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Guruvayur Anayottam 2024 Date At Guruvayur Temple in Kerala - Elephant Race - History - Rituals

Guruvayur Anayottam 2024 date based on official Guruvayur Temple Calendar and Panchang. Anayottam is the running race of elephants held annually in the Guruvayur Temple in Kerala. Guruvayur Anayottam 2024 date is February 21.

The event takes place at Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple and marks the beginning of Guruvayur Temple festival.

The winner of the event will get the opportunity to carry the utsava murti (Thidambu) at the Guruvayur Temple for one year.

Guruvayur Temple houses one of the largest numbers of elephants in the country.

The race which covers about half-a-kilometer distance starts from the premises of Manjulal at the eastern end of the Guruvayur Temple and ends at the eastern entrance of the Temple.

The rituals of Anayottam begins with the ancestral heir handing over the Kada bells to the temple Thanthri, below the flag post of the temple. The temple Thanthri, in turn, hands over the bells to the mahouts of the elephants that are participating in the race. Then, the mahouts adorn their elephant’s neck with the bells and the race starts when the conch shell is blown by the Marar. The elephant who completes seven rounds and crosses the eastern gate of the temple first will be declared as the winner.

History Of Guruvayur Anayottam

How did the elephant race begin? There is a story which relates this ritual to the rivalry between Zamorin and the King of Cochin. It seems Guruvayur was once under the Trikkana Mathilakam temple and did not own any elephants. The practice was for the elephants which were paraded in the Trikkana Mathilakam temple festival to be loaned to the Guruvayur temple where the festival was usually held a couple of days later. 

There was once some misunderstanding between the authorities of the two temples and Trikkana Mathilakam temple authorities wanted to teach the smaller Guruvayur temple a lesson by not sending the elephants for the festival. The elephants were tethered at the Trikkana Mathilakam temple after the festival there. 

Apparently, the elephants managed to break the iron chains at night and ran all the way to Guruvayur temple, with their bells clanging and reached the temple well before the time for the ezhunnallathu  (the ceremonial procession of the deity). In order to commemorate this event, an elephant race is conducted on the first day of the annual festival in Guruvayur.

Further, the morning ezhunnallathu on the first day is conducted without elephants - the only day when the priest carries the idol and walks around the temple, unlike the usual ritual of the priest riding an elephant with the idol.

Guruvayur has now more than 50 elephants housed in the majestic Punnathoor Kotta. However, only about half a dozen selected elephants are allowed to participate in the race (for reasons of safety).