HIS SOCIAL REVOLUTION
The caste system prevalent in India brought untold miseries to the Avarnas (lower castes) in Kerala. All human rights were denied to them. They were let to think that they were created by god to serve the Savarnas (upper castes) without any wages. Karma theory virtually made them slaves. The Avarnas were unaware that they had some human rights and therefore they were unable to question anything. Karl Marx once said that India shall be ripe enough for revolution only when its medieval survival was destroyed. The medieval survival in India was the caste system. In India Sree Buddha was the only one who could effectively fight caste system with his philanthropic and humanitarian outlook. He preached the equality of the backwards with the upper classes. His preaching and percepts met with success. But after his “Nirvana and consequent decay of Buddhism, the tyranny of caste system continued. It was Narayana Guru who again effectively fought caste system in Kerala. His writings inhis books Jathylakshanam and Jathynirnayam advocated one caste for mankind. He promoted inter-dining and inter caste marriage. At Sivagiri kids selected from other communities below Ezhava community were brought up along with the orthodox. Food, clothing and all other amenities were provided to them and created an atmosphere of casteless society. Whenever guests arrived at Sivasgiri to see Swamiji, food prepared by the Harijan cooks only was served. His disciples were from all castes. He encouraged the Vaikom Satyagraha which was for the right to walk through the road near Vaikom temple. Gandhiji met Guru at Sivagiri during this struggle. Gandhiji was in favour of Varna (caste). Pointing to the nearby mango tree at Vaidikamadom Gandhiji said:” The leaves of that mango tree are not alike. Like wise there is difference between man and man.” Guru replied: “Even if there is difference in its size the juice of all the leaves have the same taste”. He told Gandhiji that to have the real freedom, the caste and other evil customs must go. Years later Gandhiji spoke at Kolkatta endorsing Guru’s views. About castes Guru thus said:
“For man there is no caste. The thinking that there is caste must go. That is what is wanted. Names that indicate caste must not be used. There are other good names. In writings also caste must not be used. There is nothing good due to caste. Caste forbids freedom, destroys intellect. Without freedom or intellect how labour can improve. There is no proof required to prove that there is only one caste. All animals have got this intelligence and they live accordingly. Why man alone has this doubt? He does not know to recognize his own caste. He is poorer than animals.”
Once Guru was travelling in a train. His conversations inspired respect in a Raja and a Namboodiri who were traveling in the same compartment. The Raja asked him:” What is your name.” Swamy replied: “Narayanan.” Raja asked: “Caste”. Swamy said: “Cannot you know by sight.” Raja replied: “No.” Then Swamy said: “If it cannot be known by seeing how can it be known by hearing.”
Unwanted customs were another stumbling blocks for the progress of Ezhavas in Kerala. Ceremonies like Kettu Kalyanam, Thirandukuli, Pulikudi etc and other customs of evil were stopped by him (Today people are unaware of such customs). He asked people to stop drinking. He also advocated not to do liquor business. He said that the earnings from liquor business is something earned by destroying so many and their families. And therefore it is a sin.
He asked people to avoid pomp and luxury. He advocated marriage to be simple. For a wedding there should not be less than ten people- the bride, the bridegroom, their parents, one companion each from the bride and bridegroom side, one priest and one important local man. A month before the marriage ceremony, the prospective life companions may be allowed to see each other and talk to each other. However this is irrelevant, where mutual love has pronounced them man and wife. Those parents who want to spend a considerable amount on wedding shall gift such amounts to their children as bank deposits. There must not be any dowry in marriage since it is equivalent to selling children.He modified codes for marriage ceremonies and funeral rites.
The brotherhood movement ( Sahodara Prasthanam ) started in 1917 by K. Ayyappan made a crusade against untouchability. Shri Ayyappan was an ardent follower of Sree Narayana Guru. Guru has encouraged and blessed him in his acts which earned him the nick name Pulayan Ayyappan. When Guru heard of the atrocities meted out to K.Ayyappan in his fight against caste, Guru asked him to forgive like Jesus Christ.
He thus said: “Each village should have its own cultural societies and libraries and community can derive much benefit from them in the matter of education. Each member of the community should do his bit in strengthening these institutions. The rich should not keep silent on these subjects.” He also stressed the need to contribute to charitable institutions. He viewed these institutions as means of self purification for the donors, broadening their outlook and raising their minds to higher planes.
He asked people to speak truth, have fear of righteousness, have theisms and unity, avoid meaningless and harmful customs and adopt nobler codes of conduct in tune with the times. He asked people to observe five purities and five Dharmas enunciated by Sree Buddha.
To the capitalists and workers Guru cited the example of bullock-cart. It is not enough to have two bullocks of enough strength and one cart. The two bullocks should pull the cart with one mind. Then only the cart will move. Similarly the capitalists and workers should work together. It is the capitalist who invests money. If that money is kept locked, then there is no use. Workers do not have money to invest. But they have enough skill and experience to execute work. If both of them co-operate, there shall be prosperity.
In 1924 Guru convened an All Religious Conference at Advaidasram. It was the first of its kind in Asia and second in the World (the first one was at Chicaco in America in which Swamy Vivekanada participated). At the entrance gate he made this message to be written: “Neither for debate or nor to win but to know and let to know”. The religious conference lasted for two days. His aim of this conference was to expose to the world that the cardinal principle of all religions was one and the same and the ultimate aim is to attain the Self. He advocated the spirituality that surpasses all religions. At the end of the conference Guru blessed everybody and issued this message.
“Since the speeches in this conference of religions have revealed that the ultimate aim of all religions is the same and there is no need for the followers of different religions to fight among themselves, we intend to make arrangements for the study of all religions at our proposed school at Sivagiri.”
While talking to Gandhiji at Sivagiri Guru also pointed out that “there are means of salvation in other religions also. Hence conversion is not needed for spiritual salvation. Hinduism is sufficient for spiritual freedom. But people are more after worldly freedom. Gandhiji may have to take another birth to bring it to fullness. The problem is so deeply rooted.” He understood that what India needed was freedom from caste competitions and religious frictions.
In 1903 he founded the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam which fought for many social rights denied to the lower castes. He established the Sree Narayana Dharma Sangham on 11-1-1928 for sanyasins who were meant to do dedicated service among the people. With his blessings his disciple Nataraja Guru founded on 1923 the Narayana Gurukulam which at present is trying to spread the teachings of Sree Narayana Guru all over the world.
The foundation of S.N.D.P.Yogam paved the way for the establishment of other social organizations. One such organization is Sadhu Jana Paripalana Sangham which is founded on 1905 by the Pulaya King (as called by Gandhiji) Shri. Ayyankali who has done yeoman service for the uplift of Pulayas and other downtrodden. Namboodiries established in 1908 the Yogakshema Sabha which worked for the well being of Namboodiries in Kerala. Mannath Padmanabhan on 31-10-1914 founded the Nair Sevice Society which has done credible job for the progress of Nairs in Kerala. Pundit Karuppan worked for the progress of Dheevara Community especially through his literary works. It was in the soil ploughed and made fertile by Sree Narayana Guru that communism thrived in Kerala. It was through the Sahodaran Patram, Karl Marx, Lenin and his Russian Revolution were first introduced in Kerala. It was Sahodaran Ayyappappan who coined the Malayalam word ‘Sakhav’ for the English word comrade. All these movements contributed extensively for the building up of modern Kerala.