Sree Narayana Guru

Year of birth : 1856
Parents : Madan Asan, Kutti Amma
Teacher/Guru : Thycaud Ayyavu Swamikal
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Nārāyana Guru also seen as Sree Nārāyana Guru Swami, was a Hindu saint, sadhu and social reformer of India. The Guru was born into an Ezhava family, in an era when people from the Ezhava community and other communities that were regarded as "Avarna", faced much social injustices 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. He started a Sanskrit school in Varkala. Poor boys and orphans were taken under his care. They were given education regardless of caste distinctions. Temples were built at different places – Thrissur, Kannur, Anchuthengu, Tellicherry, Calicut, Mangalore. 

Nārāyana Guru is revered for his Vedic knowledge, poetic proficiency, openness to the views of others, non-violent philosophy and his resolve to set aright social wrongs. Nārāyana 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. 

Narayana Guru born as Nānu would listen to his father with keen interest when he narrated stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to the simple folks of his village. Nanu was very reticent and was intensely drawn to worship at the local temple. He would criticise his own relatives for social discrimination and theapartheid-like practice of segregating children from, supposedly, lower castes. He preferred solitude and would be found immersed in meditation for hours on end. He showed strong affinity for poetics and reasoning, composing hymns and singing them in praise of God. While continuing his quest for "the ultimate truth", Nanu would often spend time in the confines of temples, writing poems and hymns and lecturing to villagers on philosophy and moral values.

Nanu found the life affected by an intolerable restlessness. One of his friends took him to Chattampi Swamikal. The two were attracted to each other at the first sight. Nanu's keen intellect and imperturbability astonished Chattampi Swami and he took Nanu to his own guru Thycaud Ayyavu Swamikal. Nanu became his disciple and got from him advanced training in yogic practices. Later, Nānu moved to his hermitage deep inside the hilly forests of Maruthwāmala, where he led an austere life immersed in meditative thought and yoga and subjected himself to extreme sustenance rituals. After an unpretentious life of over thirty years abounding in knowledge and harsh experiences, this epoch is considered the culmination of the meditative recluse; the point at which Nārāyana Guru is believed to have attained a state of Enlightenment. 

Nārāyana Guru's later literary and philosophical masterpiece Atmopadesa Satakam (one hundred verses of self-instruction, written in Malayalam circa 1897) is considered a fertile poetic expression, encapsulating the Guru's philosophy of egalitarianism, emanating from the author's attainment of an experienced state of primordial knowledge and quintessence of the Universe; and his ensuing ability to view the human race, from a dignified and elevated perspective, as nothing but one of a genus, in unqualified equality and without any racial, religious, caste or other discriminations whatsoever.