IN FEBRUARY 1928, Sree Narayana Guru fell seriously ill. The news spread immediately throughout Kerala. Although Swami had fallen ill
and seriously too, more than once in his life, people somehow had a premonition of tragedy.
The illness started as an aggravation of his old complaint or piles. Later on, however, urinary troubles complicated matters. In spite of the
specialist treatment he received, supported by the most tender and expert nursing, Swami got worse and worse. Treatment at Madras, Palghat, Trivandrum, in both allopathic and ayurvedic systems of medicine administered separately and in combination, was of no avail. At long last, he attained samadhi at 3.30 p.m. on the 20 th of theSeptember, 1928. He was 72 at that time.
Two days prior to that, his pains had abated and he told his disciples and others that he was feeling a great calm. When the end was drawing near the sanyasi’s disciples conducted continuous prayers and read out passages from the scriptures. Swami Vidyananda was reading
the great religious text, the Yoga Vasishtam which deals with the freedom of the atman.
The reader had reached the portion on Moksha Prapti (attainment of eternal bliss) when Swami too attained Moksha (as reported by his disciple Sawmi Guruprasad who was present on the
occasion). Sanyasis, lay disciples of Swami, leaders of society, along with a huge concourse of people arrived there from far and near, most of them staying on at Sivagiri right up to the consignment of his mortal remains to mother earth in a special sacramental pit prepared for the purpose strictly according to prescribed religious rites. His disciples could never explain afterwards how thousands of people were accommodated, fed, and attended to by them. Everything went off without a hitch because every one of the congregation cooperated.
The sanyasis, brahmacharis and along with them hundreds of others fasted and spent the whole night in prayer. The next day the body was placed on a palanquin decorated with flowers and taken to the bower of the Vanajakshi temple in the evening, accompanied by a huge procession; the entire route resounding to devotional songs and chanting of hymns by the mourners. At five o’clock, the funeral procession wended its way to the spot specially prepared for the samadhi.
This consecrated grave was 30 feet square and seven feet deep. In the center was a pit five feet square and five feet deep, lined with stones and having a strong foundation. The Swami’s body was lowered in it in a sitting posture and the pit filled with salt, camphor, sandalwood with the head alone remaining exposed. The next day at dawn the head was also similarly covered and
then the whole pit closed by a slab. All the while, prayers and chanting of mantras continued until finally the performance of funeral rites prescribed for interning the earthly remains of
Advaita sanyasis were performed. Special prayers continued for 45 days after that ceremony
Sanatana Dharmam, the official journal of the Theosophical Society
in Kerala wrote:
“Kerala has been plunged into darkness by the demise of the great Rishi on the 20th
of September 1928. "
“He has been placed by the people on a pedestal equaling that of Sankara Acharyar and Tunchath Acharyar, two other great sages of Kerala. White Sankara Acharyar was ill-treated by Keralites and Thunchath Acharyar received his due exalted position centuries after his
demise, nobody in India in the last few centuries has received the brilliant, long-standing, broad-based, unparalleled respect from everyone in the land as Sree Narayana Guru did, even while he was alive…”
“For the enlightened of Kerala, he has been
a Manu in social law,
“For future generations, he will be one among the Avatars (incarnations).”
The Guru won the battle of freedom for the lowest, and became at the same time an honoured and lovable personality for the higher castes also.