By John B Monteiro
Mangaluru, Jan 26: These days the vast complex of Shree Gokarnanatha Kshetra at Kudroli is in periodic beehive of activities - this time because his devotees are out express their hurt on Kerala government’s proposed tableau on him being rejected at the Republic Day celebrations in Delhi. Today’s protest march against this rejection started from the Kshetra at Kudroli.
Who is Shree Narayana Guru and how is Gokarrnanath Kshetra connected with him?
Today’s Kshetra is the end result of a series of renovations, over a period of 25 years of the original temple inaugurated in 1912.
“The greatest vicissitude of things among men,
Is the vicissitude of sects and religions”.
So said Francis Bacon, English writer (1561–1626) with the Western Christian world on his radar. We in India had a similar situation which was best manifested in the centuries-old caste system. Under this system, sanctioned by religious texts, some were more equal than others. This situation agitated the less equal and they started the struggle for equality before God. The Billavas of Tulu Nadu were in this class. In their struggle for emancipation they found inspiration, and later direction, from Shree Narayana Guru.
Born on August 20, 1854, at Jambalanthi, in Kerala, this religious and social reformer started his education in 1859, mastered Sanskrit, started tapasya and dhyana at Aradipura and established himself as a seer at Maruthamalai in 1887. In 1884, he had set up a Shiv Kshetra at Aradipura and in 1889 started Ishwara Temple at Vokkam ( all in Kerala) and set about guiding and reforming people deviating from the straight religious and social path.
In Tulu Nadu Billavas and others so-called backward classes started questioning the rationale of their inequality before God as manifested in, for instance, the denial of temple entry. This was the time when in Bengal Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa and Brahma Samaj emphasised that caste was immaterial and devotion to God was pivotal. The leaders of the backward classes in Mangalore increasingly questioned the premises that kept them less equal. Noted businessman of Hoige Bazar, Sawkar Koragappa, accompanied by fellow leaders, went to Shree Narayana Guru in Kerala in 1908.
The seer, committed to the uplift of the downtrodden, agreed to come to Mangalore. He was shown places where a temple could be constructed. He agreed on Kudroli. The place then had notorious reputation as the den of Butha – Prethas. People living in the surrounding area had bad reputation. Yet, Shree Narayana Guru was determined to transform the place into a holy kshetra. Responding to the Guru’s wishes people in the area, including a Muslim family, surrendered their lands to make place for the temple complex.
After selecting the spot, Shree Narayana Guru returned to Kerala only to come back in 1909 with the detailed blueprints for the temple and camped in Mangalore for some time. When he expressed his desire to visit the Shri Manjunatha Temple at Kadri, the Billava leaders escorted him there. But, despite urging from the Guru, these leaders could not enter the temple courtyard. The Guru himself was respectfully welcomed and helped to do the rituals.
Shree Narayana Guru came to Mangalore again in 1912 and installed the images of the deities – besides the Shivlinga he had brought along. The other deities included Shri Ganapathy, Shri Subramanya, Shri Krishna, Shri Devi Annapurneshwari, Shri Ananda Bairava, Navagraha and Shri Shanishwara. The coming together of these deities is based on Shree Narayana Guru’s emphasis on one religion and one God for all.