By Swami Harshananda
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. Nārāyaṇa Guru has proved this 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. 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 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 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.
Nārāyaṇa Guru established a Gurukulāśrama in A. D. 1904 at Śivagiri 48 kms. 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 and Sanskrit, of which Brahmavidyāpañcakam and Darśanamālā are well-known.
- It is the caste of the toddy-tappers, considered untouchables.
- He was known as Ceṭṭāmbi Svāmi.
- Āśrama means monastery.
- He was also known as S. N. D. P. Yogam.
- It is approximately 30 miles.
- Malayālam was his mother-tongue.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore