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Sri Chattampi Swamikal(The great scholar saint of Kerala)Dr. K.P.K. MenonE-book Published Byhttp://hinduebooks.blogspot.comMarch 2011


Sri Chattampi SwamikalPUBLISHERS' NOTEWe have mixed feelings of immense gratificationand modest pride in having been able to bring forththis work ‘Sri Chattampi Swamikal-The Great ScholarSaint of Kerala’ by Dr. K.P.K. Menon as theseventeenth issue in the series of books published bySri Vidyadhiraja Publications. The challenges and trialswe have had to face in bringing out this series withouta break have been too many. But, the promoters of thispublishing house have all along evinced a spirit ofdetermination and a sincerity of purpose that havemade there endeavours bear fruit timely andsatisfactorily. Already we have, in so short a time,published twenty four books in this series whichinclude fourteen books written by Sree VidyadhirajaParama Bhattara Chattampi Swamipadar and SreeNeelakanta Theerdhpada Swamikal, one of the illustriousdisciples of the great Scholar-Saint. A few more workssuch as Adibhasha, Pracheena Malayalam etc, are in thepress.Although a few biographies of ChattampiSwamikalin the Malayalam language are availableeven now, this life history of the sire written in theEnglish language is the first of its kind. The first3

Sri Chattampi Swamikaledition of this biography was published by SriPerumpavoor P. G. Narayana Pillai who himself was adevotee of the Scholar-Saint. In writing the biographyDr. K. P. K. Menon has accomplished a commendableservice in as much as that the book, couched in a facileliterary style and embracing almost all the significantfacts of Swami Thiruvatikal's life, remains, to those whoknow only the English language, as an abiding sourceof inspiration in their inquiry into the spiritual springsof "Vedanta".Leaving the native place and wandering in SouthTravancore and Tamil Nadu, Swamiji learnt the mostimportant Books such as Kaivalya Navaneetham,Ozhivilodukkam etc. in Tamil language in a short period.BesidesSanskrit, Swamiji had gained knowledge in Tamil,Kann-ada Telugu and other South Indian Languages.He was well-versed in both Asthika and NasthikaDarsanas (Atheism and Non-Atheism). Swamijiarrived at Jeevanmukthipada having crossed sevenplanes (Saptha Bhoomika) through austerity and havinggained theoretical knowledge in Non Dualism(Advaita). It was Swamiji alone who had broughtabout the synthesis of Yoga and Vedanta Darsanas and4

Sri Chattampi Swamikalthereby formed the new system of Theertha PadaSampradaya.Going through the pages of this biography thereaders will get considerable knowledge about theversatile spiritual personality of Sree Chattampi SwamiThiruvatikal, besides an awareness of the sweep anddepth of his magnificent material existence.Nevertheless it will not be redundant to touch upon afew salient aspects of the chequered career of SwamiThiruvatikal that are prominent in themselves.Chattampi Swami Thiruvatikal may be the greatestsage-intellect that Kerala has given birth to since theblessed birth of the all - glorious Sree Sankara. Thebrilliant lustre of his super intelligence and thephenomenal vastness of his erudition stand the test oftime forever and ever. At a period when the elite of thecontemporaneous Society Claimed that study of Vedaswas the monopoly of the so called privileged classes,Chattampi Swami Thiruvatikal boldly argued andeffectively established through his utterances andwritings, the fact that all such barriers in the realm ofthought and vision were baseless and illogical. Heshattered to pieces the centuries-old edifice of falseglory and conceited supremacy, erected and protected5

Sri Chattampi Swamikalthere to by the presumptuous power-class in ara Niroopanam' is a unique composition thatexposes some of the fallacies underlying the veryopinions voiced by the great Sree Sankara himself.Swami Thiruvatikal’s life was a splendid andsterling example of the Upanishad-thought that it isthe same divine light and cosmic energy that pervadethe whole universe and permeate every living andnon-living object. His intrinsic kindliness for all objects,animate as well as inanimate, and his unfailingconsiderateness towards being like snakes that aregenerally held to be vicious and harmful, by far revealwhat a master of merciful munificence he was IThe benign outlook he exemplified through hisprecept and practice was divine in its spiritual contentand serene in its exposition. He sought to teach theworld that attainment of a perfect state of materialhappiness and sensuous joy by a clever and judiciousexploitation of the bountiful gifts of Mother Naturealone would not pave the way to man's supremehappiness. To him edification of the human soul wasthe be all and end all of man's worldly sojourn. Themessage he endeavoured all through his life to spread6

