Tag Archives: sree narayana guru

Balm in Troubling times – Raghavan Thirumulpad on Srinarayana Dharma

[The lockdown ought to work as a great leveler. For once, all who live in mortal bodies have been reminded of their inevitable mortality, of the absurd fragility of our existence on this planet. Even the living-gods who command a huge following have shut darshan. We have also been reminded that life on earth will not grind to a standstill if we go. Indeed, the signs are that it will thrive. 

But at the ground level, that is not happening. The better-off can see how, starkly, like never before, the privileges they enjoy, and given as they are to an amoral worship of consumption which inhibits their capacity for compassion, are more likely to shield this by resorting to any kind of ideology that justifies their privilege, probably eugenics or some kind of functionalist interpretation of caste oppressive practices. We are seeing how the poor are suffering for no fault of theirs at all. Indeed, the lockdown may help to normalize privilege even more, and render us all the more insensitive to the suffering of the working class poor. One reason why this happens is because we are already, as a society, afflicted by moral viruses — of religious bigotry, caste privilege, and ruthless capitalism. As a society, we are sick, and the pandemic is likely to exacerbate it

It must be this connection that made me turn to the work of Raghavan Thirumulpad, who was one of Kerala’s finest ayurvedic physicians, a multi-lingual scholar whose conception of individual and human wellness was inextricably related to the wellness of society and the natural world. I have long admired the ease with which he moved between theory and practice in ayurveda; but what really connected us as privileged-caste-born people who sought to become human  was that we found in Sreenarayana Guru a common refuge. For Thirumulpad, the Guru is not just a social reformer or preacher but a healer — a healer of society and individual, who drew upon Indian traditions to reinterpret a dharma adequate to the disease that afflicted society in his times.

Continue reading Balm in Troubling times – Raghavan Thirumulpad on Srinarayana Dharma

Sree Narayana Guru, the Left, and Chitralekha: Joe.M.S.

This is a guest post by JOE M. S.

The recent controversy associated with the brutal persecution of a Dalit working woman, Chitralekha  by the hoodlums of a ‘leftist’ union has gained wide attention, bringing into limelight the plight of  Dalits in Kerala. The men who participated in this ’festival of masses’, according to reports, predominantly belong to the  backward caste Ezhava/ Theeya community. Anybody with a bit of social concern would have definitely condemned the incident . They would even have expressed their regrets at the deviation of the people belonging to Ezhava caste, the disciples of Srinarayana guru, the famous social reformer, from the avowed policies advocated  by him. But I think, here lies a problem. A re-look at the social history of Kerala is needed   to understand whether the Chitralekha incident is a deviation from the pronounced objectives of the Srinarayana movement as  such, as it is popularly understood, or  the roots for  such a development  was inherent in the   trajectory of   the Narayana movement itself. This does not belittle  the genuine intentions Guru had for social emancipation, at a personal level.

In spite of the cultural specificities of northern Kerala  where  these atrocities were perpetrated on Chitralekha, I think a general study of the impact of Srinarayanism on the whole of Kerala may be of some help to analyse the increasing backward caste arrogance vis-a-vis Dalits. This is particularly so as the discourse on the assumed efficacy of Sri Narayana Guru’s thought is  invoked constantly  by the civil society of Kerala, eternalising his importance  in all spheres. So  I think, a glance at the  impact of his life and efforts  can shed light on the of the constitution/ construction of modern Ezhava identity and the problems associated with it.

Continue reading Sree Narayana Guru, the Left, and Chitralekha: Joe.M.S.