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Sree Narayana Guru
Narayana Guru (1856 - 1928), also known as Sree Narayana Guru Swami, was a saint, sage and social reformer of India. He was born into an Ezhava family, in an era when the Ezhava caste, because of its precarious position between the upper and lowest strata in the caste hierarchy, faced much social injustice. Gurudeva, as he is fondly called, revolted against casteism and worked on propagating new values of freedom in spirituality and of social equality, thereby transforming the society in Kerala. Narayana Guru is revered for his Vedic knowledge, poetic proficiency, openness to the views of others, non-violent philosophy and his unrelenting resolve to set aright social wrongs. Narayana Guru was instrumental in setting the spiritual foundations for social reform in the current State of Kerala (erstwhile states of Travancore, Kochi and Malabar district of British India) and was one of the most successful social reformers who tackled caste in India. He demonstrated a path to social emancipation without invoking the dualism of the oppressed and the oppressor. In contrast to certain other reformers who criticised Brahmins and other upper caste Hindus for the conditions of the lower castes, Narayana Guru stressed on the uplift of a community through its own efforts by the establishment of schools and temples. In the process he brushed aside the Hindu religious conventions based upon Chaturvarna. His transformation of the social face of Kerala relied on emphasizing the Advaita philosophy of Sankara.