Sri Chattampi Swamikaland inculcate was the self realisation of godliness inthe midst of material pursuits.As the Atheism and immorality spread out duringthis age of materialistic rationalism, we cannot save theworld from the vicious circle created by the moraldegradation that confronts the world, unless wepropagate and inculcate the spiritual wisdom and putinto practice the ethical values. It is rather impossiblefor the humanity to achieve the goal of spiritualtranquillity with wealth and pleasures given by scienceand technology. What is the meaning and aim of life inthe absence of the spiritual tranquillity? That is whyinnumerable people have been coming to India insearch of spiritual bliss and peace, although thewestern countries are on the summit of material wealthand pleasures. It was Parama Bhattara Vidyadhiraja SriChattampi Swami Thiruvatikal the versatile genius wehave ever seen since the birth of Adi Sankara, whotaught us Advaita Darsana alone is the sure and truepath to achieve the goal.Such being the greatness of the personage, whosebiography this is, the Vidyadhiraja Publications aredeeply gratified to place on record that many of thegreat scholar-saints votaries have been generous to7

Sri Chattampi Swamikalextend the financial assistance to this publishing firm.Be it mentioned here, with a profound sense ofgratitude that the financial requisites for thepublication of this book have been borne by Smt.Lakshmy Kutty Amma, Vengalathu Madathil,Kothamangalam, Kerala, who is the venerable widowof late Prof. T. N. Kesava Pillai and who herself is anoteworthy devotee of the great Scholar-saint. Thisbook, as desired by her, is to commemorate herhusband in a fitting manner-her husband who was awell-known figure in Kerala by virtue of his being areputed Professor, renowned man of letters and giftedorator.A short biographical sketch of late Prof. T. N.Kesava Pillai is appended to this book. We areindebted to Sri Pannisseri Sreenivasa Kurup, an eruditescholar, and member of the advisory board of SreeVidyadhiraja Publications.We express our hearty gratitude to Prof. M. R. T.Nair, who himself a poet and writer and well wisher ofour Publication, for having been encouraging andhelping us in our Publication works.8

Sri Chattampi SwamikalWe once again express our deep gratitude to Dr. K.P. K. Menon who has very kindly allowed us topublish this biography of Chattampi SwamiThiruvatikal.Our thanks are also due to Prasad Printers whohave taken pains out the Printing work in anexemplary manner.Perumon8-7-1989K. R. C. PillaiSree Vidyadhiraja PublicationsGeethanjali9

Sri Chattampi SwamikalPREFATORY NOTEThere are many biographies of ChattampiSwamikalin Malayalam — biographies long and short,in prose and in verse. But there is no book in English to.enable people outside Kerala to learn about his lifeand work. This short brochure is aimed at supplyingthis want so that the lustre of his greatness may spreadmore extensively than it does now.In the preparation of this booklet I am mostindebted to Sri K. Bhaskara Pillai whose excellentbiography of Chattampi Swamikalin Malayalam hasproved to be an invaluable source-book.23-2-'67K. P. K. MENON10

Sri Chattampi SwamikalFOREWORDA great soul and an equally brilliant mind, ChattampiSwamikalwas a remarkable religious peripatetic who livedin the historic Travancore State from 1853 to 1924. He usedto spend most of his time at Trivandrum during his lastyears. In my youth when I was staying there studying inthe Maharaja's College I have heard his astonished andappreciative contemporaries describing his unusualaccomplishments.Genius manifests itself in a space-time contextexpressing itself in its own idiom and local dialect. But theuniversal note in it is unmistakable. Chattampi Swami’sreligious quest and discovery, his austere simplicity andgreat self-denial, his humble sharing with others the lightwith which he was illumined, and above all his lovingtenderness for all living creatures, as illustrated by themany anecdotes reproduced in this brochure, are inspiringfor all time.The Swamikalwas not a propagandist or organizer inthe modern sense of the word. He strictly adhered to thecharacteristic virtues of an ideal hermit practising ahimsa,satya, asteya, brahmacharya and aparigraha (non-injury,truthfulness, not taking anything by stealth, sexualcontinence, and living without acquisition) as an exemplarof this mode of life-His religious influence opened the11

