History of Sivagiri Pilgrimage

At the beginning of 1928 while the Sree Narayana Guru was camping at Nagampadam temple at Kottayam, a couple of his ardent disciples - Vallabhasseri Govindan Vaidyan and Kittan writer - hesitantly mooted the idea of “ Pligrimage to Sivagiri”. Swamiji enquired them about the object of the pilgrimage but they couldn’t reply. Hence the Guru himself explained that the aim of Theerthadana (pilgrimage) must be for the creation of a comprehensive knowledge among the people for their overall development and prosperity and suggested certain norms to be observed. The pilgrims should reach Sivagiri in yellow garb as the symbol of devotees, after following a brief ten day austerity based on Sree Budha’s five purities of Body, Word, Mind, Food and Deed. Guru underlined the need for education, cultural and moral purity for the yearly meet. January 1, the new year day was suggested for the Pilgrimage and it should be so planned to focus attention on eight subjects - Education, Cleanliness, Piety, Organised Endeavour, Agriculture, Trade , Handicrafts and Technical Training.  Experts on these subjects should be invited to lecture on them and the pilgrims should listen attentively. What they have heard should be practised in the day to day life which will lead them to prosperity. The Guru concluded that this should be the main goal of the pilgrimage to Sivagiri.

Though the Guru had permitted the idea of starting the pilgrimage and prescribed the modalities to be observed early in 1928, it could not be fulfilled till 1933 on account of Swamiji’s Maha Samadhi on September 20, 1928, and also due to unfortunate rift between the two organisations - S.N.D.P Yogam and the Dharma Sanghom, both founded by the Gurudev. The S.N.D.P Yogam was registered as a joint Stock Company in 1903 with Sree Narayana Guru as life time President, Dr. Palpu as Vice President and Kumaran Asan as General Secretary for the implementation of Sree Narayana Dharmam and the Sree Narayana Dharma Sanghom, a spiritual order of Sanyasins founded on January 11, 1928 for propagation and dissemination of the teachings and messages of the Guru.

The first Sivagiri Theerthadanam was held on January 1, 1933. The following five devotees from Elavumthitta in Pathanamthitta District, in yellow garb after following ten days austerity as prescribed by the Guru, started from there on  foot on 25-12-1933 and reached Sivagiri on 28-12-1933.


        1) Sri. Mooloor P.K. Divakara Panicker ( Leader of the team)
        2) Sri. K.S. Sankunny
        3) Sri. M.K. Raghavan
        4) Sri. P.K. Kesavan
        5) Sri. P.V. Raghavan

    They used to take part in the pilgrimage every year till their death and they are called as “five yellow birds”.

    Sivagiri pilgrimage is entirely different from that of other pilgrimages. The pilgrimage is for three days on December 30, 31 and January 1, every year. The procession of pilgrims in yellow garb chanting mantras with one heart and mind carrying the Gurudev Riksha, starts from  Maha Samadhi on the early morning of December 31 and returns after passing around the  town when the “Theerthadana Sammelanam”   commences in the specially decorated large Pandal. Eminent peronalities from        different parts of the country are invited to address the gatherings on the aforesaid eight subjects. Several cultural programmes and variety entertainments are also arranged on these days.  Several dignitaries such as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Zakir Hussain,       Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Shri. Rajeev Gandhi , Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Shri. P. Chidambaram, Shri. Lalu Prasad Yadav, Kumari Mayavathi had participated in the various functions held here. The number of participants has been increasing rapidly year after year.  This is the 79th Pilgrimage celebrations and it is expected that more than 20 lakhs people from different walks of life all over the world irrespective of Caste, Creed, Religion or  Language would participate in the festival. The increasing number of pilgrims year after year is a clear indication that Sivagiri has become the Supreme Centre of worship for the followers  of the Guru, the personification of the synthesis of all religions. The messages of Jagath Guru Sree Narayana Gurudev have great significance  and relevance in the present day life more than ever before. Let us always remember Gurudev’s   messages --

        “ One Caste, One Religion, One God for Man”
        “ One in Kind, One in Faith and One in God is Man”
        “  Of One womb, Of On Form,
             Difference therin None”
        “ Whatever be the Religion
              The Man must be good”.
        “ Freedom through Education
              Strength through Organisation”.

May the Gurudev bless us always.