Maruthvamala is located in Kanniyakumari district. Situated at the south most tip of the Indian peninsula, it is surrounded by the bay of Bengal in the East, the Indian Ocean in the South and the Arabian Sea on the west.
The name Maruthwamala originates from the Tamil ‘marunthu vazhum malai’ which means the mountain of medicines. Legend and mythology attribute the hill to be a fallen portion of Sanjeevi, mountain of medicinal herbs that Hanuman carried from the Himalayas to Lanka to heal the fatal wounds of Laksmana.
On the high crest of Maruthwamala there stands the airy, hidden Pillathadom cave facing west , that seems to have been specially designed for tapas. Its high, wide mouth is intensely welcoming. The inside of the cave is smoothened with pearl-white sand. The luxurious green around, murmur of leaves, the sloping carpet variegated grass tints, flowers of rainbow colours and the arboreal chorus of the birds provide a mystic serenity to the environment.
Narayana Guru who cut himself away from the bonds of flesh, began his journey in quest of true knowledge and the secrets of life. At that time he happened to meet Chattambi Swamikal, a great scholar, sage, sanyasi and ascetic- all rolled into one at the Aniyoor temple. He and Narayana Guru proceeding on the same path of spirituality became close friends. Narayana Guru went out into the wide world in search of solitary places conducive to penance to attain the lofty planes of spiritual experience.
As he wandered alone with perfect renunciation and detachment, inwardly firm in his quest for the realization of Brahma residing within himself, Swami reached the beautiful Maruthwamala, found Pillathadam cave a very suitable place for performing tapas and he did his last phase of penance there. Guru observed tapas and meditation in the cave, an area which was heavily forested and teemed with wild life. Guru practiced an austere life by undertaking yoga and meditative thought and followed severe sustenance rituals.
This period lasted for eight years; the epoch is regarded as the completion of the meditative recluse, the period in which Sri Narayana Guru is believed to have got Enlightenment. He lived in this cave and sustained himself mostly with berries and tubers, leaf juices and drank from mountain brooks. He transformed ‘the spiritual lessons that had received into priceless pearls of experience and realization’. He attained self-realization during his solitary tapas in Pillathadam cave on Maruthvamalai. The Guru, who had mystical experience, left Maruthwamalai and came back to people, to revolutionise the society.