Sri Chattampi Swamikalvision of many and gave self-confidence to innumerablepeople, leaving a mark in the religious attitude of a largesection of people in the Travancore area.Born and brought up in penury and privations,Chattampi Swamikal became a mastermind by his owninborn genius and prodigious intellectual industry.Schooling in the last century was the luxury of the few andbeyond the reach of the poor in Kerala, where now literacyand educational opportunities are ahead of most of theother states in India. Access to traditional lore conserved inSanskrit was also impeded by narrow conventions. In spiteof these difficulties Chattampi Swamikal mastered manybranches of indigenous learning and acquired skill in musicand arts. His painstaking study of Tamil and Sanskrit fromcompetent teachers outside the state gave him a commandover Vedanta. His gifted mind found no rest till hisproficiency in yoga measured up to ostensible results.Transport and communication was very crude in thosedays. Power-propelled vehicles were not on the roads andairway travel was not within imagination-It was in such aperiod that this stalwart seeker trudged many many milesin search of knowledge, and when he got it, he wanderedagain as the inspirer of people. Hardly was there at thattime in the country liberal education that assured anenlargement of the mind beyond one’s own clan or knownneighbourhood, because not many went out of their own12

Sri Chattampi Swamikalhome county or Zilla. People sparsely mixed even withmany of their neighbours because of social distance. Ifrarely a person returned after university education in thepresidency-capital or beyond the seas he was looked on asan exhibit. That was the local condition when ChattampiSwamikal strove to extend egalitarian doctrines or liberalizetraditional religious rituals and doctrines by his writingsand example.Though Chattampi Swamikal was an anticipator ofmany liberal trends he was not a pledged social reformerunder whose ferocious Zeal religion is usually the firstcasualty. While exposing sacerdotal pretensions anddemolishing the ignorant claims of the high-ups in theladder of caste hierarchy, in his polemical writings, henever excited inter-communal envy or bickerings; he wasurged by a sense of historical justice rather than personalpride. By birth though he was occupying a stair somewhatup in the caste ladder he saw through the artificiality andabsurdity of it and always extended his hands to thosebelow him to raise them up. His vision of unity(samadarssna) was the outcome of his Vedantic convictionthat Atman is Brahman, each man is potentially Divine, thatall existence is One—the essence of Vedantic wisdom.I have much pleasure in introducing to a wider publicthe life-story of this meritorious personality presented for13

Sri Chattampi Swamikalthe first time in English, written by Dr. K. P. KarunakaraMenon, with much care and selective insight.Saints are the common property of humanity. Bymaking the necessary efforts to make available a knowledgeof their life and ideas prevalent in one region in others also,across the barrier of language and time, we aid in theemotional integration of the nation and even of mankindMay this slim volume fulfil this end in its own measure!Mahasivaratri day, 1987SWAMI VlMALANANDA14

Sri Chattampi SwamikalSECRET INITIATION!It must have been in the early twenties, I only havea very dim, vague, memory. And yet, the flashes thatrise in my bosom are unfailingly clear. They have beenmy silent inspiration. They have helped me more oftenthan I dare to confess.It cannot be explained; because it all happenedwhen I was only three, or perhaps, four years old. Iremember the unique smell of the long, white beard,the rough hairy chest, and the rounded soft belly. This8remember clearly of Sri Chattampi Swamikal, in theearly twenties. He used to be a regular visitor to ourhouse in Ernakulam, and my Mother tells me it was hisusual practice to lay me on his chest and lie down on acot and prattle away to the child. The child in his turn,I am told, used to prattle back, and thus long periods ofquiet communication used to be between the greatSwamikal and the innocent child. As the child wasbeing rocked up and down in a vertical position, on thebosom, Sri Swamikal was in the habit of rolling hishead at the neck from right to left. All those who knewhim, can remember this happy pose of this uniqueMaster.15

