Guruvayur Keshavan – The Majestic temple elephant

South Indin temples and specifically in Kerala & Tamil Nadu are known for temple elephants and few of those elepahants have become a legend. Today we will tell you the story of one such temple elephant, known as Guruvayur Keshavan.

Gajarajan Guruvayur Keshavan , born in 1904 ( lived till December 2, 1976 ) is the most well-known and celebrated temple elephant in Kerala.

On January 4, 1922, the royal family of Nilambur gifted Guruvayur Keshavan to the Guruvayur Hindu temple.

It is a popular Hindu ritual in Kerala to catch wild elephants as calves or young adults and donate them as an offering to the temple’s deity. There are approx 50 elephants at Guruvayur temple at any given point of time. ( exact number is not confirmed ).

More about Guruvayur Keshavan

Keshavan, who stood over 3.2 metres tall, was recognised for his devoted behaviour.

Keshavan died on Guruvayur Ekadasi, on December 2, 1976, at the age of 72.

He fasted for the entire day and knelt in front of the temple, his trunk elevated in a sign of prostration.

Guruvauyur still commemorates his death anniversary. Many elephants form a queue in front of the statue, which is garlanded by the chief elephant.

The Guruvayoor Devaswom bestowed upon Keshavan the unusual title “Gajarajan” (Elephant King).

Guruvayur Padmanabhan succeeded Guruvayur Keshavan after his death.

Early life of Gajarajan Guruvayur Keshavan

Guruvayur Keshavan was kidnapped from the Nilambur forest and brought to the legendary Nilambur Royal family as their 12th elephant.

Valiya Raja of Nilambur once prayed to the Lord to spare his family and possessions from an enemy onslaught, according to Guruvayur legend.

If his request is granted, he has vowed to give one of his many elephants. When his wish was granted, he presented Keshavan to the temple on January 4, 1922.

Many people believe that Keshavan only bent his front legs in front of those who hold Lord’s Thidambu, allowing them to climb aboard him, and that all others must climb using his back legs.

He is reported to have never caused bodily injury to anyone and to have been able to elevate his head as high as he could for hours while carrying Thidambu.

Keshavan was also well-known for his success in the Guruvayur Aanyottam (elephant race). According to legend, in the 1930s Aanayottam, Keshavan defeated Akhori Govindan, a famous elephant.

Keshavan was the first elephant to be bestowed with the unique title “Gajarajan” (Elephant King) by the Guruvayur Devaswom in 1973.

Keshavan fell unwell during the Guruvayur Ekadasi in 1976 and was about to quake during the deity procession.

He was promptly transported to the barn and fasted for the night before dying a few days later on December 2, 1976.

He fasted for the entire day and knelt in front of the temple, his trunk elevated in a sign of prostration.

His death anniversary is still celebrated on the evening of every year’s Ekadasi !

On this day elephants of Guruvayur Devaswom line up before Keshavan’s statue and the chief elephant garlanding the statye , thus paying tribute!

The Guruvayoor Devaswom had erected a life-size statue of Keshavan in its premises as a tribute to the services he rendered to the presiding deity of the temple.

Its tusks, along with a majestic portrait of the elephant, can be still seen adorning the entrance to the main temple enclosure.

Guruvayur Kesavan Movie & televesion serial!

Guruvayur Kesavan, a 1977 Malayalam feature film based on his life, was released the year after his death.

Bharathan directed the film, which starred M. G. Soman, Adoor Bhasi, Sankaradi, Bahadoor, Jayabharathi, Vennira Aadai Nirmala (ushakumari), Veeran, Oduvil Unnikrishnan, junior sheela, M S Nambudiri, N Govindankutty, Paravoor Bharathan, and Manavalan Joseph.

The story of Guruvayoor Kesavan was later adapted by Mr Pradeep Sivasankar as a television serial on Surya TV (2009—2010), starring Captain Raju, KPAC Sajeev, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Salu Menon, and Kollam Ajith.

Guruvayur Kesavan was played by Gajarajan Thechikottukavu Ramachandran.


You may also like: Mannarasala Temple – Kerala – The supreme place of worship of the serpent god

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