Call to the backward
Sree Narayana Guru decided to change the state of affairs. The practical-minded Gurudev launched his ventures for social reform among the low-caste communities, the victims of social oppression.
He adopted an innovative and ideal course of action to achieve his aim. First he resolved to bring about a revolution in the method of worship in temples. At Aruvippuram he began a course of action to gradually lead the low-caste people to higher form of worship.
In February 1888 during Sivarathri, Gurudev with the help of a few devotees restored the Sivalinga in Arivipuram. Around midnight Swami took a dip in the Neyyar River. He picked up a rock which resembled the Sivalinga and stood in deep meditation until 3 in the morning. His face took on a glow and tears streamed down his cheek. Spectators in deep religious fervour loudly chanted Panchakshara mantra. At 3 o’clock he consecrated the deity with the necessary rituals.
What Gurudev sought to do through Aravipuram installation was to destroy the myth that only Brahmins have the right to consecrate deities, that only they had the secret know- how to perform it, that they were the middlemen between God and man. Gurudev faced opposition within the Ezhava community itself . Some of the Ezhava leaders insisted that only the Brahmins could install a Siva deity. They little understood the wellspring of knowledge and power within Guru.
Conservative Brahmins arrogantly demanded to know whether any non-Brahmin was blessed with the power to install a Siva deity. “I was not installing a Brahmin’s Siva, only our Siva”, he gently told the angry questioner. Thus he silenced the critics.
The consecration of Sivalingam at Aruvippuram wiped out many superstitious beliefs which existed in Kerala for centuries. It helped to instil self-confidence and self-respect in the backward communities and promoted their freedom of worship.
Historians regard the prathishta (installation) at Aruvippuram as the beginning of the renaissance in Kerala. With the prathishta at Aruvippuram Gurudev’s reputation spread throughout Kerala and elsewhere. Enthusiastic devotees, constructed a temple in the place where Gurudev had consecrated Sivalingam. This is the Aruvippuram temple of our time.
The following message which Gurudev gave at that time reads like a declaration of universal humanism:
Here is a model abode
Where men live in brotherhood,
Without caste prejudices,
Without religious rancour.
In 1893 Gurudev prepared and implemented the bye-laws for the administration of Aruvippuram temple. Following the prathishta at Aruvippuram, Gurudev consecrated the idols of major deities in many places, taking into account the wishes of the people. The people were electrified.
Vakkam Deveshwaram temple belongs to the early phase of this programme. In fact the consecration here followed the Aruvippuram prathishta. At the Vakkam temple he reinstalled the deity of Subramanyam.
It is widely believed that Kumaran Asan, who was to become one of the most celebrated poets in Malayalam, first met Gurudev at this place. A mere boy then Kumaran was yet to earn the title of Asan. Literary historians record that Gurudev then invited young Kumaran to join him which was gladly accepted. Gurudev tutored him and indirectly nourished his poetic talent.
Gurudev’s next step was to create an organization that will promote the brotherhood of man. He wanted to spread a simple but powerful message to a divided world:
Whatever the religion
If it maketh a better man.
Gurudev’s aim was to create an organization which would bring together people who wanted to be such good men. Such an organization was open to all regardless of caste or religion. In Gurudev’s vision such an organization, open to all, would ridicule the caste differences, blunt the harshness of class conflict and gradually demolish the caste barriers. It was with the aim of fostering an awareness and unity and to spread the ideals that Gurudev decided to launch Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam. Thus was established SNDP with Gurudev’s blessings. The Yogam came into being on January 7, 1903 ( 1078). Kumaran Asan was the Yogam’s first General Secretary.