Chempazhanthy, Travancore (now Kerala, India)
|Died||20 September 1928
Varkala, Travancore (now Kerala, India)
Narayana Guru, also known as Sri Narayana Guru, (c. 1854 – 20 September 1928), was a social reformer of India. He was born into a family of the Ezhava caste in an era when people from such communities, which were regarded as Avarna, faced much injustice in the caste-ridden society of Kerala. He 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 uplift 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 an Ezhava peasant, Madan Asan and his wife Kuttiyamma, 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 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, where he and his followers erected a temple dedicated to Shiva in 1888, defying the tradition that this was done by Brahmins alone. As a youth, Narayana Guru turned away from the temple rituals of his local village and travelled widely, living an ascetic lifestyle and seeking religious understanding. He eventually became a schoolteacher and then a religious reformer.
Around 1897, he composed Atmopadesa Satakam (one hundred verses of self-instruction) in Malayalam, widely regarded as a literary and philosophical masterpiece. In 1904, he settled at Sivagiri to pursue his Sadhana (spiritual practice), choosing Amba as his deity. He also opened a Sanskrit school in Varkala, where poor boys and orphans were taken under his care and given education regardless of caste differences. Temples were built at various places–Thrissur, Kannur, Anchuthengu, Tellicherry, Calicut, Mangalore-under his supervision. A temple was built for Sharada Devi in 1912 at Sivagiri. In 1913, Narayana Guru founded the Advaita Ashram at Aluva, dedicating it to the principle of Om Sahodaryam Sarvatra (universal brotherhood). Aluva also became the venue for a Conference of Universal Brotherhood in 1921, and a Conference of All Religions in 1924, both conducted under his guidance. He also stressed the need for a Brahma Vidyalaya for a comparative study of different religious faiths.
The trio of Vallabhasseri Govindan Vaidyar, T K Kittan Writer, and Mooloor S. Padmanabha Panicker are believed to have conceived the idea of the Sivagiri pilgrimage. Though the proposal was approved by Narayana Guru as early as 1928, it was not until 1932 that the first pilgrimage was undertaken from Elavumthitta in Pathanamthitta District.
Narayana Guru stated the goals of the pilgrimage to be the promotion of education, cleanliness, devotion to God, organization, agriculture, trade, handicrafts, and technical training. He advised Vaidyar and Writer to organise a series of lectures on these themes and stressed the need for the practice of these ideals, stating this to be the core purpose of Sivagiri pilgrimage.
The Palluruthy event in 1927 was the last anniversary of the S.N.D.P. Yogam which Narayana Guru attended. This was also his last public function. He became seriously ill in September 1928 and remained bedridden for some time. He died on 20 September 1928.
Public acceptance, honours and veneration
Rabindranath Tagore met Narayana Guru at the latter's ashram in Sivagiri in November 1922. Tagore later said of Narayana Guru 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".
The life of Narayana Guru has been portrayed in at least four movies: the Malayalam-language films Sree Narayana Guru (1985), and Yugapurushan (2010), the Tulu film Brahmashri Narayana Guru Swamy, (2014) and Marunnumamala.
Other films depicting him include:
- Swamy Sreenarayana Guru, a 1986 Malayalam film directed by Krishnaswamy
- Gurudevan, a 1989 Malayalam film directed by N. Udayabhanu
- Atmopadesa Śatakam
- Advaitha Deepika
- Daiva Dasakam
- Jeevakarunya Panchakam
- Anukamba Dasakam
- Jathi Nirnayam
- Jathi Lakshanam
- Chijjada Chinthanam
- Daiva vichinthanam – 1 & 2
- Athma Vilasam
- Shiva Shathakam
- Gajendra moksham vanchipattu
- Sree Krishnana Darsanam
- Subramanya Ashtakam
- Sadasiva Darsanam
- Swanubhava Geethi
- Indrya Vairagyam
- 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
- Pullapilly, Cyriac K. (1976). "The Izhavas of Kerala and their Historic Struggle for Acceptance in the Hindu Society". In Smith, Bardwell L. Religion and social conflict in South Asia. International studies in sociology and social anthropology. 22. BRILL. pp. 24–46. ISBN 978-90-04-04510-1.
- Pullapilly, Cyriac K. (1976). "The Izhavas of Kerala and Their Historic Struggle for Acceptance in the Hindu Society". In Smith, Bardwell L. Religion and Social Conflict in South Asia. Leiden: BRILL. pp. 35–36. ISBN 9789004045101.
The guru was born probably in 1854
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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
- Sree Narayana Gurudeva Krithikal – Sampoorna Vyakyanam – G Balakrishnan Nair- (Works of Sree Narayana Guru with Complete Interpretations – ten parts compiled in two volumes) published by The State Institute of Languages, Kerala.
- 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
- Srinarayana Guruvinte Sampoorna Kruthikal (Complete Works of Sri Narayana Guru): Mathrubhoomi Publishers, Kozhikode, Kerala
- Sri Narayana Guruvinte Mathavum Sivagiriyum (Sivagiri and the Religion of Sri Narayana Guru): K. Maheshwaran Nair
- Narayanaguru- Editor: P.K.Balakrishnan (A collection of essays in Malayalam):March 2000, (First Edition 1954), Kerala Sahitya Academi, Trichur, Kerala.
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- Sree Narayana Gurudev - the Maharshi who made Advaita a Science - [Prof:G.K.Sasidharan]: Many Worlds Publications, Kollam, Kerala (First Edition 2014)
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