SNDP Yogam

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SNDP Yogam

Postby manu » Wed May 06, 2009 4:44 pm

After the temple at Aruvippuram was built, an unofficial committee came into existence to ensure its smooth functioning. Later, in 1074 ME or 1898 CE, it was registered as a society, which became the focal point of the social movement that had been launched by the quiet revolution that the Guru had instigated.

It is worth noting once again that the Guru’s non confrontational approach, which concentrated not on frontal attacks but on flanking strategies, was a brilliant success. In contrast, the confrontational approach of E V Ramaswami Naicker and his Dravida Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu has left a bitter legacy of animosity, and it has not led to the kind of thorough going reform that Kerala has seen.

Gradually, the temple committee at Aruvippuram started looking more broadly at the issue of sustaining the momentum behind the reform movement. Through it, the Guru began to tackle the other ills in Hindu society: for instance, he campaigned against the worship of fierce tribal deities; against the wasteful and expensive practices such as the above mentioned talikettu, pilgrimages and other such. It was this temple committee thatover time became the nucleus of the Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam.
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Manu


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Even as bovinity proclaims a cow.
Brahminhood and such are not thus-wise;
None do see this truth, alas!

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Re: SNDP Yogam

Postby manu » Wed May 06, 2009 4:45 pm

It was during this period, in 1891, that the Guru met one of his most illustrious disciples, one who was to become arguably the greatest poet in Malayalam ever, Kumaran Asan. At the time a callow 18 year old, Kumaru as was then known, came to visit the Guru and to ask his opinion about his poetry.

This meeting was as momentous as the initial meeting between Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Swami Vivekananda. The guru recognized in the young man his principal shishya, and they laid the foundations of a lifetime of achievement. After listening carefully to a couple of Kumaru’s compositions, the Guru realized that this was a young man of phenomenal talent. The Guru said to him: “Kumaran is very talented. But…. do not write romantic poetry now. It’s not good for you.”

Kumaru took this advice to heart, and it changed his life completely. He became a vendantist and a yogi, and from the immaturity of youth he quickly turned into a mature poet and man of action: his later work, suffused with ideas from Buddhism and Vedanta, is justly praised as the pinnacle of Malayalam poetry. His master works such as Veena Poovu (an elegy on a fallen flower), Nalini, Karuna, Duravasta, Chandala Bhikshuki, etc. earned him the sobriquet of Mahakavi; among the trinity (Vallathol, Asan, and Ulloor) who dominated Malayalam poetry, he was the one with the greatest depth and substance. After the initial meeting, the Guru sent Kumaru to Bangalore and Calcutta to continue his education, under the tutelage of Dr. Palpu. Kumaran Asan returned to Kerala in 1900, and thereafter was active in the service of the Guru for many years until his tragic death when a boat sank on the River Pallana.

The monk Satyavrataswami, who was born as Ayyappan Pillai, a Nair, was another of the Guru’s favorite disciples. He often remarked on Satyavrataswami’s dedication, his spirit of egalitarianism, his idealism, and his oratorical powers. He was the Guru’s primary lieutenant in the spiritual realm. Later, he was to play a leading role at Vaikom, and he was the chief organizer of the All Religion Conference. His untimely death at the age of 33 was a major blow to the Guru.
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Manu


Man’s humanity marks out the human kind
Even as bovinity proclaims a cow.
Brahminhood and such are not thus-wise;
None do see this truth, alas!

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Re: SNDP Yogam

Postby manu » Wed May 06, 2009 4:48 pm

Dr. Palpu was from many perspectives foremost among the disciples that the Guru gained during these early years. It would be fair to say that it was Dr. Palpu who was most responsible for turning the jnana of the Guru into the karma of organized activity. The SNDP Yogam itself was conceived largely by Dr. Palpu. As someone who had suffered greatly because of casteism, Dr. Palpu spent his life fighting against it.

Born in 1863 to a poor Ezhava family in Trivandrum, Dr. Palpu was denied admission to medical school in Travancore even though be stood first in the written examinations. This was on account of his caste: Ezhavas at the time were not allowed to study in government run schools and were prevented from holding government jobs with a salary greater than five rupees per month. Undeterred, he took his medical degree from Madras and then practiced both in Madras Presidency and in Bangalore.

