Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Narayana Guru (नारायण गुरु) (1856 - 1928) was a great sage and social reformer of India. Born in Ezhava/Thiyya caste (a Sudra or Other Backword Community in today's parlance), he revolted against the brahminical order and thereby transformed the social face of Kerala. Narayana Guru is revered for his Vedic knowledge, visioning skills, poetic proficiency, openness to the views of others, non-violent philosophy and most importantly his unnerving resolve to rebel and change wrongdoing in society. Narayana Guru was instrumental in setting the spiritual foundations for social reform in the current State of Kerala (erstwhile states of Travancore, Kochi and Malabar).
Born at Chempazhanthi near Thiruvananthapuram, Narayana Guru did not have any formal education. But he was taught the traditional subjects such a Sidharupam, Balaprobhodhanam, Amaram etc at home. Later at the age of 21 he learned Sanskrit. His father was a Sanskrit scholar and an Ayurvedic doctor.
Though married under parental pressure, he was not inclined towards a married life and not much is known about it. After a few years Narayana Guru became a wandering ascetic.
Consecration of Ezhava God at Aruvippuram
During his wandering life he happened to be at Aruvippuram in 1888. In the month of March that year, he decided to build a temple. He picked up a stone from a nearby river and used it as an idol for the proposed temple and consecrated it. This in itself was revolutionary step for according to Hindu scriptures, only brahmins can consecrate a temple. To the brahmins who questioned his right to do so, he replied that what he consecrated was an Ezhava Shiva (Ezhava God) and not a brahmin one. To those who questioned the timing of the consecration saying it was not an astrlogically auspecious time, he replied: Horoscope is to be cast after the birth of a child, not before.
A new phase began in the Guru's life in 1904. He decided to give up his wandering life and settle down in a place to continue his Sadhana (spiritual practice) he choose Sivagiri, twenty miles to the north of Thiruvananthapuram. Goddess 'Amba' became his deity of worship.
Next, he started a Sanskrit school in Varkala. Poor boys and orphans were taken under his care. They were given education regardless of caste distinctions. At Varkala a temple for Anjengo (Anjaneya) was built. Temples were built at different places - Trichur, Kannur, Tellicherry, Calicut, Mangalore. A temple was built for Sharada Devi in 1912, at Sivagiri. Worship at such temples helped to reduce to a large extent superstitious beliefs and practices.
In 1913, he founded an Ashram at Alwaye. It was called Advaita Ashram. This was an important event in his spiritual quest. That Ashram was dedicated to a great principle - Om Sahodaryam Sarvatra (all men are equal in the eyes of God). This became the motto of the new Ashram.
When Narayana Guru attained the age of sixty, his birth day was observed throughout the west-coast from Mangalore to Sri Lanka. Between the years 1918 and 1923 he visited and taught in Sri Lanka. In 1921, a Conference of Universal Brotherhood was held at Alwaye. Again in 1924, a conference of all religions was held at Alwaye. The Guru stressed the need for a Brahma Vidyalaya for a comparative study of different religious faiths. An institution called Narayana Gurukula was established at the Nilgiris.
Sree Narayana Guru has many followers and disciples. Nataraja Guru a notable disciple of Sree Narayana Guru introduced Guru's visions and ideals to the western world. He worked towards buidling 'Gurukulams' across the world. He was a great scholar and had a never ending thirst for knowledge. He had pure devotion for Sree Narayana Guru.
Narayana Guruís Philosophy
After a span of a millennium since the time of Adi Shankara, Sree Narayana Guru was the next greatest proponent and re-evaluator of Advaita Vedanta and hailing from the same geographic region, i.e., present-day Kerala. Narayana Guruís philosophy, which is fundamentally of Advaitic and non-dual wisdom in principles, further extended Advaita concepts into practical modes of self-realisation through spiritual education, compassion and vision for peaceful co-existence of the human race, whilst promoting social equality and universal brotherhood. His philosophy of non-violence and ahimsa strongly denounced discrimination in the name of caste or religion, and emphasised focusing on education and private enterprise for the ongoing uplift of the quality of life. The Guruís philosophy emphasised the consistency between true existence of the ďcommon realityĒ on Earth and one Divine behind the creation and sustenance of the Universe, dismissing any concepts of illusory worlds or any mid-way ďcity on highĒ.
The Guruís philosophy is exemplified in his mystical writings that are truly interchanging warps and wefts of ethics, logic, aesthetics and metaphysics woven into masterpieces of silken rich poetry. The Guruís literary works are in Malayalam, Sanskrit and Tamil languages, and these works are of a conceptual and aesthetic quality at par with the Upanishads.
At the time of its conception, Narayana Guruís philosophy was in many respects ahead of its times and focused on a futuristic world order that could be shaped from his philosophical connotations that are underlain with transcendental aesthetics and logic embodied in knowledge and pure reason. Most of the serious scholars of Narayana Guruís philosophy have been from generations beyond his lifetime; and this list keeps growing.
Narayana Guru and Atheism
Eventhough Narayana Guru had built a number of temples and composed many poems in praise of popular Hindu deities, his attitude towards the existence of a personal god is considered quite ambivalent. Many of his atheist followers infact considered him as an atheist. For instance, one of his prominent disciples Sahodaran Ayyappan was a militant atheist and one of the founders of Yukthivadi, the first rationalist/atheist magazine in Malayalam. When Sahodaran Ayyappan modified Narayana Guru's famous catchphrase, Oru Jati, Oru Matham, Oru Daivam Manushyanu (One Caste, One Religion, One God for Humanbeing) and re-written it as Jati Venda, Matham Venda, Daivam Venda Manushyanu (No Caste, No Religion, No God for Humanbeing), the latter did not protest. Some other prominent atheist leaders associated with Narayana Guru were M.C.Joseph, C.V.Kunhiraman and Mithavadi Krishnan .
Philosophical Works by Narayana Guru
- Atmopadesa Sathakam
- Advaitha Deepika
- Daiva Desakam
- Jeevakarunya Panchakam
- Anukamba Dasakam
- Jathi Nirnayam
- Jathi Lakshanam
- Chijanda Chinthakam
- Daiva Chintanam - 1 & 2
- Athma Vilasam
- Darsana Mala
- Brahmavidya Panchakam
- Nirvruthi Panchakam
- Vedantha Suthram
- Homa Manthram
- Municharya Panchakam
- Charama Slokangal
- Guru - Kumaranasante Drushtiyil : DC Books, Kottayam, Kerala
- 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
- Guru: K. Surendran (Biographical novel published in 1992, won the 1994 Vayalar Ramavarma Sahitya Award for the best literary work in Kerala): DC Books, ISBN 81-7130-253-X
- Sri Narayana Guru - Jeevitham, Darsanum, Kruthikal: Editor: K.N.Shaji, Current Books, Trissur, Kerala
- Narayanam: Perumpadavom Sreedharan (Biographical novel on Sree Narayana Guru published in 2004): Distributors: Current Books. ISBN 81-240-1427-2
- The Philosophy of Narayana Guru: Swami Muni Narayana Prasad, D.K. Printworld, 2003, New Delhi, ISBN 81-246-0236-0.
- Yukthirekha August 2004 (Special issue commemorating the 150th Birth Anniversary of Sri Narayana Guru) - Dhanuvachapuram Post, Trivandrum-695503, Kerala.
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