Today is the 88th death anniversary (Samadhi) of Sree Narayana Guru, the saint, prophet and social reformer from Kerala. The great Guru attained Samadhi on September 20, 1928. The memorial day is observed on the 5th of Malayalam month kanni every year. Thus the ceremony is organized to remind the world that his self lives in the souls of millions of his followers across the globe, though physically Guru is not at hands reach.
Narayana Guru was born in the year 1854 at Chempazhanthy, in the suburb of the city of Thiruvananthapuram. Narayana Guru’s father was Madan Asan and his mother was Kutti Amma. He was the only son of his parents.
The Guru was born into an Ezhava family, in an era when people from backward communities like the Ezhavas faced much social injustice in the caste-ridden Kerala society. Gurudevan, as he was fondly known to his followers, led Reform movement in Kerala, revolted against casteism and worked on propagating new values of freedom in spirituality and of social equality, thereby transforming the Kerala society and as such he is adored as a prophet.
In the days of Narayana Guru the most vital information everyone wanted to know of another person was his caste. This may look ridiculous to the present generation, but no one thought so in those days. Everybody wanted to know caste and everyone revealed his caste as a matter of course also.
In one of Swami Vivekananda’s letters, he writes of the despicable caste system of Travancore as the most horrid experience he had in his wanderings in India.
It was in this dark chapter of Indian history that Narayana Guru came in the 1850s. His own caste is described as Ezhava. In his abundant sense of humor, he once described the Ezhava as an unrecognized weed in the garden of the caste scruples.
Narayana Guru, at his childhood employed a passive dynamism whereby he brought the powers of the heavens to the earth to correct the ills of the world.
Even though Narayana Guru was blessed with a very critical and analytical mind, he was also evenly balanced with a sense of deep devotion. Mere logical reasoning did not amuse him. He was capable of silencing any argument with a thoughtful query or a witty remark. However, he avoided arguments and spent long hours in meditation and self-study. He underwent a great mystical change in his vision about the world. It was no more “out there” mechanically operating as a brute fact. The inner world opened up many new avenues for him.
Narayana Guru is revered for his Vedic knowledge, poetic proficiency, openness towards the views of others, non-violent philosophy and his resolve to set right social wrongs. Narayana Guru was instrumental in setting the spiritual foundations for social reform in today’s Kerala and was one of the most successful social reformers who tackled caste issues in India. He demonstrated a path to social emancipation without invoking the dualism of the oppressed and the oppressor.
Guru stressed the need for the spiritual and social upliftment of the downtrodden by their own efforts through the establishment of temples and educational institutions. In the process, he brushed aside the superstitions that clouded the fundamental Hindu religious convention of Chaturvarna.
Sree Narayana Guru was a great saint and social reformer who stood for ” One Caste, One Religion and One God for Man ” which embodies the universal brotherhood of man. Guru taught classical teachings like “whatever may be the religion of a man, it is enough if he becomes virtuous”, “Ask not, Say not, think not caste”, “Act that one performs for one’s sake should also benefit other”, “Gain freedom through Education and gain strength through organization”, “Liquor is poison, make it not, sell it not, drink it not” etc.