Sri Chattampi SwamikalIt was this simple picture, down in my memory thatdid often return, again and again, to help me on thepath of my life. It contained for me a testimony, atestament and an ever-green hope, all in one, for alltimes.It seems that my Mother had often wondered at andasked the Swamikal, "What exactly are you telling him,and what is the language you both use?" Mother nowtells me that the Swamikal did answer her: "Heunderstands it all, why do you interfere with us?'These are all the reminiscences that I can report. Is it alltrue? Is there communication possible between asilver-bearded Master and an uninitiated infant?Whatever else there might have been in my early life,there was no spirituality or religion apparentlyevident, and yet, twenty-five years ago, when I was inmy early twenties I can look back now and declarethat, suddenly, from nowhere, a spiritual urge and areligious hunger took me by storm, and in one tidalwave sustained me for ten short years in Utterkasi,only to leave me back, again on the shores of theIndian Hindu metropolis, to preach, to serve, and toconvert the Hindus to Hinduism.16

Sri Chattampi SwamikalMy teacher Sri Swami Tapovanam had a greatreverence for Sri Chattampi Swamikal, and it is in factfrom Sri Gurudev that I heard so often of the spiritualand mystical glory of this rare Sage of Kerala.The total impression that is left in me by this greatscholar-saint, who chose to remain incognito all thetime, in his own native land, is his sunshine oflaughter, his irrepressible joy.can I say ecstasy? Idon't know. But whenever I have looked back andrelived my short contact with the Swamikal, there isalways a fragrant atmosphere of peace and ease, loveand loveliness, that springs up in my bosom.Sri Chattampi Swamikal has been one of theconstant altars at which I have, day by day,surrendered and invoked endless streams of powerand strength. His long nails, which he preserved forplaying the Veena,—and I vividly remember how heused to play the rhythm of the drums on the top of thetable,.have often, I have felt, patted me on my back.These are all, to me, extremely sacred secrets and Ifeel bashful to tell them in public, but when I amapproached by the publishers, who are bringing out avolume of the Life and Works of this rare genius,17

Sri Chattampi Swamikalwhose Spiritual stature is unmatched with any of thegreatest men I have so far met, I can but Indicate theseprecious moments and offer them as my humblehomage at the altar of this "Majesty of Knowledge."What I am today capable of in serving the world, Ifirmly believe, I owe to this unique Sage. Many are thestreams of influence that have reached me, to mouldme. It seems that I had a secret initiation at the handsof the Swam.gal, who accomplished this marvel in atiny baby, perhaps, then only a thousand days old inthe world.With prostrations to this Yogi of Yogis,SWAMI CH1NMAYANANDAHindu Cultural Association,Malaysia, 16th March 196718

Sri Chattampi SwamikalGLORY OF THE SAGEThe world forgetting, the world renouncing, he lives alife of leela to redeem and reform the world.The why, the whence and whither he knows, of soulsensheathed in mortal frames.That One he knows, knowing which nothing remainsunknown.He sees Him in all and all in Him.And his soul, like the never-setting sun, sheds peace andtruth and love on all that lives.P. G. N. P.19

Sri Chattampi Swamikal1. CHILDHOODThe future sage was born on 11 Chingam 1029 M. E.(1853 A. D.) at Kollur, a village on the outskirts ofTrivandrum. Among his ancestors were severalillustrious scholars, saints and siddhas. His father wasan impecunious Brahmin named Vasudeva Sarma, andhis mother Nankadevi of Ulloorkot House. He was theeldest son of his parents. Though he was namedAyyappan, he was called, and later known as, Kunjan.Even as a boy the burden of supporting his family fellon him. He used to make garlands of flowers picked inthe neighbouring forests, and take them to the Kollurtemple-He would gather vegetables that grew wild inmarshy places for the women-folk of the KollurMadom and get as payment some cooked rice and alittle salt and chillies.He had no means of attending a school. He learnedthe Malayalam alphabet from his father. In theevenings he used to peruse the books of boys whoattended the village school and he thus learned to readMalayalam and Tamil. Kunjan made it his daily habitto overhear the lessons which a Sanskrit teacher taughtthe Brahmin boys of the Madom. One day the teachercame to know of his surreptitious attempts at20

