The sufferings of the poor people stirred his heart and provoked him to pull them out of the mire of despair. He sacrificed all the pleasures and luxuries of worldly life and resolved to serve the downtrodden. He served the urchins and orphans as a guardian and provided more congenial shelters to them. He traveled around the country amassing food, clothing and medicines and distributed them to the poor and needy ones. Similarly, during 1943-1944, when fatal cholera started its havoc, the consequence was massive destruction of human life and spread clouds of misery around. During the prevalent adverse conditions when advanced medical treatment was also not available, Nayanar appeared as an angel to extend solace to the disheartened lives. He reached out to every victim and offered free medical treatment. He acted like a candle which burnt itself and shed light on others. His humanitarian activities during the communal unrest and desolation made him immortal. Later he had also established orphanages in Kozhikode, Ponnani, Dharmadam and Payangadi (Pazhayangadi) and repatriated orphans.
Vagbhatananda was born in 1885 near to Tellicherri in Kerala, India. He was given the name V. K. Gurukkal and was of the Thiyya community. He was educated in the traditional gurukkal system, through which he gained a proficiency in scriptures and philosophy. Following this, he travelled widely to propagate the teachings of universal non-duality for a better and egalitarian society. His oratorical abilities led to him being given the name of Vagbhatananda by a swami named Brahmananda Sivayog. At some time after 1898, Vagbhatananda founded a school teaching Sanskrit in Calicut, where he also took interest in the work of the Brahma Samaj that had been founded there that year by Ayyathan Gopalan.
In 1920, Vagbhatananda founded the Atmavidya Sangham, whose principles he outlined in an Advaita treatise titled Atmavidya. The Atmavidya Sangham comprised mostly professional and intellectual people and it had a more secular approach to reform. It was instrumental in advancing the development of class organization among peasants of the region, spreading Marxist–Leninist ideas as a counter to the overbearing feudal and religiously orthodox establishment. Vagbhatananda himself criticized both economic exploitation and the role of foreign governments in supporting it.
Vagbhatananda, who was married, died in October 1939. People have described him as a "good combination of an erudite scholar, reformer, organizer, journalist and nationalist. His authority was the ancient wisdom of Hinduism, not the dogmatism of theology." The significance of the Atmavidya Sangham declined after his death, being superseded by other secular-oriented reform groups such as the Karshaka Sangham that adopted its agenda.