From about 34 elephants lined up for the event, ten were selected for the race. The race began from a revered banyan tree and culminated with a 33-year-old tusker named Gopi Kannan, named after the temple deity winning the race.
Gopi Kannan raced past four other tuskers to enter the temple premises and went straight in to the sanctum sanctorum. The winning elephant will have the privilege of carrying the idol for all the important rituals during the next ten days.
The temple has some 65 elephants that take part in different festivals throughout the year. They are housed in a nearby park.
According to temple lore, a nearby feudal lord refused to send tuskers to participate in the annual festival as he did not receive payments in time. But that night the elephants broke their chains and rushed to the Guruvayur Temple. The annual elephant race commemorates that event.