Dr. Palpu took extended leave of absence from his job and came to Travancore in 1896 with the express intention of organizing and improving the lot of his fellow Ezhavas. He toured all over Travancore, meeting and engaging with Ezhavas everywhere. He had already been a signatory to the “Malayali Memorial” of ME 1067, which demanded of the Maharaja of Travancore that he employ more Malayalis, as opposed to the Tamil Brahmins who were generally preferred for government jobs. However, that had not helped Ezhavas very much.

In the meantime, Dr. Palpu had met Swami Vivekananda, who had advised him, in his pithy manner, to seek a spiritual leader. He said: “If you want to speak of politics in India, you must speak through the language of religion.” This is a truism in India: the only way political and social ideas can make headway is if they engage the spiritual attention of the populace. Sri Aurobindo would have agreed, for he has said elsewhere: “All great awakenings in India, all her periods of mightiest and most varied vigor, have drawn their vitality from the fountainheads of some deep religious awakening. Whenever religious awakening has been complete and grand, the national energy it has created has been gigantic and puissant.”

Thus the stage was set for a meeting of minds between the Guru and Dr. Palpu: the former needed a man of the world to take his wisdom and enlightenment to the masses; and the latter needed a mystic whose authority would enable him to evangelize the message of self improvement.

Dr. Palpu visited the Guru a number of times at Aruvippuram. After a number of discussions, they decided to transform the Temple Committee into the Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, a joint stock company, in ME 1078 Edavam 2nd (CE 1903 May 15th). The Guru himself was nominated the President; Kumaran Asan the Secretary, and Dr. Palpu the Vice President. A newspaper named “Vivekodayam”, edited by Kumaran Asan, was the mouthpiece of the Yogam. Asan, back from Calcutta, was to serve as the Secretary of the Yogam for 16 years.
Thanks,
Manu


Man’s humanity marks out the human kind
Even as bovinity proclaims a cow.
Brahminhood and such are not thus-wise;
None do see this truth, alas!

-------SreeNarayanaGuru---------
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Re: SNDP Yogam

Postby manu » Wed May 06, 2009 4:50 pm

It is interesting that the Guru did not envisage the SNDP Yogam being a community organization for Ezhavas alone: for he was entirely catholic in outlook and had never recognized separation based on caste. However, in the event, the SNDP Yogam definitely took on an Ezhava flavor.

The establishment of the Yogam was instrumental in creating a new wave of optimism among the Ezhavas and Thiyyas. The Guru’s exhortation: “Become enlightened through education; become strong through organization” was exactly what the SNDP proceeded to follow. The Yogam became an inspiration for members of other castes to form their own community organizations: the Pulaya Mahasabha, the Nair Service Society and the Yogakshema Sabha of the Namboothiris are examples The SNDP Yogam had several important objectives: first, to administer and manage various temples and monasteries; second, to educate and uplift the downtrodden masses and improve their morality; third, to demand justice and fairness through the power of collective bargaining; and fourth, entirely practical but perhaps surprising coming from a yogi, was an emphasis on economic progress. Hence, “become wealthy through your own industriousness.” There is nothing wrong with accumulating wealth through fair means: indeed this is the dharma of the vaishya.

An example of the last objective was the industrial exhibition organized at Kollam as part of the second annual meeting of the Yogam. The exhibition highlighted the products made by the Ezhava and Thiyya community in Travancore, Cochin and Malabar. It was an impressive sight, and went a long way towards improving the self respect of the community. As always, economic might translated into justifiable pride in one’s own culture and community: as has happened in the last century with Japan, and is beginning to happen in India as a whole today after the unprecedented economic boom. But the Yogam certainly did not ignore the other objectives. It set about building schools, and later colleges, where anybody could study. The Guru suggested the study of English, as he foresaw the coming demand for the language; he insisted that women be educated the same as males. As Dr. Palpu emphasized in the first annual meeting of the Yogam: “A society or for that matter a group, makes durable progress and achieves prosperity only through education. In our community there should be none without at least primary education. For that one and all should specially strive. When you refer to an Ezhava male or female, it should imply that he or she is one who knows how to read and write.”

