Mara Prabhu – Lord of the trees

S Balakrishnan
Lord of the Trees, not ‘Lord of the Rings’. This is Lord Krishna’s another leela to accept and prove the pure devotion of one of his humble & true devotees. ‘Mara’ in Malayalam is tree and Prabhu, as we know, is Lord; so it is Lord of the Trees. I chanced upon this unique and tall terracotta statue in Guruvayur, Kerala, when searching for elephant Kesavan who is so far the most popular among the elephant army of Lord Guruvayurappan (Krishna). Well, he is no more but a life-size statue of him has been installed near the temple of Guruvayurappan. I felt it would be a shame to return to Chennai without sighting the famous Kesavan, at least in the form of a statue. It was during my search for Kesavan that I came across this strange ‘Lord of the Trees’ statue.
Lord Krishna’s ‘Mara Prabhu’ leela happened in Guruvayur, Kerala … There lived two scholar devotees of Lord Guruvayurappan in Guruvayur - Melpathur Bhattathiri and Poonthanam. While the former was well versed in Sanskrit, the latter was a Malayalam expert whose compositions brimmed with devotion; he was also humble. One day Poonthanam was reciting the Sanskrit Vishnu Sahasranamam in front of the Guruvayurappan temple; while reciting the line ‘Padmanabho Amaraprabho’, Poonthanam omitted ‘a’ and recited it as ‘maraprabho’. ‘Amar’ means immortal in Sanskrit while ‘mara’ means tree in Malayalam and mortal in Sanskrit. Noticing this, Bhattathiri made fun of Poonthanam for his unintentional mistake. Poonthanam felt very sad and sat there dejected because of the humiliation. Then he heard the divine voice of Lord Guruvayurappan, “I am Amaraprbhu as well as Maraprabhu”. Maraprabhu is the Lord of all trees, herbs and the earth. Thus the Lord came in timely aid of his humble and true devotee Poonthanam.
This ‘mara prabhu’ form of Lord Krishna is represented as a 52 feet (16 meters) terracotta statue in Guruvayur. This terracotta statue is said to be one of the tallest of its kind in the world and is located within Sreevalsam Guest House complex, near the southern entrance of Guruvayurappan temple. The Mara Prabhu statue was completed in 1995. The chief sculptor was Shri P.V. Ramachandran who was assisted by thousands of artisans and others for three continuous months to create this statue.
Thousands of herbs have been used in this artistic creation of Lord of the Trees in tantric style. Along with herbs, clay and ghee have been used to erect this terracotta idol of Lord Mara Prabhu. Hence Mara Prabhu is a symbol of cure with the aid of traditional herbs which create immense cosmic energy to cure ailments. A 54 ft. iron arch (kanaka prabha) adds luster to the giant statue. The tall statue would look like leaning towards you but it is perpendicular to the base; it is an optical illusion, says Ramachandran, the chief sculptor.
So it is no surprise that in The Lord of the Rings story we find the trees joining the forces of good against the evil; similarly, in the Avtar movie we see the trees energizing and reviving the good people. The devotees of Lord Guruvayurappan, therefore, worship Lord Maraprabhu, the Lord of the Trees, who carries the cosmic universe within Him.
The writer can  be reached at [email protected]/ 9840917608 Whatsapp