||This article contains wording that promotes the subject in a subjective manner without imparting real information. (October 2009)|
Chempazhanthy, Travancore (now Kerala, India)
|Died||20 September 1928
Varkala, Travancore (now Kerala, India)
|Hindu sant, sadhu and social reformer of India|
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Narayana Guru (ca. 1854–1928), also known as Sree Narayana Guru, was a Hindu sant, sadhu and social reformer of India. He was born into an Ezhava family, in an era when people from that community and other communities that were regarded as Avarna faced much social injustice in the caste-ridden society of Kerala. Gurudevan, as he was known by his followers, led a reform movement in Kerala, rejected casteism and promoted new values of spiritual freedom and social equality.
He stressed the need for the spiritual and social uplifting of the downtrodden by their own efforts through the establishment of temples and educational institutions. In the process he denounced the superstitions that clouded the fundamental Hindu cultural convention of caste.
Family and early life
There are many legends surrounding the life of Narayana Guru but few certain facts until his rise to prominence in 1887. He was born probably in 1854, the son of a peasant from an Ezhava family, in the village of Chempazhanthy near Thiruvananthapuram. Most likely, he was educated at least in part by a Nair teacher from a nearby village. He was deeply influenced by Vedanta and by ideas of social equality and social and religious reform. He taught religion and Sanskrit to local children and also to have studied yoga with notable ascetics such as Chattampi Swami. He was an itinerant yogi for some time and Cyriac Pullapilly says that he was probably married for a few years but "his worshipful biographers ignored this part of his life out of reverence for his later ascetism".
In the course of his wanderings in search of enlightenment, Narayana visited Aruvippuram. There people sought his advice and powers of healing and he and his followers erected a temple to Shiva in 1887. He installed a small rock as an idol within that, defying the tradition that this was done by Brahmins. As a youth, Narayana Guru turned away from the temple rituals of his local village and traveled widely, living an ascetic lifestyle and seeking religious understanding. He eventually became a schoolteacher and then a religious reformer.
In 1904, Narayana settled at Sivagiri to pursue his Sadhana (spiritual practice). He chose Amba'as his deity and subsequently opened a Sanskrit school in Varkala. Poor boys and orphans were taken under his care. They were given education regardless of caste distinctions. Temples were built at different places – Thrissur, Kannur, Anchuthengu, Tellicherry, Calicut, Mangalore. A temple was built for Sharada Devi in 1912, at Sivagiri. Worship at such temples helped reduce to a large extent superstitious beliefs and practices.
Narayana's 60th birthday was celebrated throughout the west coast from Mangalore to Sri Lanka. Between 1918 and 1923 he visited Sri Lanka many times. In 1921, a Conference of Universal Brotherhood was held at Aluva. Again in 1924, a conference of all religions was held there. He stressed the need for a Brahma Vidyalaya for a comparative study of different religious faiths.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (August 2012)|
The Sivagiri pilgrimage is said to have been conceived by Vallabhasseri Govindan Vaidyar and T K Kittan Writer, along with the poet Mooloor S. Padmanabha Panicker. Though the idea to hold a pilgrimage was approved by Narayana Guru as early as 1928, it was not until 1932 that the first pilgrimage was undertaken.
Narayana stated the goals of the pilgrimage to be the promotion of
- Devotion to God
- Technical training
He advised Vaidyar and Writer to organise a series of lectures on the themes with experts conducting them. The lectures should be listened to attentively. More important, the principles should be put into practice. Success must accompany efforts. Only then will the country and the people benefit. this must be the core purpose of Sivagiri pilgrimage.
Finally, it was decided to start the first pilgrimage from the village of Elavumthitta in Pathanamthitta District. The S N D P unit No.76 of Elavumthitta selected five youngsters for the pilgrimage. All five pilgrims wore bright yellow dress. All the way to Sivagiri, they were reciting 'Swaathanthrya gadha' – written by the poet Kumaranaasan. The dominant thought in their mind was the mission to fulfil, will have to reach Sivagiri, a great responsibility bestowed on their shoulders by the Sreenarayana devotees. Their mission was a great success. Today thousands are following the way they have shown.
Guru became seriously ill in September 1928. He remained bedridden for some time. Devotees came in large numbers to have a glimpse. The same year, his birthday was celebrated in many places, including Kerala, Madras, Mangalore, Sri Lanka and Europe. He died on 20 September 1928.
Public acceptance, honours and veneration
Rabindranath Tagore is reported to have said that "I have never come across one who is spiritually greater than Swami Narayana Guru or a person who is at par with him in spiritual attainment" after meeting Narayana Guru at his ashram in Sivagiri in November 1922.
The 1985 Malayalam film on the life of Sree Narayana Guru, Sree Narayana Guru by P.A. Backer, won the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration of 1985. In 2010, another film on the life of the Guru, titled Yugapurushan, was directed by R. Sukumaran. The 2014 Tulu movie Brahmashri Narayana Guru Swamy also has a story based on his life.
- Atmopadesa Śatakam
- Advaitha Deepika
- Daiva Dasakam
- Jeevakarunya Panchakam
- Anukamba Dasakam
- Jathi Nirnayam
- Jathi Lakshanam
- Chijjada Chinthanam
- Daiva vichinthanam – 1 & 2
- Athma Vilasam
- Shiva Shathakam
- Darsana Mala
- Brahmavidya Panchakam
- Nirvruthi Panchakam
- Vedantha Suthram
- Homa Manthram
- Municharya Panchakam
- Charama Slokangal
- Homa Mantram
- Vinayaka Ashtakam
- Sree Vasudeva Ashtakam
- Janani Navaratna Manjari
- Isavasyo Upanishad
- Ozhivil Odukkam
- Sree Narayana Dharma Sangham
- Temples built by Narayana Guru
- M. C. Joseph
- C. V. Kunhiraman
- Mithavaadi Krishnan
- Daiva Dasakam
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- (Re)construction of ‘the Social’ for Making a Modern Kerala: Reflections on Narayana Guru’s Social Philosophy, Satheese Chandra Bose, published in Satheese Chandra Bose and Shiju Sam Varughese (eds.) 2015. Kerala Modernity: Ideas, Spaces and Practices in Transition. Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan.
- Sree Narayana Guruswamikalude jeeva charithram– Moorkoth Kumaran-(The official biography as approved by Sivagiri mutt.) Published by SNDS Trust
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- Brahmarshi Sree Narayana Guru – Dr. T. Bhaskaran- published by Sahitya Akademi.
- The Word of the Guru : The Life and Teaching of Guru Narayana : Nataraja Guru, D.K. Printworld, 2003, New Delhi, ISBN 81-246-0241-7
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Media related to Narayana Guru at Wikimedia Commons