Sri Chattampi Swamikaleducating himself. Impressed by the high standard ofthe young aspirant's attainments, he allowed him toattend his classes. Thus Kunjan achieved considerableproficiency in SanskritHis thirst for knowledge and his aptitude for studyprompted a near relative of his to send him to a schoolkept by Raman Pillai Asan in Pettai in Trivandrum.Here he won the good will and confidence of histeacher so that he was made the 'Chattampi ' or theMonitor who in the absence of the teacher took hisplace. This appellation stuck to him and even today heis known by it. The studies at his school were by nomeans exacting. His reading of the Ramayana in avoice charged with devotion and his melodiousmusical extemporizations thrilled his hearers. Hiswanderings among the corn fields and on the shore ofthe majestic sea filled him with a sense of beauty andof awe and evoked a sympathetic response in thepoetic heart of the young man.During this period he was often missing from theAsan's house at nights. The Asan was distressed by thesuspicion that the youth was being tempted to vice.One night he organized a search party consisting of hispupils. They searched for him at all the neighbouring21

Sri Chattampi Swamikalhouses. At last they found him seated near the idol of adilapidated Kali temple. He was in such a deep trancethat he was quite oblivious of the torchlight partylooking with astonishment at him.It was also during this period that Kunjan Pillaishowed openly his utter disregard of the inhibitions ofcasteism. At a time when it was deemed a criminal actof heterodoxy for a Nair to dine in the house of anEazhava, Kunjan Pillai consorted with members of thelatter community and scandalized public opinion bytaking his meals at the house of one Parameswaran, theelder brother of Dr. Pappu who later became a wellknown social reformer.An insatiable thirst for knowledge and a memorythat knew not what it was to forget distinguished thisyoung prodigy. Very early in fife he developed adistaste for light literature. His fellow-feelingembraced all living creatures. If he unconsciously hurteven a worm a stricken conscience kept him sleeplessfor nights. For all physical exercises and games he hadan unusual aptitude His taste for music wasinstinctive. Music absorbed him so fully as to makehim forget himself and his surroundings. He couldhimself sing ravishingly« His skill in rendering rare22

Sri Chattampi Swamikalragas was remarkable. He was an enthusiast ofKathakali and he mastered all the mudras of that highlycomplicated art. His skill in painting was also of nomean order though lack of facilities prevented himfrom developing it. But the fine arts were not adequateto contain his interests or gratify his spiritual needs.Ho wanted to unravel the mystery of life, to get behindthe seen reality and discover the invisible truth. To thisend he studied Vedanta through the ancient works inMalayalam and Tamil. But he realised that trueenlightenment could come only through the guidanceof a guru. His heart yearned in agony for such amaster.He conned the face of every saffron-clad Sanyasiwho passed along the road, sometimes he followedhim for a long distance. One day he saw an aged sadhuwith clotted hair sitting in meditation in the Kollurtemple-Kunjan Pillai attended on him for several days.When the venerable man was about to leave the place,the young disciple prayed for some spiritual advice.The Sanyasi favourably impressed by the devotion ofKunjan Pillai, taught him the Balasubramanya mantra.After days of due vrita when he mastered this Mantra,he felt himself, and appeared to others, a different23

Sri Chattampi Swamikalman. A new vigour and zeal energized his heart andthe transformation manifested itself in some newpowers that he felt and exercised. Children's ailmentswere cured by him by the application of bhasma. Hisaid was sought to exorcise evil spirits. He assumed thename of Shanmughadasa and an overwhelming desireto lead the life of a sanyasi was kindled in his heart.24

Sri Chattampi Swamikal2. EDUCATIONBut the claims of the world were not to be discardedeasily. Hunger could not be dispelled by Vedanta. Astarving mother could not live on spiritual sustenance.Kunjan Pillai had therefore to work for wages. And theseeker after esoteric knowledge had to do hard labourlike a common coolie. He used to say in later days thatin the construction of the imposing Secretariatbuildings, now towering over the city of Trivandrum,he had a share—carrying loads of bricks and sand IBut this was not for long. His relation Krishna Pillaitook him with him to Neyyattinkarai. Here KunjanPillai became a writer of documents. He was sogenerous that he used to share his wages with lessfortunate members of the profession. Later he wentwith Krishna Pillai to Bhoothapandi where also heworked as a document writer. Here be learned to readwith facility manuscript grandhas in Tamil. But findingthe strong winds that blew there intolerable, he wentback to Neyyattinkarai. To the potential seer and sagewriting documents, was irksome drudgery and hetherefore returned to Trivandrum.25

