New Year has just commenced. I am happy that on the last day of December, 2012, I was in Kerala, and was able to visit Sivagiri, a pilgrim spot associated with the hallowed memory of Sree Narayana Guru, a great yogi and a siddha, revered by Mahatma Gandhi for his unrelenting crusade against untouchability and casteism.
The Guru was born at a time when the practice of untouchability was at its worst. There were people whose sight itself was supposed to cause defilement to others. In temples for a deity, lakhs who believed in the same deity and religion, were not allowed even to enter.
I recall that it was in 1987 that I had been first invited to visit Sivagiri Mutt in Varkala some 45 kms. from Thiruvananthapuram. I was asked to be Chief Guest at the 3-day celebrations that are held there every year since 1932. Because of bad weather, the flights for Thiruvananthapuram were cancelled, and I could not go. Sivagiri is a hillock in Varkala where lakhs of the Guru’s devotees visit to pay homage to his Samadhi, and the shrine of Sharda (Saraswati) that he has installed here.
Prior to installing this pratima of Saraswati at Sivagiri, Sree Narayana Guru had set up a shrine of Siva at Aruvippuram. So when in 1987 I failed to go to Sivagiri I somewhat made up for this when I visited Aruvippuram a year later. This year of course, I started my inaugural speech with apologizing to the large audience of pilgrims there clothed in peethambara (yellow) clothes that I had come to this sacred place 25 years late!
The 3-day celebrations were conceived by Sree Narayan Guru and announced before his death in 1928. These take place annually on December 30, 31 and January 1. On December 30, the celebrations are formally opened by the State Chief Minister. The second day’s function is the Teerthdanam Sammelanam which this year I was asked to inaugurate. This was presided over by Union Minister Shri Vyalar Ravi. On the last day there are several eminent scholars who speak about different aspects of the Code of Ethics laid down by Sree Narayana Guru.
In my address I welcomed Chief Minister Oomen Chandi’s announcement the previous day that from 2013 onwards Sree Narayan Guru’s teachings would be part of the School syllabus in Kerala State.
It is indeed unfortunate that in Indian schools, the teaching of history is almost entirely focused on kings, their dynasties, their wars and exploits. The remarkable contributions of our sages and seers are generally kept away from the children, and often on the plea that in a secular state anything to do with religion is taboo. This is an absurd approach. So in my speech at Sivagiri I urged Union Minister Vyalar Ravi to ensure that Kerala’s initiative is emulated by the Centre and other states. It would elevate the level of school studies if the teachings and ideals of saints like Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa and Swami Vivekananda are part of the normal curriculum.
The Union Minister for Overseas Indians Shri Ravi responded by saying that he would take up the issue with the Prime Minister.
In my speech that day I recalled that while in school we had gathered that the touchstone for judging a student’s intelligence level was knowing how high or low was his or her IQ that is, Intelligence Quotient. Later, when I happened to read a book titled E.Q., it made me appreciate that while judging an individual’s personality, his IQ may be important, but his E.Q. which meant Emotional Quotient is even more important. Emotional Quotient meant how susceptible a person is to emotions like anger, envy etc. I said that day what the Kerala State has done and what I urge should be done by educational institutions all over the country is something that would raise the Spiritual Quotient also of all our countrymen. While coining this S.Q. phrase, I do not have any religion or creed in mind, I am thinking only of the ethical and moral values a student imbibes in his institution.
Shortly before he passed away in 1902, Swami Vivekananda ji had remarked that the country needs a man-making machinery that is able to produce Men with a Capital M. What he had in mind were men with high IQ, EQ and SQ, that is men with an exceptionally high character and extraordinary ability and talent.
Our educational institutions would be rendering signal service to the country if they succeeded in evolving an educational system which could become the Man-making machinery Swami Vivekananda had talked about!
In Thiruvananthapuram itself, on the eve of my visit to Sivagiri, I attended another impressive function organised to honour Shri O. Rajagopal, my party colleague for many years, and also a ministerial associate in Shri Vajpayee’s government, on the completion of Rajagopalji’s fifty years in public life.
All those who spoke at the packed Kerala University’s Senate Auditorium paid rich encomiums to our Kerala leader for his ability and integrity, and the conscious contribution he had made for Kerala’s welfare when he was a Union Minister in the NDA Government. But what I deem significant was the galaxy of leaders who turned up to greet Rajagopalji that day. Representatives from the entire political and social spectrum were present on the dias.
As Chief Guest at the programme, I urged political activists cutting across party lines to work together and conscientiously to take India to the forefront of nations. Delivering the keynote address, Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan said that although he and Mr. Rajagopal occupied diametrically opposed poles in politics, they retained a close friendship. However, the CPI(M) and the BJP had worked together for a brief period, in the fight against Emergency, and he and Mr. Rajagopal were in prison together during the period.
Gandhi Smarak Nidhi chairman P. Gopinathan Nair chaired the meeting which was addressed by, among others, Health Minister V.S. Sivakumar, CPI State secretary Pannian Ravindran, poet O.N.V. Kurup, Mayor K. Chandrika, BJP veteran Parameswaran, BJP State president V. Muralidharan, Kerala Congress leader V. Surendran Pillai, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Auxiliary Bishop Samuel Mar Irenius, Swami Tatvaroopananda, and NIMS Medicity managing director M.S. Faisal Khan.
04 January, 2013