The Advaita Ashramam at Aluva celebrated the 100 year of its founding here on Monday. The Ashramam, established by Sree Narayana Guru in 1913, lies on the banks of the Periyar, overlooking the Aluva Manappuram. The peaceful compound of the Ashramam was the site for Guru’s meditations and his meetings with social reformers.
A meeting of leaders from all religions, only the second of its kind in the world, was held at this Ashramam in 1923. The site also witnessed Guru’s historic meetings with Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. Guru’s works such as ‘Mananamala’ and ‘Municharya Panchakam’ are also believed to have been written during his stay at Aluva.
Guru established the Ashramam soon after the Sarada installation at the Sivagiri mutt. “This Ashramam is unique in that it is one of the few places that Guru bought. Land in other places was donated to him. He liked this place so much that he collected money from well-wishers and bought seven acres here,” said Sivaswaroopananda Swami, secretary of the Ashramam.
Guru came upon the site during some of his travels in this part of the State. He also set up temples at Vypin, Cherai, and Moothakunnam. Aluva, however, was special. He went around collecting donations to buy the land, a part of which he also received as donation. Once he set up the Ashramam, he planted mango, jackfruit and nutmeg trees. He spent a lot of time sitting under his favourite trees and contemplating the philosophy of Adi Sankara, based on which the Ashramam was formed.
“Guru wanted this Ashramam to be the head office of his activities. But a huge flood, even bigger than the one this year, wiped away the hut that was the original ashram. The structures then had to be rebuilt,” said Sivaswaroopananda Swami.
In 1916, Sree Narayana Guru set up a Sanskrit school close to the Ashramam. The only Sanskrit school in the State at the time was at Travancore and children of lower castes were not admitted there. Guru’s institution was open to all. A small hut next to the Sanskrit school was where Guru rested and spent much of his time. The old buildings of the Sanskrit school and the hut are now part of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Higher Secondary School, Aluva. An inscription carved on the school building gives the date of construction as 1093 as per the Malayalam calendar (1918 in the modern calendar).
The old Sanskrit school is linked to history in its own way. “Poet Kumaran Asan is said to have stayed here and written poems sitting on that balcony,” said Dilip Kumar, a teacher at the SNDP HSS, pointing to the old Sanskrit School building. “He wrote several poems when he was here. A photograph of the delegates at Guru’s meeting of religious leaders also shows the pillars of this building,” he says.
The Advaita Ashramam still continues to propagate the teachings of Sree Narayana Guru. As part of the year-long centenary celebrations, the Ashramam plans to set up a Guru Dhyana Mandiram, Pooja Mandapam, old-age home and other facilities at the complex.