Sri Chattampi SwamikalAbout this time Kunjan Pillai had the opportunityof serving the Government. Sir T. Madhava Rayar, thethen Dewan, decided to recruit some clerks (Kanakkapillais) to the Huzur Cutchery. The Dewan assignedsome sums in Arithmetic to the candidates. Next dayevery one of them presented himself before the Dewanwith all correct answers. He ascertained from themthat Kunjan Pillai had worked out the sums for all ofthem. The Dewan therefore sent for him and put himto a severe test. With the aid of his fingers he made allthe calculations correctly. The astonished Dewanappointed him as a Kanakkapillai on Rs. 4 per mensem.At the end of the month, the salary was raised to Rs. 10in recognition of his extraordinary abilities. But thefair-minded youth returned the 6 rupees explainingthat he deserved only four.Chattampi did not long remain a Governmentservant. An overbearing superior officer refused togrant him leave for a few days. "I must see you in yourseat tomorrow," he roared. "You will see me in that seatonly when I choose to occupy it," he replied. He wasnever again seen in that seat.He now joined an organization whose members metperiodically at Pettai to discuss religious questions and26

Sri Chattampi Swamikalto conduct music lessons. The reputed ProfessorSundaram Pillai who was then a college student was amember of this society Here was an opportunity forKunjan Pillai to get to know in detail the philosophicalclassics in English. Ayyavu, the Manager of theResidency, used to deliver lectures on Vedanta to thesociety. From him Kunjan Pillai learned yogasanas. Hesoon became an adept in the performance of everyasana end an expert wrestler. From Ayyavu he alsogained an introduction to the modes of Vedanticthoughts in the Tamil classics.Tamil had a special fascination for Chattampi. Toone who had no knowledge of ancient Tamil, theclassics of that language remained a closed book. Thisknowledge he was able to acquire with the help ofSwaminatha Desikar who was Tamil lecturer in thecollege at Trivandrum. Realising that the Tamillanguage was the fountain head of all knowledge, hemastered all the great masterpieces of ancient Tamilliterature. This engendered in him an eager desire to goto Tamilnad. Desikar introduced him to the greatTamil Scholar Subba Jatapathi who had come toTrivandrum to participate in a sadas (seminar) ofeminent scholars. At the end of the sadas, Kunjan Pillai27

Sri Chattampi Swamikalwas overwhelmed with joy and gratification when theTamil savant invited him to accompany him to hisbirth place Kalladakurichi.This was a turning point in his life. SubbaJatavallabhar, as the great scholar was known in hisown village, was a Telegu Brahmin whose ancestorshad migrated to Tamilnad and settled down atKalladakurichi. In Disputation, Grammar and Vedanta,Jatavallabhar had no equal, and his house was theplace of pilgrimage of the most eminent men of thecountry. It was in the congenial atmosphere of thisplace that Chattampi acquired his deep and extensivemastery of all the sastras in Tamil and Sanskrit. In aneighbouring house resided a Yogi who excelled inyogic practices. From him Chattampi learned all chi again he became an expert in playingon all the musical instruments then in use. The three orfour years he spent at Kalladakurichi laid the firmfoundations of his future greatness, and when he didfarewell to Jatavallabhar and returned home thedisciple had nothing more to learn from his reveredGuru.28

Sri Chattampi SwamikalOn his way home he spent some days atMaruthwamala in solitary meditation, without food.He also met a siddha from whom he learned marmavidya and yoga sastra, and a Thangal (Muslim saint)who initiated him into the main tenets ofMohammedanism.But although Chattampi had ranged freely over awide area of spiritual knowledge, he had yet to find aproper guru from whom he could learn the way toenlightenment. Even this rare fortune came to himbefore long. At Vadiviswaram he saw an aged beggarmerrily licking the remnants of food from the leavesthrown away after a feast. Around him were a pack ofstreet curs with whom he shared the refuse. Theproceedings roused the interest of some mischievousboys who reacted by raining stones on the old man.But he ignored the missiles that fell on him, andcontinued his fellowship with his canine brethren. Thedocile obedience of the dogs convinced Chattampi thatt

We express our hearty gratitude to Prof. M. R. T. Nair, who himself a poet and writer and well wisher of our Publication, for having been encouraging and helping us in our Publication works. Sri Chattampi Swam