Life of Sree Narayana Guru
Sree Narayana Guru was born under the star ‘Chathayam’ in the month of ‘Chingam’ in 1856 AD (1032 of the Malayalam calendar) in the village of Chempazhanthi in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala as the son of Madan Asan, a farmer, and KuttiAmma.
His parents, ‘Madan Asan’ and ‘KuttyAmma’ endearingly called him ‘Nanu’. At the age of five, he began his education in the neighboring school in the old “Gurukula” model.’Madan Asan’ was also a teacher (“Asan”) who was learned in Sanskrit and proficient in Astrology and Ayurveda.
His father was Madan Asan and his mother Kuttiyamma. His family, Vayalvaram house, enjoyed a high level of social respectability and economic status. He was named Narayanan and came to be called Nanoo. Nanoo had three sisters.In those days peoples were divided into higher caste and lower castes,society was in the strangulating grip of caste system.The peoples were practicing untouchability and not co-operate with each other.
At the age of five, Nanoo began his education in the neighboring school in the old “Gurukula” model.From his childhood he exhibited prodigious powers of memory. He learned things quickly, and thoroughly remembered what he learned.As aboy, Nanu would listen to his father with keen interest narrated stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to the simple folks of his village. Young Nanu continued to be educated at home,under the guidance of both his father and uncle Krishnan Vaidyan who was a reputed Ayurvedic Physician and a Sanskrit scholar, where he was taught the basics of the Tamil and Sanskritlanguages and traditional subjects such as Siddharupam, Balaprobhodhanam and Amarakosam. Afterhis elementary education in this school, he became the disciple of a great Sanskrit scholar‘Raman Pillai Asan’ of PuthuppallyVaranappallyfamilyin Central Travancore. He learned poetry, drama, logic, poetics and grammar from KummampallyAsan. Nanoo loved solitude and contemplation. During his stay at Varanappally he showed his talent for poetry. He composed some hymns and devotional songs.
During his stay in Varanappallynanoo was called NanooChattampy (chattampy in those days meant “senior student’ or “monitor”). During 1881 nanoo returned from varanappally and started teaching children for some time.From that time the people respectfully called him “NanooAsan”.
According to the custom of the time a wedding could be solemnized in the absence of the bridegroom if the bridegroom’s sister offered a thali to the bride. NanooAsan’s wedding was formally solemnized that way in 1882.
The marriage was conducted at the behest of his guardians and NanooAsan soon stopped going home. After two months he left his native place forever.
As a Spiritual Wanderer
Thus Nanoo began his career as an itinerant sanyasin. He became a ‘Parivrajaka’ (one who wanders from place to place in quest of Truth). He spent his days in forests, caves, seashores, and in temples. When hungry, he would eat what was offered by strangers. During this period he stayed for a short while in the house of Perunnalli Krishnan Vaidyar, a renowned scholar and physician of Travancore, and studied some rare medical books written by him. It is believed that he first met the Chattampi Swami here.Their meeting proved to be the beginning of a intimate friendship.In 1884 nanoo met ThykkattuAyyavu, a distinguished yoga guru of Trivandrum.Ayyavu Swami was a well-known instructor of yogic practices. From him Nanoo learned ‘yogasanas’, practices like Nauli, Dhoudi, and Khadam and Khechari mudra. This was around 1884 (1060).
Gurudevan’s father Madan Asan died this year 1884. Naniasan records the incident thus:
“One day I and Gurudev were sitting on Aruvippuram Rock when he looked at me and said ‘Madanasan must be dead’. After while a messenger came bearing the news of Madan Aasan’s death.
Gurudevan observed tapas and meditation in Pillathadam cave at the top of the Maruthwamala. The Maruthvamallahills was located in kanyakumari district,Tamil Nadu.SreeNarayanaguru was enlighted in the cave of Marutvamall hills.Guru found this hills and cave as guru was a wanderer for seeking truth.SreeNarayanaGurulived in this cave and sustained himself mostly with berries and tubers, and drank from the mountain brooks.During those days, guru prayed to god, conceiving the supreme to be Shiva. While guru sat for hours in the same posture in the solitude of the cave, a cobra and a tiger guarded him.
On one occasion guru became very hungry and at that time guru saw a leper coming to him with a begging bowl. It contained fluffed tapioca. The leper offered it to guru. Like intimate friends they ate from the same bowl. The leper was not an apparition. He was an actual man.How did he come there, was a mystery! After partaking of the food he bade farewell without either of them making any attempt to know each other.Soon people came to know that Gurudevan was observing tapas at Maruthwamala. Some of them reached Maruthwamala, facing hazards, and had a darsan of Gurudevan.
Gurudevan’s mission in life began to evolve redressing the evil customs and the removing caste discriminations which corroded Indian society. He was to reform the oppressed classes that had dropped off the scale of the caste system. The conditions in Kerala at that time were appalling. Divided among themselves, the people were steeped in superstition. Not surprisingly Swami Vivekanda described Kerala as a ‘lunatic asylum’.During this period of wandering as a sanyasin, Sree Narayana Guru spent his time mostly among the low-caste people. No doubt, Gurudavan wanted to make them aware that his life’s mission was to reform them.Gurudevan lived among the poor and partook of their food.
At night he would sit on the seashore looking at the sea, lost in meditation. The people came to know him intimately. It was at this time that the people began to call him ‘Nanoo Swami’. Soon they came to believe that Narayana Guru was a great yogi who performed miracles.People of all religions, including Christians and Muslims respected him. There were also those who misunderstood Gurudevan, out of ignorance. But he was unaffected by praise or criticism.He slept in inns, wayside rest-houses and on open grounds. Experiencing for himself the inequalities, injustices and evil customs which existed in society. This itinerant life went on for four to five years and it played a vital role in moulding Narayana Guru’s later activities. In the course of his travels he once reached the place Aruvippuram in Neyyattinkara. Aruvippuram was then a dense forest, teeming with wild animals