For the last couple of weeks, Sri Swami Vishwananda has been on pilgrimage in southern India.
On the first day, December 11, many guests arrived from their homes around the world in Trivandrum, and drove to Varkala to gather together and begin the pilgrimage. Varkala is famous for the 2,000 year-old Janardana Swamy Temple, which is an important Vaishnava shrine in India, and is often called the Dakshini Kashi - Varanasi of the south.
The presiding deity of Janardana Swamy temple is Vishnu, to whom four pujas are performed daily. It is widely believed that worship at this shrine cures many ills. Devotees - Hindus and non-Hindus alike - are attracted from all over India and beyond to visit the temples, beaches, and ayurvedic centers here. The Janardana Swamy temple is located close to the Papanasam beach, which is considered to have holy waters which wash away sins.
|A local newspaper's coverage of Sri Swami Vishwananda's visit to the Samadhi of Sree Narayana Guru|
|Sree Narayana Guru|
The pilgrimage group gathered together with Guruji in Varkala to visit the samadhi place of Sree Narayana Gurudevan (1856 or 1030 AD - 1928 AD).
Sree Narayana Guru's mission in life focused much on reforming social customs and removing caste prejudices in Indian society, especially in Kerala. He spent much time as a sannyasin living among poor low-caste people, sharing in their food, and at night, sitting on the seashore, gazing out on the sea, lost in meditation. The people came to be familiar with him, and called him "Nanoo Swami". Soon they came to believe that Narayana Guru was a great yogi who performed miracles.
Unaffected by praise or criticism, he slept in inns, wayside rest-houses, and on open grounds. He traveled to Aruvippuram, and to the Maruthvamalla Hills in Tamil Nadu, and became enlightened in a cave there. He began living there, and sustained himself with wild berries and tubers, and drank from the mountain brooks. While Narayana Guru sat for hours in meditation, a cobra and a tiger would guard him.
Throughout his life, Narayana Guru would go on to install many deities, initiate many temples, and start schools. He met famous Indian contemporaries such as Rabindranath Tagore (pictured left, in 1922) and Mahatma Gandhi (pictured right, in 1925):
Sree Narayana Guru's Samadhi place is located on the Sivagiri hill, near Varkala. The Sivagiri Mutt, built in 1904, is a campus spread over 200 acres, and is the headquarters of the Sree Narayana Dharma Sangham - an organization of Narayana Guru's disciples. It also is the site of the Sarada temple, dedicated to the Goddess Saraswati.
Nearby, Narayana Guru had an elementary school established, which would also serve as a night school for people from the untouchable caste.
Below are pictures from Sri Swami Vishwananda's visit to the samadhi of Sree Narayana Guru, in Sivagiri hill.
Tomorrow we will cover more of Guruji's pilgrimage in South India, including the trip to the "Golden Island".