Śrī Nārāyaṇa Guru (1856-1928) and His Significance in the Temple Entry Movement in Kerala

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2018-05

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Beissner, Emily

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In the thesis, a close reading and analysis of the adages of Sri Narayana Guru (1856-1928) will serve to provide the significance of his involvement in caste reform in Kerala in the temple entry movement. The corpus of adages has never been translated into English in its entirety, however, this thesis offers a comprehensive English translation of Narayana Guru’s adages. The Malayalam source for the adages used was Sri Narayana Vachanamṛtham compiled by Bensal V L., Vipin Shan K S, Deepu T N and Siju Raj. This source was obtained from the library at the Sivagiri Monastery in Kerala, India, a center for study about Narayana Guru. The method of assessment used was a close reading and analysis of the adages that signify Narayana Guru’s involvement in the temple entry movement. Scholarly works on caste, the temple entry movement, and caste associations in Kerala by authors such as Robin Jeffrey, Susan Bayly, and Kenneth Jones were incorporated in order to place the adages in historical, political, and religious contexts for analytical discussion. Narayana Guru was a prominent sage in the state of Kerala in South India during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The influence of his essays and adages continues to manifest in philosophical, religious, and academic thought in Kerala today. Examples strongly illustrate that Narayaṇa Guru’s prominence is the result of his increased political involvement in relation to the destruction of dividing lines of caste in Kerala. My objective is to explore the reason for and the implications of such levels of political involvement by Narayana Guru and whether such involvement is evident and manifested in his adages. This thesis argues that Narayana Guru’s involvement in the temple entry movement is directly reflected in his adages, and that this involvement shows an intention of Narayana Guru to utilize a resonance between temple and social matters to forward his ideals.

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