Aruvippuram was a forest area. There were hills around. A gurgling rivulet (of river Neyyar) also flowed there. Sree Narayana Guru and his disciples felt the need for a regular temple for worshipping Shiva. At a beautiful spot near the river, he had his followers build a small canopy of coconut leaves and mango leaves over an altar on a rock jutting out in the water. The year was 1888. They improvised lamps with shells and arranged them in rows. They were lighted at dusk and a piper began to play devotional tunes. The whole place was soon filled with pious village folk. Gurudevan, who had been sitting apart and meditating all night, stood at midnight and walked into the river.
As thousands watched silently (If silence had music, the atmosphere was filled with it, wrote one correspondent) he descended into the river and then reemerged, holding an idol of Shiva. He stood beneath the canopy with it in his arms for three hours, totally lost in meditation, tears flowing down his cheeks. Finally, at three in the morning, he installed the idol on the pedestal. His action was equivalent of overturning the tables of the money changers, or refusing to give up a seat on the bus. From the beginning of time, so far as anyone knew, only Brahmins had ever installed an idol. Yet when Gurudevan performed the sacred rite it appeared so natural for him to pick up a small rock and install it. When Brahmins challenged his right to consecrate, he replied in his famous quote:This is not a Brahmin Siva, but an Ezhava Siva.To those who questioned the timing of the consecration saying it was not an astrologically auspicious time, he replied: Horoscope is to be cast after the birth of a child, not before. He instructed to place a plaque containing a motto on the temple wall which read as:
- Devoid of dividing walls of Caste
- Or hatred of rival faith,
- We all live here
- In Brotherhood,
- Such, know this place to be!
- This Model Foundation!
A new phase began in the Guru’s life in 1904. He decided to give up his wandering life and settle down in a place to continue his Sadhana (spiritual practice). He chose Sivagiri, twenty miles north of Thiruvananthapuram. Goddess ‘Amba’ became his deity of worship.
Next, he started a Sanskrit school in Varkala. Poor boys and orphans were taken under his care. They were given education regardless of caste distinctions. Temples were built at different places – Thrissur, Kannur, Anchuthengu,Tellicherry, Calicut, Mangalore. A temple was built for Sharada Devi in 1912, at Sivagiri. Worship at such temples helped reduce to a large extent superstitious beliefs and practices.
One of the temples built in Thrissur is the Sri Narayana Temple at Koorkenchery. The temple has a school in its compound named Sri Narayana School. The School encourages students’ talents by organizing talent competitions. These competitions, regularly held every year, have been a platform for youngsters to stand up and recognize their talents.
In 1913, he founded the Advaita Ashram at Aluva. This was an important event in his spiritual quest. This Ashram was dedicated to a great principle – Om Sahodaryam Sarvatra (all men are equal in the eyes of God). This became the motto of the new Ashram.
When Nārāyana Guru attained the age of sixty, his birth day was observed throughout the west-coast from Mangalore to Sri Lanka. Between 1918 and 1923 he visited Sri Lanka many times. In 1921, a Conference of Universal Brotherhood was held at Aluva. Again in 1924, a conference of all religions was held there. Guru stressed the need for a Brahma Vidyalaya for a comparative study of different religious faiths.
Sree Nārāyana Guru had many followers and disciples. Nataraja Guru, a notable disciple of Sree Nārāyana Guru, introduced Guru’s visions and ideals to the western world. He established Narayana Gurukulam in 1923 in the Nilgiri Hills with the blessings of Nārāyana Guru.