Nārāyaṇa Guru

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Nārāyaṇa Guru (A. D. 1854-1928) If a lotus plant that grows in quag¬mire 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 (caste of the toddy- tappers, considered untouchables). 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 (Ceṭṭāmbi Svāmi) 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 practised meditation and austerities. Attaining great inner peace and realising the mission of his life, he established an āśrama (monastery) 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 Siva and training the priests to worship there. Thus Nārāyaṇa became Nārāyaṇa Guru by his life and work. He specially crusaded against igno¬rance 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 Srī Nārāyaṇaguru Dharma Paripālana Yogam (S. N. D. P. Yogam). Nārāyaṇa Guru established in A. D. 1904 a Gurukulāśrama at Sivagiri 48 kms. (30 miles) to the north of Tiruvanantha- puram where poor children, irrespective of their caste were given good education, including vocational training. He also started many more schools of Sanskrit and English, as 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 Hindu temples for the untouchable castes. He has written quite a few books in Malayālam (his mother-tongue) and Sanskrit, of which Brahmavidyāpañcakam and Darśanamālā are well-known.