SREE NARAYANA GURU was now the accepted Guru of lakhs. They consented to abandon the consumption of alcohol and the killing of goats
and fowls as part of their worship. Many of them even agreed to the replacement of the earlier deities by gods from the orthodox Hindu pantheon, and obtained the consent and holy services of the Guru in installing Siva, Subramania or Ganesa in their places or worship.
After the consecration of the Siva temple at Aruvipuram, Deveswaram temple in Chirayinkizhu, Vakkam, was the next temple
instituted by the Guru. The deity there is Subramania, the son of Siva.
In 1893, he replaced an old type of Bhagavathi temple at Kulathur, a place north of Trivandrum, and consecrated there an idol of Siva. Kunnumpara temple, very near Kovalam which is now an international tourist center, is another of the important temples instituted by him. It stands on a precipitous rock and is constructed most beautifully, built of stones rough-hewn from rocks. In the midst of rocks, there is a spring of crystal-clear water. Anyone who stands on the premises of this Subramania temple would be so moved by the divine beauty of the rocky hill, the temple on the rock and the sublime scenery facing the sea, that his heart would leap up in silent prayer and he would stand there with hands folded in worship.
As a matter of fact, the Guru generally chose divinely beautiful spots for Sree Narayana temples. That was how and why he chose Varkala, one of the most entrancing spots in Kerala as his religious headquarters.
In 1904, when the Guru visited Varkala, the irresistible beauty of the hill east of it so pleased him that he built a small parnasala (forest dwelling) there and stayed in it, tending a vegetable garden. Nature’s pristine beauty has attracted the holy men of Indian from time immemorial. In other words, Mother Nature always defies as it were, the sanyasi’s detachment from her earthly attractions.
The Guru could not remain in solitary meditation for more than a few days. People came to know of his presence and once more they came to him, at first in two’s or three’s, but very soon in larger and larger numbers. Some government land there was bought for him, while some more lands adjacent thereto were donated by munificent landlords who offered them to the Guru to be utilized according to his wishes. In a short while, the crowds gathered in such large numbers that Varkala too acquired the character of a place of pilgrimage. This place had a sanctity of its own for centuries in the past and is known as the Varanasi of the South. On new moon day in the month of Sravana (July15—August 14), large numbers of people used to gather there at the old Janardhana temple near the sea-beach to perform the obsequies of their deceased ancestors. The Avarnas (and others too) were being duped by the poojaris who fleeced them of money without performing proper ceremonies. In the year 1904 on August 14, the Guru arranged for appropriate ceremonies to be performed at Varkala for those who would come to the Sivagiri Hill, thus saving them from being duped.
The income accrued was utiilsed, two years later, for establishing a school for all and a night school for people of the Kurava caste and others who were unable to attend the day school. In 1912, a temple with an image of Saraswati was installed there, along with a Vaidika Vidyalaya (Vedic school). While the temples in other places were erected at the request of the people, the
Sarada Matham (monastery), as the Saraswati temple is known, and the Vaidika Vidyalaya were the Guru’s own creations.
The day of the inauguration saw one of the grandest ceremonies witnessed in those parts. People arrived like a flood flowing down the hills. The whole crowd of over 20,000 did not require even a single policeman to control them. The entire hill was gaily adorned by flags and festoons of varied colours. The caparisoned elephants whose gold-plated ornaments covering their foreheads reflected the yellow, orange and red rays of the setting sun, provided an unforgettable sight. Instrumental music and an assorted assembly of drums, folk-songs, folk-dances and processions, all provided, as Kumaran Asan puts it,
“a heavenly sightnever before experienced by any one of the huge crowd assembled there.”
“This hill,” said the president of the occasion, C. Krishnan, who was a great disciple of the Guru, a leader of the Ezhavas, “will be the Sringeri (headquarters of one of the four Mutts created by Sankara) of our people. It will function as a beaconlight all in our endeavour towards
enlightenment, mutual help and prosperity of all of us, down-trodden people as we were, so far.”
The Guru illustrated through this temple that idol-worship was not the be-all and end-all of Hindu religion. Here, no traditional poojas are performed. It is known as a Madhom (monastery) and not a Kshetra (temple). It is an octagonal structure with many coloured ornamental glasses shimmering in the sunlight and illuminating the interior with a soft light of variegated colours. The surrounding circular half-wall gives you the impression that the Madhom is placed on a silver plate. The milk-white sand, spotless and entirely devoid of dust compels you to remove your shoes on your own, without being directed by a notice- board. The image of Saraswati or Sarada is a lovely statue imbedded inside a lotus of marble. It serves as the concretized symbol of the Guru’s message: “Educate and be enlightened.” There are no offerings of food, no estivals, no processions, no worship there. The devotee can have darshan of Sarada Devi (Goddess Sarada), pay respects to the goddess, sings hymns, or be lost in meditation.
Temple of Different Types
Karamukku temple has only a lighted lamp as a symbol. The Vedas,Upanishadsand all the treatises on Hindu religion speak of the rise towards spirituality as progress from darkness to light. The Guru pronounced, “Let there be light” and simply placed the lamps on the altar prepared for it. When a lamp is lit, we feel the presence of the spirit more strongly.No auspicious function is conducted without a lighted lamp. This is true of almost all religions, not excluding those that do away with symbols.
At the Murukumpuzha temple the Guru placed a slab with the words Satyam (truth), Dharmam (religion, duty), Daya (Compassion), Sneham (love), etched on it. Anything would do, if it helps you to concentrate, was the idea. The greater the noble thoughts which a symbol evokes, the greater is the effect. The highest pinnacle of symbolic images consists in the esoteric
In Kalavamcodam temple, he asked the devotees to get him a mirror. An artist was instructed to erase the mercury coating at the back, so as to project the letter Aum in front. Thus,Aum becomes the idol in that temple. And this is the image which has been widely mistaken for a mere mirror. It is not a mirror, but Aum etched on a mirror.
Everybody is aware of the supreme significance of Aum in Hindu religion. The Kathopanishad says: “That word which all the Vedasdeclare, which all austerities proclaim and on which men concentrate when they lead the life of a religious student—that word I tell you briefly is
Aum.” According to the Mandukya Upanishad “The past, the present and the future—all this is only the syllable Aum . And whatever else there is that transcends the three-fold time that too is only the syllable" Aum.” After the Guru consecrated the writing of Aum , what is there left
for the devotee to follow, except the realization of the Brahman in himself?
Thus do we come to the institution of Adwaita Asrama founded by the Guru at Alwaye.
After completing the arrangements at Sivagiri, the Guru established an Adwaita Asrama at Alwaye. The site of this building too is enchanting. Simple in architecture, it contains a prayer-hall where the Hindus, the Christians and the Muslims can, and do pray together, each
according to his own faith. There was a Sanskrit school in the Asrama where Christian and Muslim students also study. The hostel attached to it is also occupied without any distinction of caste or religion. There is an ordinary school functioning there. The Adwaita Asrama (hermitage, monastery, true to its name, does not have a temple or idol or anything of that nature attached to it. Students read religious literature and no religion is excluded from the collection of books in the Asrama library. It is now converted into an English High School of the general type.