Narayaniyam is a medieval Sanskrit text, comprising a summary study in poetic form of the Bhagavata Purana. It was composed by Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri, a devotee-poet who lived in the state of Kerala, in the sixteenth century AD. The Bhagavata Purana is a major Hindu scripture consisting of about 18,000 verses, mainly devoted to the worship of Krishna.
The Narayaniyam condenses the Bhagavata Purana into 1034 verses, divided into one hundred dasakas, or cantos. The work occupies a very high place in Sanskrit literature, both because of the intense devotional fervour of the verses, and because of their extraordinary literary merit. The Narayaniyam is one of the most popular religious texts in Kerala
Origin legend of the Narayaniyam
.The people of Kerala worship Krishna in his Deity form as Guruvayurappan in the temple town of Guruvayur.
There are many legends associated with Guruvayoor temple. Stories of Janamejaya, Vilvamangalam, Kurooramma, Panamaram, Poonthanam etc are just few of the many colourful characters associated with these legends.
Melpathoor Narayana Bhattathiripad an extremely intelligent and talented Brahmin youth, initially spoilt by self esteem and materialistic ways, suffering from physical discomfiture and turning into spiritual ways following sound advice and producing a masterpiece. The second half of the story, extremely touching and artistic, was enacted in the Guruvayoor temple premises.
Bhattathiripad, though well educated by the standards of the period, was not interested in the prescribed routines of an ideal Brahmin. True to the modern trend he considered talent and knowledge to be a precious merchandise to be sold at the best available prize. Naturally he landed in the Royal courts of the princely states of Kerala. But, as the saying goes, the God had other ideas. He was afflicted by extremely painful arthritic condition at about the age of twenty sevenAccording to local legends, Bhattadri had a Guru by the name of Achyuta Pisharati, who fell victim to a severe attack of paralysis, and suffered unbearable pain. Bhattadri desired to find a cure for his master and fervently prayed for the disease to be transferred to himself, freeing his Guru from suffering. According to the legend, Lord Krishna granted Bhattadri his wish, and he soon became a cripple. Therapeutic efforts failed entirely and by the time he decided to turn to the mercy of the Lord, he was a total wreck, not even able to walk without support. He reached Guruvayoor temple accompanied by his younger brother.
It was then that he had received an advice from the great Malayalam Saint & Poet, Thunchathu Ezhuthachan (considered as the “Father of Malayalam Language”) . advised Bhattadri that he could be cured if he “began his treatment with fish”. The disciples of Bhattadri who heard this were shocked because Bhattadri was a devout Hindu and therefore a vegetarian who would consider it sinful to eat fish. Bhattadri however understood what Ezhuthachan really meant – that he would be cured if he could compose a hymn glorifying the incarnations of Lord Krishna beginning with the fish incarnation, known as Matsya. The suggestion was that the poet should compose a work narrating the various incarnations of Lord Vishnu, Fish, Turtle etc… Melpathur, who knew all Puranas so well, straight away embarked on the project, assisted by his brother. Thus happened Sreeman Narayaneeyam. It is said the deity eagerly listened to his work daily and responded with occasional comments. He even helped him once by giving a vision of the fierce sight of Narasimhavatara, as the poet could not figure out how the incident was.
The theme closely follows Sree Maha Bhagavatham. One can safely say Narayaneeyam is a concentrated essence of the famous epic. However, the poet has used his liberty quite often. Take for example, Radha. The eternal symbol of selfless love does not appear in Bhagavatham. Having read from Chilappathikkaram and Geetha Govindam, Bhattathiri must have thought her to be too good to give a miss.
The last chapter is a gem of a narration of the deity from head to foot. The legend has it that after 99 chapters Guruvayoorappan had appeared in front of the poet and he was cured of his nagging ailment. Then on the 100th day he wrote about the vision he had.
It is believed that careful reading of Narayaneeyam can cure painful conditions like Arthritis. People follow the ritual with the same faith as undergoing a physiotherapy/Yoga treatment. There is no better cure than faith for the deadliest of diseases even.
Whatever that be, it is a recorded fact that Melpathoor lived a healthy life for several decades after completing Narayaneeyam.