The first pilgrims to the sacred Shivagiri, a group of 5 youngsters wearing bright yellow clothes, were teased by on-lookers with the words ‘Manja Kilikal’ meaning the yellow birds.
They took the ridicule lightly and continued with the pilgrimage reciting 'Swaathanthrya Gadha' – written by the great Mahakavi Kumaran Asan with their minds set to accomplish the mission laid by Sree Narayana Guru.
The five Gurudevan devotees were:
The pilgrimage was started from the village of Elavumthitta, a small village in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, where the 5 members belonged to the SNDP Unit No.76. The only thought in the minds of the five Gurudevan devotees was to fulfill the set of goals clearly stated by the Great Saint. Their mission was a great success, and thus the ‘Sivagiri Theerthadanam’ came into existence with thousands of devotees clad in yellow going to “Shivagiri” every year.
The idea of Sivagiri Theerthadanam (Pilgrimage) was conceived by Vallabhasseri Govindan Vaidyar and T K Kittan Writer, who presented the concept to Sree Narayana Guru, when the Saint was taking rest one afternoon under the shades of a mango tree at the famous Shiva Temple in Nagambadam, Kottayam. Gurudevan laid the goals to be achieved and explained the regulations to be followed by the pilgrims.
As per the guidelines of Sree Narayana Guru, the Sivagiri Pilgrims should congregate during the Malayalam calendar date of 16th & 17th of Dhanu, which falls at the beginning of the European New Year. The pilgrims should observe a 10 day ‘Vratham’ of self-purification. During the ‘Vratham’, the pilgrims should follow “Pancha Dharma” – the great principles of 5 purities by the saint Sri Gautham Buddha, namely, body, food, mind, word and deed.
Gurudevan stipulated that the pilgrims should also follow Sri Buddha, who usually wore yellow clothes, by wearing normal yellow attire during the pilgrimage. Sree Narayana Guru was very particular about bringing maximum simplicity for the pilgrimage and thus suggested the pilgrims to avoid expensive clothes like yellow silk and not to buy new clothes. He suggested that the pilgrims can even make a yellow garment by dipping a white one in turmeric mixed water and drying it up.
Being the most highly visible of all colours, the colour yellow relates to uplifting & illuminating, offering hope, happiness and acquired knowledge. Yellow is the best colour to create enthusiasm for life and can awaken greater confidence and optimism in a person.
Sree Narayana Guru said that the pilgrims should move in a peaceful manner chanting hymns without shouting or making loud noises.
The Saint expressed that the goals of the Sivagiri Pilgrimage should be the promotion of Education, Cleanliness, Devotion to God, Organization, Agriculture, Trade, Handicrafts and Technical Training.
Gurudevan explained in detail the way to achieve the goals of the pilgrimage. He advised the pilgrims to adhere to the principles. He believed that, only then the core purpose of Sivagiri Pilgrimage will be meaningful and benefit the world and mankind.
Today thousands of devotees throng Shivagiri, wearing bright yellow clothes, from different parts of the world every year during the Sivagiri Pilgrimage days - 30 December to 1 January. The 'Sivagiri Theerthadanam' has today become an occasion of unity & peace and a way to promote the great principles & vision set by Sree Narayana Guru to the entire Lokam.