Nārāyaṇa Guru

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By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Narayana Guru, NArAyaNa Guru, Naaraayana Guru

Nārāyaṇa Guru lived in A. D. 1854-1928. If a lotus plant that grows in quagmire can bring out a beautiful blossom which is also fragrant, there is no reason why a great man should not be born in a family belonging to a socially berated caste. This is exactly what the highly venerated Nārāyaṇa Guru has shown to the world.

Nārāyaṇa was born at the village Cempārajhaṇḍi near Tiruvananthapuram or Trivendrum, the capital of the Kerala State in A. D. 1854. His parents were Mādan and Kuṭṭi Amma. They belonged to the ezhava caste.[1] Being very intelligent he managed to get a good education especially from a great teacher Rāman Pillai Āsan of Karunāgapalli village. Though married as per the usual social customs, the death of his wife soon after, made him roam about like a mendicant. He met two great teachers, Kuñjan Pillai[2] and Thīkkāḍu Ayyāvu who helped him to attain scholarship and proficiency in yoga.

Later, he settled down in a forest near the town Aruvīpuram and practiced meditation and austerities. Attaining great inner peace and realizing the mission of his life, he established an āśrama[3] there itself and started several social service activities. His pure life and universal love transcending all social barriers attracted a large number of persons who became his disciples and followers. He also started building temples of Śiva and training the priests to worship there. Thus Nārāyaṇa became Nārāyaṇa Guru by his life and work.

He specially crusaded against ignorance and superstition, untouchability, drinking, animal sacrifice as also cruelty to animals, caste-animosities and a host of other unhealthy practices prevalent in the society. Attracted by his personality and teachings many young persons joined him, forming an organisation now known as Śrī Nārāyaṇaguru Dharma Paripālana Yogam.[4]

Nārāyaṇa Guru established in A. D. 1904 a Gurukulāśrama at Śivagiri 48 kms.[5] to the north of Tiruvananthapuram where poor children, irrespective of their caste were given good education, including vocational training. He also started many more schools of Sanskrit and English, and also an Advaitāśrama at Ālvāy to teach universal brotherhood. He took active part in what is now known as Vaikom Satyāgraha, to gain entry into the temples for the untouchable castes. He has written quite a few books in Malayālam[6] and Sanskrit, of which Brahmavidyāpañcakam and Darśanamālā are well-known.


  1. It is the caste of the toddy-tappers, considered untouchables.
  2. He was known as Ceṭṭāmbi Svāmi.
  3. Āśrama means monastery.
  4. He was also known as S. N. D. P. Yogam.
  5. It is approximately 30 miles.
  6. Malayālam was his mother-tongue.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

By Swami Harshananda

Nārāyaṇasukta literally means ‘hymn to Nārāyaṇa’.

Significance of Nārāyanasukta

The Mahānārāyana Upanisad forms the fourth section of the Taittiriya Āranyaka. It is often considered as khila or supplement to the Taittiriya Upanisad, which precedes it. It contains four well-known Vedic suktas, of which the Nārāyanasukta is the most important. It forms the thirteenth anuvāka or section and has twelve mantras or stanzas. It is generally used to offer flowers at the end of a pujā[1] or even chanted on auspicious occasions. It describes the greatness of Nārāyaṇa, the Supreme God and how to meditate on him in one’s heart.

Content of Nārāyanasukta

A general translation of the same, verse by verse, is as follows:

Verse 1

This universe is truly the Divine Person only. Therefore it subsists on him. He, the Divine Being, has countless heads and eyes. He is the giver of joy to the universe. It is He who exists in the form of the universe and is also the abode of all the human beings. He is self-effulgent, imperishable and the final abode of all.

Verse 2

He has transcended the universe. He is eternal. He is all-pervading, refuge of all humanity and the destroyer of sins. This universe is verily that Divine Person and on Him it subsists.

Verse 3

He is the lord of this universe. He is the Self of all beings as also the ruler. He is eternal, indestructible and ever auspicious. He has entered into all beings as the in-dweller. He is supremely worthy of being known (or realised). Though embodied in the universe (as its original cause) he is also the goal of all, the highest refuge.

Verse 4

Nārāyaṇa is the Supreme Reality designated as Brahman. He is the highest.[2] He is the Supreme Light. He is the infinite Self. He is the excellent meditator and meditation.

Verse 5

Whatever there is in this world, directly perceived or known through the scriptures, Nārāyaṇa has pervaded all that, both within and without.

Verse 6

One should meditate upon the Supreme, dwelling in the heart, who is limitless, unchanging, omniscient, the giver of happiness to all, as the goal of all striving. The place of His meditation is the ether in the heart which is like an inverted lotus-bud.

Verse 7

It should be known that the heart which is located at the distance of a finger-span below the Adam’s apple and above the navel is the great abode of the universe which is shining like a garland of flames.

Verse 8

Like the bud of a lotus, the heart is suspended in an inverted position, surrounded by arteries. In it or near it, there is a narrow space.[3] Everything is supported in that.

Verse 9

In the middle of suṣumnā remains the undecaying, all-knowing, omnifaced, great fire which has flames on every side. It enjoys the food presented before it and assimilates it. Its rays are scattered vertically and horizontally.

Verse 10

It warms its own body from the foot to the head. In the center of that fire there abides a tongue of fire which is extremely fine or subtle.

Verse 11

It is dazzling like the flash of the lightning that appears in the middle of a rain-bearing cloud, which is slender as the awn of a paddy grain and which serves as a simile to illustrate subtlety.

Verse 12

Paramātman[4] dwells in the middle of that flame. It is He who has become Brahmā, Śiva, Indra and the Akṣara.[5] It is He who is the Supreme Ruler.

Additional Stanzas

In some texts there are two additional stanzas:

  1. He is Rta,[6] Satya,[7] the highest Brahman, the dark and tawny Person who has absolute control over Himself. He has strange and variegated eyes and is omni-form. We meditate on Him and bow down to Him.
  2. This is the famous Nārāyana gāyatri:
    ‘We know Nārāyaṇa. We meditate on Vāsudeva. May that Viṣṇu inspire us!’


We can sum it up saying that this is an excellent hymn, not only for prayer but also for meditation.


  1. Pujā means ritualistic worship.
  2. Highest means Self.
  3. It is called suṣumnā.
  4. Paramātman means the Supreme Self.
  5. They are imperishable.
  6. Rta means the Cosmic Law.
  7. Satya means the Truth.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore