Narayana Guru

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Narayana Guru
Born(1856-08-20)20 August 1856
Died20 September 1928(1928-09-20) (aged 72)
Cause of deathIndigestion & prostate inflammation
Known forKerala reformation movement
  • Madan Asan (father)
  • Kuttiyamma (mother)
PhilosophyNot to argue and win but to know and to make known (വാദിക്കാനും ജയിക്കാനുമല്ല, അറിയാനും അറിയിക്കാനും)

Sree Narayana Guru (IPA: [nɑːrɑːjɐɳɐ guˈru]) (20 August 1856 – 20 September 1928)[1] was a philosopher, spiritual leader and social reformer in India. He led a reform movement against the injustice in the caste-ridden society of Kerala in order to promote spiritual enlightenment and social equality.[2] His famous quote was "one caste one religion and one god for all men".[3]


Narayana guru at Meditation. Narayana Guru meditated for 8 years at Pillathadam cave at Maruthwamala mountain and attained enlightenment. The area was secluded with heavy forest and inhabited with wild life.[4]
Excerpts from Anukambadasakam

Is the Reality that drives the chariot proclaiming the Supreme Truth (Lord Krishna),
Or the Ocean of Compassion and patience (The Buddha),
Or the Guru who wrote lucid bhashyas (commentaries) on Advaita (Adi Shankara),
this Compassion embodied one?
Is he the Almighty appearing in human form
Or righteousness manifesting in divine human form
Or the holy Son of God (Jesus Christ)
Or the merciful (Prophet) Nabi, the pearl, the gem?

Excerpts from Atmopadesa Śatakam

യുകിലകമേ പലതല്ലതേകമാകും;
തുകയിലഹമ്പൊരുളും തുടര്‍ന്നിടുന്നു.

"I, I," thus, all that are spoken of,
when carefully considered,
inwardly are not many; that is one;
as the receding I-identities are countless
in their totality, the substance
of I-consciousness continues.

Narayanan, né Nanu, was born on 20 August 1856 to Madan Asan and Kuttiyamma in an Ezhava family of ayurvedic physicians, in the village of Chempazhanthy near Thiruvananthapuram, in the erstwhile state of Travancore.[5] Unlike other Ezhavas who confined their Sanskrit reading to ayurvedic works, Narayanaguru studied religious texts as well.[6] His early education was in the gurukula way under Chempazhanthi Mootha Pillai during which time his mother died when he was 15. At the age of 21, he went to central Travancore to learn from Raman Pillai Asan, a Sanskrit scholar who taught him Vedas, Upanishads and the literature and logical rhetoric of Sanskrit. A year later, he married Kaliamma but soon disassociated himself from the marriage to commence his public life as a social reformer.[5] He returned to his village in 1881, when his father was seriously ill, and started a village school where he taught local children which earned him the name Nanu Asan.[5]

Leaving home, he traveled through Kerala and Tamil Nadu and it was during these journeys, he met Chattampi Swamikal, a social and religious reformer, who introduced Guru to Ayyavu Swamikal from whom he learned meditation and yoga.[7] Later, he continued his wanderings until he reached the Pillathadam cave at Maruthwamala where he set up a hermitage and practiced meditation for the next eight years.[5]

In 1888, he visited Aruvippuram and spent time meditating in a cave near the Neyyar River. It was here that his first and one of his prominent disciple, Sivalingadasa Swamikal, who hailed from an orthodox Nair family, discovered him. During his stay, he consecrated a rock from the deepest part of the Neyyar River, a whirlpool sinkhole known as 'Sankaran Kuzhi'. It is believed that it was in this 'Sankaran Kuzhi' sage Agastya gave his worshipping Shiva Linga to Neyyar river somewhere before leaving. This rock was established as the idol of Shiva, and the site has since been known as the Aruvippuram Shiva Temple.[8][9][10] The act, which later came to be known as Aruvipuram Pratishta, created a social commotion among the upper caste Brahmins who questioned Guru's right to consecrate the idol.[11] His reply to them that "This is not a Brahmin Shiva but an Ezhava Shiva"[12] later became a famous quote, used against casteism.[13][14] It was here, the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP Yogam)[15] was founded on 15 May 1903 by the efforts of Padmanabhan Palpu, better known as Dr. Palpu, with Narayana Guru as its founder president.[16]

Guru shifted his base to Sivagiri, near Varkala in 1904 where he opened a school for children from the lower strata of the society and provided free education to them without considering their caste. However, it took him seven years to build[5] a temple there, the Sarada Mutt was built in 1912. He also built temples in other places such as Thrissur, Kannur, Anchuthengu, Thalassery, Kozhikode, and Mangalore and it took him to many places including Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) where he made his final visit in 1926. On his return to India, he was involved in a number of activities including the planning of the Sivagiri pilgrimage which was planned after his visit to Pallathuruthy in 1927 to attend the anniversary of the S.N.D.P. Yogam.[5]

Soon after the meeting at Pallathuruthy, which was the last public function he attended, Guru became ill and underwent treatment at places such as Aluva, Thrissur, Palakkad, and finally to Chennai; the physicians attended to him included Ayurvedic physicians like Cholayil Mami Vaidyar, Panappally Krishnan Vaidyar and Thycauttu Divakaran Moos as well as allopathic physicians viz. . Krishnan Thampi, Panikker, Palpu and a European physician by name, Noble. He returned to Sarada Mutt and died on 20 September 1928, at the age of 72.[5]


Fight against casteism[edit]

Casteism was practised in Kerala during the 19th and early 20th centuries and the backward castes such as Ezhavas and other untouchable castes like Paraiyars, adivasis and Pulayars had to suffer discrimination from the upper caste community[17] .It was against this discrimination that Guru performed his first major public act,[5] the consecration of Siva idol at Aruvippuram in 1888. Overall, he consecrated forty five temples across Kerala and Tamil Nadu..[citation needed]His consecrations were not necessarily conventional deities; a slab inscribed with the words, Truth, Ethics, Compassion, Love,[18] a vegetarian Shiva, a mirror and a sculpture by an Italian sculptor were among the various consecrations made by him.[19] He propagated the ideals of compassion and religious tolerance and one of his noted works, Anukampadasakam, extols various religious figures such as Krishna, The Buddha, Adi Shankara, Jesus Christ.[20]

Aruvippuram Shiva Prathishta[edit]

As narrated by Shivalingadasa Swamikal, who was the first disciple of Narayana guru, who had also witnessed the event:

The Guru had discussed the idea of a shrine at the creek with many of his devotees. The Guru could understand that everyone wanted it. That is how the Guru ordered that the day of Shivaratri in 1888 could be the Pratishtha. The Guru did not tell the people who had gathered there for the Shivratri Vrat, except that he pointed to a rock facing the river and said that they can be here. Shivalinga Dasa Swami, Naniyashan and Bhairavan Shanti were there as assistants to the Guru. Guru did not tell even them what he was going to do. However, the devotees who had gathered there had made all the preparations they could. Around the rock where the Guru was standing as a pedestal, a pandal was tied and raised on top of the rock. Marotikayas are cut in the middle and oil is poured into them and lit. Those lamps were fixed on the thatched roofs. Nadswara reading was also arranged. Vaidyas arranged Ashtabandham for idol fixation. Gurudev was in a solemn silence all that day. At that time no one had the courage to even look at the face of the Guru who was as radiant as the golden idol in meditation near the Parnashala. At dusk all the lights turned on. The devotees started chanting the Panchakshari mantra. It was half past midnight. The night when devotees stay awake for Lord Shiva who has drunk poison. The Guru awoke from meditation and came out of Parnashala. Like the rising sun. Guru went straight to the river. In Neyyar there is a kayam (whirlpool sinkhole) called "Shankaran kuzhi". The rushing river turns around and flows forward in the deep Shankarankuzhi. Nothing comes up when fallen into Shankaran Kuzhi!.It is believed that Agastya gave his worshipping Shiva Linga to Neyyar river somewhere before leaving. As the crowd swelled, the Guru sank into the lake. Time passes.It has been a long time after guru disappeared under the water.People are standing with their arms folded and unable to even say a word. Only the chanting of the mantra of the river can still be heard. Then the Guru emerges from that bed. In his right hand he holds up a rock in the form of Shivalinga and with his left hand he climbs up holding the rock like an expert. Walking straight on, he reached the edge of the rock he intended to place. He held the rock close to his chest and stood meditatively, tears flowing from those compassionate eyes. He remained in meditation for hours. A ray of light from the sky rushed through the air and touched the stone in the Guru's hand. He placed the round stone on the flat stone. Rock fused to rock. The Vaidhyas who were waiting for the Ashta Bandham asked the Guru, "Should the Ashta Bandham be applied?" The Guru's lips, which were sealed in silence, spoke for the first time that day. "No. It's already fixed!"[21][22]

India's first - All India Industrial and Agricultural Exhibition[edit]

In 1905, Sree Narayana guru organized All India Industrial and Agricultural Exhibition at Kollam, first time in India to facilitate Industrialization and agriculture.[23] Guru wanted to convey the importance of regaining the lost worshipping places (later rebuilt by the Guru himself) and wealth. This was according to his quote:[24]

Be Enlighten by knowledge, Be strengthened by organization, Be prospered by Industries

(വിദ്യ കൊണ്ട് പ്രബുദ്ധരാകുക, സംഘടനകൊണ്ട് ശക്തരാകുക,വ്യവസായം കൊണ്ട് അഭിവൃദ്ധിനേടുക)

Vaikom Satyagraha[edit]

The social protest of Vaikom Satyagraha was an agitation by all backward caste communities against discrimination in Hindu society of Travancore.[25] It was reported that the trigger for the protest was an incident when Narayana Guru was stopped from passing through a road leading to Vaikom Temple by an upper caste person. It prompted Kumaran Asan and Muloor S.Padmanabha Panicker, both disciples of Guru, to compose poems in protest of the incident. T. K. Madhavan, another disciple, petitioned the Sree Moolam Popular Assembly in 1918 for rights to enter the temple and worship, regardless of the caste.[26] A host of people including K. Kelappan and K. P. Kesava Menon, formed a committee and announced Kerala Paryatanam movement and with the support of Mahatma Gandhi, the agitation developed into a mass movement which resulted in the opening of the temple as well as three roads leading to it to people of all castes.[26][27] The protest also influenced the Temple Entry Proclamation of 1936.[28][29]

Sivagiri pilgrimage[edit]

Sivagiri pilgrimage was conceived by three of the disciples of Guru viz. Vallabhasseri Govindan Vaidyar, T. K. Kittan Writer and Muloor S. Padmanabha Panicker which Guru approved in 1928, with his own recommendations.[citation needed] He suggested that the goals of the pilgrimage should be the promotion of education, cleanliness, devotion to God, organization, agriculture, trade, handicrafts, and technical training and advised Vaidyar and Writer to organise a series of lectures on these themes to stress the need for the practice of these ideals, stating this to be the core purpose of Sivagiri pilgrimage. However, his death soon after delayed the project until 1932 when the first pilgrimage was undertaken from Elavumthitta in Pathanamthitta District.[30]

Writings and philosophy[edit]

Guru published 45 works in Malayalam, Sanskrit and Tamil languages which include Atmopadesa Śatakam, a hundred-verse spiritual poem[31] and Daiva Dasakam, a universal prayer in ten verses.[32] He also translated three major texts, Thirukural of Valluvar, Ishavasya Upanishad and Ozhivil Odukkam of Kannudaiya Vallalaar.[33] It was he who propagated the motto, One Caste, One Religion, One God for All (Oru Jathi, Oru Matham, Oru Daivam, Manushyanu) which has become popular as a saying in Kerala.[34] He furthered the non-dualistic philosophy of Adi Sankara by bringing it into practice by adding the concepts of social equality and universal brotherhood.[34]


  • Vidyabhyasam
  • Shuchitwam
  • Eeshwaravishwasam
  • Krishi
  • Kaithozhil
  • Kachawadam
  • Sanghadana
  • Shastra sanketika Parisheelanam

All Religions' Conference[edit]

Guru organized an All Religion Conference in 1923 at Alwaye Advaita Ashram, which was reported to be first such event in India.[35] It was an effort to counter the religious conversions Ezhava community was susceptible to[36] and at the entrance of the conference, he arranged for a message to be displayed which read, We meet here not to argue and win, but to know and be known.[citation needed] The conference has since become an annual event, organised every year at the Ashram.[37]

Notable disciples[edit]

Public acceptance, honours and veneration[edit]

Guru 1967 stamp of India
5 Coin

In 1916, Ramana Maharshi hosted Narayana Guru at his Tiruvannamalai ashram when Guru was returning from a trip to Kancheepuram where Swami Govindananda, a disciple of Guru, had established the Sree Narayana Seva Ashram.[41] Rabindranath Tagore met Narayana Guru at the latter's ashram in Sivagiri in November 1922. Tagore later said of Narayana Guru that, "I have never come across one who is spiritually greater than Swami Narayana Guru or a person who is at par with him in spiritual attainment".[42] Three years later, Mahatma Gandhi visited Guru during his 1925 trip to Kerala to participate in the Vaikom Satyagraha[43] after which the Indian independence movement leader stated that "it was a great privilege in his life to have the darshan of an esteemed sage like Narayana Guru."[citation needed]

On 21 August 1967, Narayana Guru was commemorated on an Indian postage stamp of denomination 15 nP.[44] Another commemorative stamp on him was issued by Sri Lanka Post on 4 September 2009.[45] The Reserve Bank of India issued two sets of commemorative coins depicting Guru's image, each valued at 5 and 100 respectively, on the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary.[citation needed]

The first of the several statues of Narayana Guru was erected at Jagannath Temple, Thalassery in 1927 while he was still alive.[46][47] His statues are seen in many places in Kerala which include a 24 feet statue at Kaithamukku in Thiruvananthapuram.[48] The Government of Kerala observe the birthday, the Sri Narayana Jayanthi, and the date of death (Sree Narayana Guru Samadhi) of Narayana Guru as public holidays.[49]

In popular media[edit]

The life of Narayana Guru has been portrayed in a number of movies starting with the 1986 film Sree Narayana Guru,[50] made by award-winning director P. A. Backer.[51] Swamy Sreenarayana Guru, an Indian Malayalam-language film directed by Krishnaswamy, released the same year. Almost a decade and a half later, R. Sukumaran made a film on the life of Guru, titled Yugapurushan[52] in 2010 with Thalaivasal Vijay playing the role of Guru and the film also featured Mammootty and Navya Nair.[53] Brahmashri Narayana Guru Swamy is a Tulu film made in 2014 by Rajashekar Kotian on Guru's life and the film was the 50th film made in the language.[54] His life during the eight years he spent at Maruthwamala (also known as Marunnumamala) has been adapted into a docufiction, titled Marunnumamala and the film was released by Pinarayi Vijayan, the chief minister of Kerala on 9 August 2016.[55][a]

In 2016, Kerala High court observed that the statue of Sree Narayana Guru cannot be treated as a Hindu diety.[57][58]


In Malayalam[edit]

Guru's tomb in Sivagiri, Kerala
  • Swanubavageethi
  • Aathmopadesh Shathakam[59]
  • Adwaitha deepika[60]
  • Arivu[61]
  • Narayana Guru (1988). Daivadasakam. Trivandrum: Narayana Gurukula.
  • Narayana Guru; Bhāskaran, Ti (1981). Śivaśatakaṃ (in Malayalam). Tiruvanantapuram]; Kōṭṭayaṃ: N.M. Sajee Bhaskaran; Vitaraṇaṃ, Nāṣanal Bukst̲āḷ. OCLC 13027019.
  • Jeevakarunya Panchakam
  • Anukamba Dasakam
  • Jathi Nirnayam
  • Jathi Lakshanam
  • Chijjada Chinthanam
  • Daiva vichinthanam – 1 & 2
  • Athma Vilasam
  • Narayana Guru; Bhaskaran T (1981). Shivasathakam. Sajee Bhaskaran.
  • Kolatheereshastavam
  • Bhadrakaalyashtakam
  • Gajendra moksham vanchipattu
  • Ottapadyangal
  • Sree Krishnana Darsanam
  • Mangalasamsakal
  • Narayana Guru (1987). Subrahmanya keerthanam. Varkala: Narayana Gurukula.
  • Subramanya Ashtakam
  • Sadasiva Darsanam
  • Samasya
  • Swanubhava Geethi
  • Indrya Vairagyam
  • Narayana Guru (1976). Nyayadarsanam. Varkala: Narayana Gurukula.
  • Narayana Guru (1988). Prapanchasudhidasakam anubhoothidasakam. Varkkala: Narayana Gurukula.
  • Narayana Guru (2003). Kalinatakam (2nd ed.). Varkkala: Narayanagurukulam.
  • Narayana Guru, Sree (1993). Baahuleyaashtakam. Varkala, Narayana Gurukulam.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Narayana Guru (1985). Sree Narayana Guruvinte Sampoorna Kruthikal (in Malayalam). Calicut, Mathrubhumi.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Narayana Guru; Bālakr̥ṣṇan Nāyar, G (1972). Kuṇdalini-pāṭṭu' (in Malayalam). Trivandrum: Sree Narayana Publishing House. OCLC 499830611.
  • Narayana Guru; Narayana Prasad; Narayana Gurukula (2003). Kāḷināṭakaṃ. Varkkala: Nārāyaṇagurukulaṃ. OCLC 58526535.

In Sanskrit[edit]

The first Jnana Vigraham of Guru
  • Narayana Guru (2004). Darsanamaala. Varkkala: Narayana Gurukula.
  • Narayana Guru (1985). Brahmavidyapanjakam. Varkkala: Narayana Gurukulam.
  • Narayana Guru; Śāstrī, Harihara (1998). Darśanamālā. Naī Dillī: Ḍī. Ke. Priṇṭavarlḍa. ISBN 9788124601099. OCLC 671596309.
  • Nirvruthi Panchakam
  • Slokathrayi
  • Vedantha Suthram
  • Homa Manthram
  • Municharya Panchakam
  • Asramam
  • Dharmam
  • Charama Slokangal
  • Homa Mantram
  • Chidambarashtakam
  • Guhashtakam
  • Bhadrakaliashtakam
  • Vinayaka Ashtakam
  • Sree Vasudeva Ashtakam
  • Janani Navaratna Manjari

In Tamil[edit]

  • Thevarappathinkangal[62]


  • Thirukural
  • Isavasyo Upanishad
  • Ozhivil Odukkam

Translations of Guru's works into other languages[edit]

  • Narayana Guru (2007). Garland of visions: Darśanamālā of Narayana Guru. Translated by Narayana Prasad. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld. ISBN 9788124603918. OCLC 167576536.
  • Nataraja Guru; Narayana Guru (2001). An integrated science of the absolute: based on the Darśana mālā (Garland of visions) of Narayana Guru. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld. ISBN 9788124601846. OCLC 50756278.
  • Narayana Guru (2009). Shorter philosophical poems of Narayana Guru: Brahmavidyā pañcakam, Advaita dīpikā, Aṛivu, Homa mantram, Daiva daśakam. Translated by Narayana Prasad. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld. ISBN 9788124605158. OCLC 653807175.
  • Narayana Guru (1997). The Vedānta-sūtras of Nārāyaṇa Guru: with an English translation of the original Sanskrit and commentary. Translated by Narayana Prasad. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld. ISBN 9788124600856. OCLC 37282506.
  • Narayana Guru (1977). Life divine and spiritual values. Bangalore: Swami Sivananda Spiritual Centre : Copies can be had from Satsangha Seva Samithi. OCLC 615117867.
  • Narayana Guru (1994). The song of the self: a new translation of atmopadesasatakam (one hundred verses of self-instruction). Translated by Sreenivasan, K. Thiruva-nanthapuram, Kerala: Jayasree Publications. OCLC 222527764.
  • Narayana Guru (1969). One hundred verses of self-instruction (Atmopadesasatakam). Translated by Nataraja Guru. Varkala, Kerala: Gurukula Pub. House. OCLC 695387.
  • Narayana Guru (2007). Nārāyaṇasmr̥tiḥ (in Sanskrit). Translated by Atmananda; Narayana Prasad. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld. ISBN 9788124603925. OCLC 733026527.
  • Narayana Guru (1982). Vinayakashtakam: eight verses in praise of Vināyaka. Translated by Nityacaitanya Yati. Varkala: Narayana Gurukula. OCLC 863337667.
  • Narayana Guru (1969). One hundred verses of self-instruction. OCLC 606239200.


Narayana guru attained samadhi at Sivagiri, Kerala. The cause of death was indigestion and prostate inflammation. He had told all the great physicians and disciples of that time who came to treat him that the Guru had approached his samadhi in advance and that the ashram should be well looked after and that everyone should live as good people.. (January 18, 1928) The special public meeting of the SNDP meeting held at Kottayam was the last public ceremony attended by Narayana guru.

In 1927, naturopathy was carried out in Mangatukodi and Kandachira on the banks of Ashtamudikayal along with Pazhavila Chattambiasan. He was bedridden for a long time suffering from senile disease but was treated by many great doctors but could not cure the disease completely. He died during meditation in the presence of devotees on 20 September 1928 (Malayalam year 1104 Kanni 5). It was just three weeks after his 72nd birthday. The body was laid to rest in Sivagiri, Kerala Mathvalap. Today there is a hall with his statue.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Marunnumamala – a docufiction in Malayalam on YouTube[56]


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Further reading[edit]

  • (Re)construction of ‘the Social’ for Making a Modern Kerala: Reflections on Narayana Guru's Social Philosophy, Satheese Chandra Bose, published in Satheese Chandra Bose and Shiju Sam Varughese (eds.) 2015. Kerala Modernity: Ideas, Spaces and Practices in Transition. Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan.
  • Sree Narayana Guruswamikalude jeeva charithramMoorkoth Kumaran-(The official biography as approved by Sivagiri mutt.) Published by SNDS Trust
  • Sree Narayana Gurudeva Krithikal – Sampoorna VyakyanamG Balakrishnan Nair- (Works of Narayana Guru with Complete Interpretations – ten parts compiled in two volumes) published by The State Institute of Languages, Kerala.
  • Brahmarshi Sree Narayana Guru – T. Bhaskaran- published by Sahitya Akademi.
  • The Word of the Guru : The Life and Teaching of Guru Narayana : Nataraja Guru, D.K. Printworld, 2003, New Delhi, ISBN 81-246-0241-7
  • 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
  • Narayanaguru- Editor: P.K.Balakrishnan (A collection of essays in Malayalam):March 2000, (First Edition 1954), Kerala Sahitya Academi, Trichur, Kerala.
  • The Philosophy of Narayana Guru: Swami Muni Narayana Prasad, D.K. Printworld, 2003, New Delhi, ISBN 81-246-0236-0.
  • Sree Narayana Gurudev – the Maharshi who made Advaita a Science – [G.K.Sasidharan]: Many Worlds Publications, Kollam, Kerala (First Edition 2014)
  • M. K. Sanu (2017). O. V. Usha (ed.). Sree Narayana Guru – Life and Times. Translated by P. R. Mukundan. Open Door Media. p. 280. ISBN 978-8193219614.
  • Nataraja Guru (2008). The Word of the Guru: The Life and Teachings of Guru Nārāyaṇa. D.K. Printworld. ISBN 978-81-246-0241-6.
  • Nityachaitanya Yati (2005). Narayana Guru. Indian Council of Philosophical Research. ISBN 978-81-85636-89-4.
  • Moorkoth Kumaran (1930). Life of Swami Narayana Guru (PDF) (in Malayalam). Telicherry: M. G. & Sons.

External links[edit]