam (mentioned as Kunavayirkottam in Silappathikaram – Circa 175 A.D.). Trikkanamathilakam was under occupation by the Dutch forces and because of their animosities and persecution the Brahmin priests had left Trikkanamathilakam. Though Samuthiri (Puthiya Kovilakam) recaptured Trikkanamathilakam in 1756 from the Dutch, the Brahmins who had fled did not return. So Samuthiri dissolved the Trikkanamathilakam Devaswom, to which Guruvayur had been subordinated. Samuthiri had been exercising the Melkoyma (Sovereign Protector) rights of the Punnathur chief ever since the later acknowledged the suzerainty of Samuthiri kings in the fourteenth century. So Samuthiri king now began to exercise the Ooraayma rights over Guruvayur temple which thereby got out of the subordinate status from Trikkanamathilakam temple.

In the same year (1757) Samuthiri (Puthiya Kovilakam) became the supervising trustee with Mallisseri Namboothiri as the co-trustee of Guruayoor temple. In AD 1789 Tippu Sultan invaded Samuthiri’s province. Apprehending the destruction, the idol was hidden in a well and the Utsava Vigraham was taken to Ambalapuzha by Mallisseri Namboodiri and Kakkad Othikkan. Tippu Sultan’s Muslim Governor of the Malabar Province at Kozhikode did large-scale damage to temples including the Guruvayoor temple, which was set to fire by him, but it was saved due to timely rain. But the daily Poojas and routines of the temple were seriously affected. Later in AD 1792 Tippu was lost to the Samuthiri and the English. Samuthiri (Kerala Varma Vikraman – the 119th Zamorin) appointed Ullanat Panicker as the administrator with the status of a trustee of the Guruvayoor temple, which by then had become the most prestigious and sacred temple possessed by the Samuthiri kings in their southern territory. The main idol, taken out from the well was re-installed on 17th September 1792. However the daily Puja-s and routines were seriously affected on account of the Mysorean interlude in Malabar that witnessed the disintegration of Samuthiri kingdom of Calicut. After the death of Tipu Sultan in 1799, the British annexed Malabar which became a part of the Madras Presidency in 1800 and there was a period of administrative confusion in the following few years. Later the restoration of proper daily Puja-s, rituals and the periodical festivals were made possible by the active involvement of Ullanat Panickers thereafter.

It is worth to note that the temple records of Guruvayoor Devaswom mentions that ‘the Ullanat Panickers rescued and looked after the temple for good 75 years (1825 to 1900) by contributing from their family estates. Like Chempakassery Namboodiri and Deshavarma Namboodiri, the Panickers offered everything from service to property. Thus with their help daily Pooja and Utsavam (annual festival) were once again started’.

All that is quoted above is from the book “The History of Guruvayoor” by Prof.K.V.Krishna Iyer, published by Guruvayur Devaswom.