The fire and renovation
On November 30,1970, a massive fire broke out in the temple. It begin from the western chuttambalam and raged all around for five hours, but the Sreekovil , the Vigraha, sub-shrines of Ganapathy , Sastha , Bhagavathy and flag-staff remained unaffected.
People from all walks of life, irrespective of age , caste, creed and religion fought the fire to set a glorious example. Later, the temple was once again built to the glory of the Lord.
This shocking incidence of fire took place on 29th November during the season of Ekadasivilakku . On this day Vilakku was celebrated on a grand scale and all the lamps in the Vilakkumatam were lighted. After the Seeveli procession, the function came to an end and the gates of Gopuram were closed.
Around 1.00 am, somebody in the immediate neighborhood near the western chuttambalam saw a blaze from within the Temple. Roused by the news, the whole lot of people, irrespective of caste, colour or creed rushed to the Temple and joined in fighting the fire with water and sand.
Later, the fire force units of Ponnani,Trichur and FACT arrived and started fighting the fire which seems to have started from the western Vilakkumatam. It was brought under control by 5.30 am.
Seeing the uncontrollable fire , the authorities had already removed the valuables from the Sreekovil. The Ganapathy idol, Sastha idol and the main idol of Lord Guruvayurappan were shifted to the Koothambalam and then to a more safer place, the residence of the Tantri. The fire gutted the whole of chuttambalam, the entire Vilakkumatam on the west, south and north sides.
The Chuttambalam was only 3 yards off, but still the fierce fire did not touch even the dry flower garlands, which hung on the corner of the Sreekovil.
Two committees were formed to undertake the renovation work. One committee was headed by the Devaswom Minister, Govt. of Kerala and another technical committee to advice on the renovation work. It had eminent engineers, astrologers and the Tantri as the members. The committee arrived at some general decisions.
- To attract more devotees, all possible alterations to remove inconveniences which are permitted according to tantric principles.
To increase the moving space for worshippers by reducing the height of Chuttambalam basement. To provide granite pillars instead of wooden.
To put granite wall against the Vilakkumatam.
- To provide a passage around the Ganapathy shrine to eliminate congestion.
- To reconstruct the Ganapathy temple in granite.
- To put a granite engraved “Ananthasayanam” in place of the old “Ananthasayanam” (Mahavishnu lying over serpent) painting which was lost in fire.
- To widen the gates at the north and east entrances.
- To reduce the size of the Nivedyathara at the south of the Mandapam.
Eminent astrologers of Kerala were requested to attend the meeting and decide about the Lord’s approval for above mentioned changes. Except the widening of two doors everything else were approved. The foundation stone for the renovation was laid by His Holiness Jagatguru Kanchi Kamakoti Matadhipathy Jayendra Saraswathy Swamikal. The ten round pillars in the two Vathilmatam were magnificently carved. The eastern pillar on the southern Vathilmatam, at the foot of which Melpathur meditated and wrote the Narayaneeyam was not removed.
After the great fire, the Vilakkumatam, for the first time, was lighted on the Vishu day,14th April, 1973.