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Sivagiri is a pilgrimage centre in Varkala, Kerala where Sree Narayana Guru's tomb is located and place where guru was enlightened and got the salvation. It is the headquarters of the Sree Narayana Dharma Sangham, an organization of Sree Narayana Guru’s disciples and followers.
The Samadhi (the final resting place) of the Guru here attracts thousands of devotees every year during the Sivagiri Pilgrimage days 30 December to 1 January.
Sree Narayana Guru is a great saint, philosopher and social reformer, who preached 'One Caste, One Religion, One God for Humanity'. He dedicated his life for the redemption of the oppressed and suppressed classes of down trodden population from the clutches of poverty and ignorance.
He was born in Chempazhanthi, a village in Thiruvananthapuram district. He was the only son to his father Maadan Ashan and mother Kutti Amma. Those days,Kerala was under the clutches of the worst social evil, ‘caste system’. Untouchability and other atrocities were ruling the society at that time. Upper caste people considered lower caste as their slaves. Lower castes were barred from entering temples and were not allowed to even to go near the upper castes. Since, he belonged to lower caste, he knew what is happening in the society. Even from childhood he protested against such practises and interacted with untouchables of the society.
In 1904, he settled at Sivagiri, near Thiruvananthapuram. This is the place now popularly known as Sivagiri Mutt. Sprawls over an area of 200 acres, it is situated on a hillock ‘Sivagiri’ in Varkkala, 12km north of Thiruvanathapuram. Guru opened a Sanskrit school in Varkkala. He protected poor boys and orphans. Gradually people started to seek his advice. He decided to make a temple for low caste people, as during those days they were not allowed to visit temples. Overcoming protests from the upper caste society, he built a Siva temple in Aruippuram. Following that he made temples at Thrissur, Kannur, Anchuthengu, Thellichery, Calicut and Mangalore.
Goddess Saraswathy, the deity of knowledge was his beloved deity. So he made another temple in his Ashram and enshrined Sharada or Saraswathi Devi in this temple as the major deity. Guru believed that only knowledge could lead human being into truth, reality and freedom.
Sivagiri Sharada Mutt was designed and planned by Gurudevan himself. The rituals are also is different from that of other temples. Unlike other temples, there is no nivedyam or offering of food to deity, and abhishekam or pouring of oil or ghee, in Sharada Mutt. Even the architecture of the temple is different.
The idol is seated on a white lotus, which resembles knowledge or purity. Hygiene is the most important rule that Guru has asked his supporters to follow in this temple. Guru has written ‘Janani – Navarathna – Manjari’ to praise the Devi.
Guru pooja is another significant ritual of Sivagiri Mutt. In Sivagiri Mutt, every meal is offered to the Guru first. The devotees will then have the remains as Prasadam. Separate counters are arranged for the Gurupooja. With each Gurupooja receipt, a food coupon worth Rs 25 is given. These coupons are not transferable. Devotees who perform gurupooja will receive food from the Gurupooja Hall.
There is a large Prayer Hall for the devotees where an idol of the Gurudeva is put up. Devotees chanting prayers are a usual sight of this place. The peaceful atmosphere is always echoed with their prayers.
In 1925, Gandhi visited Narayana Guru at Sivagiri. They discussed a lot on the caste system and social evils of India. Gandhiji has mentioned this meet in his book ‘Collected works of Mahatma Gandhi’.
His Highness Dalai Lama has also blessed this Ashram with his presence. H H Dalai lama inaugurated the 80th annual pilgrimage of Sivagiri Mutt. He has also planted a jackfruit tree in the Ashram premises.
There is a small but peaceful house in the Ashram. This is the place where guru spent his last days. His cot, walking stick, chair etc are showcased here. Old and rare pictures of the Guru and disciples can also be seen here. This house is called as ‘Vaidya Madom’.
Near the Vaidya Madam, is the Rikshaw Mandir. Here you can see a rickshaw used by Gurudevan. One of his followers, Prakulam Puthuvelil Ayyan Keshavan donated this Rikshaw, made in Hong Kong, to the guru. A chair and silver tumbler used by Gurudevan, when he visited the house of Kochu Varavel Keshavan Muthalali is also displayed here.
Samadhi Mandiram of Divya Sree Bodhananda Swami is also erected here.
Later the path leads to a hilltop reached by a flight of steps. The aim of each Sivagiri pilgrimage from 30th December to 1st January annually, is to reach this place called Maha Samadhi Mandiram. The physical body of Gurudevan is buried here. Guru underlined the need for education, cultural and moral purity for the yearly meet. During the pilgrimage, experts in eight subjects - Education, Cleanliness, Piety, Organised Endeavour, Agriculture, Trade, Handicrafts and Technical Training are invited to give lectures for the pilgrims.
The construction of this large Mandiram was made by one of his devotees, M P Moothedathu. A big idol of Gurudeva made with white marble can be seen here. He is worshipped here in the form of a divine teacher.
This is the most peaceful place in the mutt. Newly joined monks in white attire and others with the traditional kaavi dress worship their spiritual leader here. The destination of all his followers is his place.
A building with big halls and rooms can be seen next to this Mandir. This is the spiritual school for the monks. The spiritual as well as scholastic classes are conducted here. Guru has a large number of disciples.. They are chosen without considering their caste or financial status.
Ashram managed by Sree Narayana Dharma Sanghom Trust started by Gurudev, follows strict rules and regimen. The premises of temple and Mutt should never be polluted. Pilgrims are supposed to wear yellow dress. They have to follow a ten-day austerity based on Sree Budha’s ‘Panch sheel’ or five purities of Body, Word, Mind, Food and Deeds. All these are meant to focus on creating a society with good conduct & etiquette.
The Birthday and Samadhi day of the Guru which fall in August and September are observed at Sivagiri Mutt with much relevance.
Gurudevan left his physical body on the fifth day of the Malayalam Month Kanni. This day is considered as the Maha Samadhi day of Sri Naryana Guru. Thousands of pilgrims visit every year, to pay homage to the man who dramatically changed the face of social life in Kerala. Various units of the SNDP Yogam also observed 'Maha Samadhi' with various programmes, including fasting, community prayers, feasts, conferences besides paying floral tributes. The day began with a special pooja, 'Havanam' and recitation of Gurudeva krithis at the Sree Narayana Gurukulam at Chempazhanthi.
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