Gurudev observed tapas and meditation in Pillathadam cave at the top of the Maruthwamala. The area was heavily forested and teemed with wild life, such as the tiger. In this wild setting of abundant nature Narayana Guru reportedly experienced some transcendental visions.
Soon people came to know that Gurudev was observing tapas at Maruthwamala. Some of them reached Maruthwamala, facing hazards, and had darsan of Gurudev.
Before long Swami left Maruthwamala. He later used to say that during his stay there he lived on roots and leaves and wild animals were often his companions. After leaving Maruthwamala, Swami travelled on foot in many places in South India. He visited many temples. He travelled alone, never announcing his presence to others.
Those who came to know of his rare attributes held him in high esteem, recognizing him as a sage of great attainments.
Gurudev’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 because he wanted to make them aware that his life’s mission was to reform them.
Gurudev lived among the poor and partook of their food. Fish was part of the diet. 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 about life and deeds of Gurudev 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.