It was education not only in the traditional sense of the term, but also in the removal of excesses and ostentatious, wasteful ceremonies. For instance, the cessation of polyandry and polygamy and conversely the encouragement of widow remarriage; the ending of demeaning rituals like menarche announcement for girls; and the suggestion that a wedding ceremony should have no more than ten participants.

For social reasons, most people chose to ignore that last bit of advice, but an Ezhava wedding must now be the simplest in India. It takes a grand total of ten minutes, for the bride and groom to exchange rings and garlands, for the mangalasutra to be tied, and for a ritual circumambulation of the sacred fire. Included is a minute to sign their names in the Yogam’s register so that a valid marriage certificate may be issued.
Thanks,
Manu


Man’s humanity marks out the human kind
Even as bovinity proclaims a cow.
Brahminhood and such are not thus-wise;
None do see this truth, alas!

-------SreeNarayanaGuru---------
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Re: SNDP Yogam

Postby manu » Wed May 06, 2009 4:52 pm

As part of its social and political agenda of demanding and gaining for the community its fair share, the Yogam pursued the issue of representation in the Travancore Legislature. Ezhavas, 20% of the population, had not a single representative. In an echo of the American slogan, “No taxation without representation”, the SNDP Yogam managed to get Ezhavas into the legislature. Similarly, the Yogam fought for the right to government jobs, the right of admission for Ezhava children in government schools, and indeed, the right for Ezhavas to use public roads, which had hitherto been denied to them.

The last demand was what precipitated the famous Vaikom Satyagraha, led by firebrand SNDP Yogam leader T K Madhavan, who was also an organizational genius who helped create a hundred Yogam branches and enrolled thousands. With his journal“Deshabhimani” which later turned, mysteriously, into the house organ of the Marxists, Madhavan was a proponent of the Civil Rights Movement in Travancore.

It was the direct result of Madhavan’s work and the Vaikom Satyagraha that the Temple Entry Proclamation became a reality in 1936, although, it must be said, not before Madhavan had to threaten an en masse conversion of Ezhavas into Christians, which would instantly have turned Travancore into a Christian majority state. This was a rather alarming prospect for the Maharaja, and indeed for the ‘upper caste’ Hindus. This does not, however, detract from the grace and courage with which the Maharaja of Travancore, an enlightened and far-sighted ruler, approved Temple Entry. Sadly, Madhavan died in 1930, not living long enough to see the fruits of his labor.

It is also notable that the Yogam nurtured a number of brilliant individuals who were not necessarily interested in the spiritual or religious angle of the SNDP Yogam, but who were interested in its social and political work. For instance, the atheist and socialist ‘Sahodaran’ (Brother) Ayyappan, the journalist and publisher C V Kunjuraman, the lawyer and later Congress Chief Minister of Kerala C Kesavan, the lawyer C Krishnan who published the Mitavadi (The Moderate) and advocated conversion to Buddhism, and many others who were generally more impelled by nationalism than spirituality.

In the meantime, the Guru continued to advise the SNDP Yogam on all issues, but his prime concern was the original raison d’etre of the temple committee: the establishment, maintenance and upkeep of temples. The Guru believed that the temple was the social and spiritual center of the community, and that it would serve as the focal point for educating and ennobling the masses. Therefore, he consecrated a series of temples, often making an emphatic statement with the images he chose.

Foremost among his temples is Sivagiri in Varkala. In 1902 he built a small retreat for himself atop the picturesque hill with its panoramic views out to the ocean, close to medicinal hot springs, and a stone’s throw away from the millennia old Janardhana Swami temple and the Papanasam beach. By 1912, he had completed the consecration of the Sarada temple at Sivagiri, dedicated to Sarasvati, the deity of learning.

It was a novel temple, one without any ritual: the only thing that a devotee would do there is to chant a mantra or meditate silently. In a way, this is reminiscent of the ancient shrine to the Supreme Brahman, the formless and Infinite, at Oachira near Kayamkulam. There too there is no shrine nor even a deity. Similarly, at the Advaita Ashrama at Aluva, on the banks of the Periyar, there is neither shrine or deity: there are only means to study and meditate on the Vedanta.
Thanks,
Manu


Man’s humanity marks out the human kind
Even as bovinity proclaims a cow.
Brahminhood and such are not thus-wise;
None do see this truth, alas!

-------SreeNarayanaGuru---------
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