|This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2013)|
25 August 1853|
|Died||5 May 1924
|Literary works||Advaita Chinthapaddhathi, Vedadikara Nirupanam, Pracheena Malayalam etc|
|Notable disciple(s)||Sanyasi disciples: Narayana Guru, Neelakanta Therthapada, Theerthapada Parmahamsa. Grihastha disciples: Bodheswaran, Perunnelli Krsihnan Vaidhyan, Velutheri Kesavan Vaidhyan Kumbalath Sanku Pillai etc.|
|Quotation||The whole universe is one mind. Between mind and mind there is no vacuum|
Sree Vidyadhiraja Parama Bhattaraka Chattampi Swamikal (1853–1924) was a Hindu sage and social reformer. His thoughts and work influenced the launching of many social, religious, literary and political organisations and movements in Kerala and for the first time gave voice to those who were marginalised. Chattampi Swamikal denounced the orthodox interpretation of Hindu texts citing sources from the Vedas. Swamikal along with his contemporary, Nārāyana Guru, strived to reform the heavily ritualistic and caste-ridden Hindu society of the late 19th century Kerala. Swamikal also worked for the emancipation of women and encouraged them to come to the forefront of society. Swamikal promoted vegetarianism and professed non-violence (Ahimsa). Swamikal believed that the different religions are different paths leading to the same place. He strongly opposed the conversion activities of the Christian missionaries but was not against Christianity. Chattampi Swamikal throughout his intellectually and spiritually enriched life maintained a large number of friends from different regions of Kerala. He authored several books on spirituality, history, and language staying with these friends.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Jnanaprajagaram
- 3 Ordinary days
- 4 Meets Subba Jatapadikal
- 5 Study of other religions
- 6 Self-realisation
- 7 Narayana Guru
- 8 Major disciples
- 9 Samadhi
- 10 Major works
- 11 Research methods
- 12 Women’s rights
- 13 Published and unpublished works
- 14 Depictions
- 15 References
- 16 Further reading
- 17 External links
Chattampi Swami was born on 25 August 1853 at Kollur, a suburban village of Trivandrum in southern Travancore. His father was Vasudevan Namputhiri, a Nambudiri from Mavelikkara, and his mother was Nangamma, a Nair from Kollur. He was formally named Ayyappan but was called by the pet name of Kunjan - meaning "small male baby" - by all. As his parents were not able to provide him formal education, he learned letters and words from children of his neighbourhood who attended schools. Also he learned Sanskrit by overhearing the classes at a Brahmin house nearby. Knowing his thirst for learning an uncle took him to the traditional school conducted by Pettayil Raman Pillai Asan, a renowned scholar and writer who taught him without any fee. It was there that he earned the name Chattampi on account of his assignment as the monitor of the class.
In the 1870s Raman Pillai started a scholarly group named 'Jnanaprajagaram' with experts on different subjects with progressive attitude. It served as a meeting place for many scholars of that time and facilitated Kunjan to acquaint himself with many great men. He also could learn Tamil from Swaminatha Desikar and philosophy from Professor Manonmaniyam Sundaram Pillai during his participation in 'Jnanaprajagaram'. Kunjan Pillai was introduced into the science of yoga by the Thykattu Ayyavu Swamikal a scholar and yogi who used to give lectures at 'Jnanaprajagaram'. While so a wandering sadhu who came to his village temple initiated him into spiritual world by giving the Balasubramanya Mantra. Mastering this mantra gave him a new vigour and zeal and he assumed the name Shanmukhadasa due to his deep devotion of Subramanya.
As the burden of supporting the family fell on him, Kunjan Pillai took to many manual works. For many days he served as a labourer carrying building materials for the construction of Government Secretariat building in Trivandrum. For some time he worked as a document writer and also as an advocate's clerk. He stood first in a test for clerical posts in Government Secretariat Trivandrum conducted by Sir T Madhava Rao the then Divan of Travancore State. But he left the service after a short while as it curtailed his freedom and prevented his wanderings for spiritual exploitations and research.
Meets Subba Jatapadikal
In one of the Philosophical Conferences organised annually by the Travancore Kings at the Palace complex adjacent to Sree Padmanabha Swami Temple Kunjan Pillai met Subba Jatapadikal from Kalladaikurichin in Southern Tamil Nadu; a renowned teacher well versed in Tarka, Vyakarana, Mimasa, and Vedanta. Both were impressed by the other and Kunjan's wish to learn at Kalladaikurichin under him was granted. He spent many years learning under Subba Jatapadikal. There he acquired deep and extensive mastery of all sastras in Tamil and Sanskrit. He also learned Siddha medicine, music, and martial arts. During this period he was greatly influenced by the works of Kodakanallur Sundara Swamikal a great Advaitin. He later translated his work Nijananda Vilasam containing the cream of Vedanta into simple Malayalam to guide spiritual aspirants.
Study of other religions
After completing his studies under Subba Jatapadikal he spent long periods of learning under a Christian priest. In a secluded church in Southern Tamil Nadu assisting the priest he learned Christian meditation and learned Christian Religion and philosophy. Later he lived with an old Muslim well versed in Koran and Sufi mysticism who taught him the main tenet of Islam. Kunjan acquired proficiency reading Koran in the traditional way. Leaving him he wandered for months with many avadutas in Southern Tamil Nadu and also travelled all over India. These days revealed to him that the basic concepts of all religions are the same. It is their misinterpretation that causes conflicts and makes religion a tool for oppression and subjugation.
At the end of his wanderings and quest Kunjan Pillai was led to self-realisation by an avaduta whom he met at a wayside in Vadaveeswaram a village in Tamil Nadu with whom he lived for many months in the forests without any contact with the outside world. It is believed that this avaduta belonged to the line of immortal masters of Southern India; the Sidddhas who knew the scientific art for realising God. He returned to Kerala as a great scholar and saint.
In 1882 at the Aniyoor Temple near Vamanapuram Chattampi Swami met Nanu Asan three years younger to him who was in search of spiritual guidance. By then Swami was well versed in yoga and spiritual matters and their meeting proved to be the start of a profound and cherished companionship, although the two were of different temperaments (Nataraja Guru (1980). Word of the Guru. Cochin, Paico.). In those days Nanu Asan was a soft-spoken introvert while Kunjan Pillai an outspoken extrovert. They lived and travelled for many months together. Swami introduced Nanu Asan to all arts and sciences he has mastered and also gave him the Balasubrahmanya mantra. These were the formative years of Nanu Asan who later grew into a tough saint and reformer who passed through Kerala society as an avalanche removing injustices that prevailed there. Later Swamikal took Nanu Asan, to his guru Thykkattu Ayyavu Swamikal.
After completing Nanu Asan's studies under Ayyavu Swamikal they left him and wandered together in southern Tamil Nadu where they met many saints and scholars. It was with Chattampi Swamikal that Nanu Asan made his first trip to Aruvippuram, which was chosen as his abode for meditation and spiritual activities. He was led to self-realisation at this beautiful and serene place. Afterward he was known as Narayana Guru. At Aruvippuram he established a Siva temple the first such move by any from the lower caste in India. Chattampi Swamikal did not stay there for long, although the two maintained their contacts, respect and regard for each other throughout their life.
Biographies of Narayana Guru published in 1909. and 1913 while he was alive records that Narayana Guru became the disciple of Swami and was initiated into yogic practises by him. Narayana Guru himself recognises the inspiration from his master in one of his very important works in which he states 'I have composed this work as per the order of the teacher named child. The poem he composed when he heard the Swami's samadhi was the only such offering Naryana Guru has given to any human being and it reveals how he considered his Great Master a realised soul.
All the later disciples of Swami consider Narayana Guru as Swami's first disciple. In 1893 Swami met his second disciple, Neelakanta Theerthapada, a Sanskrit scholar and an expert in treating snakebites. Inspired by Swamikal, he prepared many works interpreting Advaita for the common man. He also reformed the social and religious rituals and rules and prepared manuals for them. He died in 1921 and Swami installed a Sivalinga above his Samadhi Peeta, which is the only temple, consecrated by him.
In 1898, Theerthapada Paramahamsa became Swami's disciple. He, too, worked for the removal of caste-related injustices in Kerala society. He established many ashrams and also Theerthapada System for the line of sanyasins following Swami's teachings and methods.
Swami Chinmayananda, Swami Abedananda, and many other saints ascribes to Swami the responsibility for their turning to spiritual life. Swami has also many grihastha disciples like Bodheswaran, Perunnelli Krishnan Vaidhyan, Velutheri Kesavan Vaidhyan Kumbalath Sanku Pillai etc. as well as sanyasi disciples like Neelakanta Therthapada and Theerthapada Parmahamsa who played very important role in renaissance and reformation in Kerala.
Swamikal settled down at Panmana, a village in Kollam district, towards the end of his life. He attained mahasamadhi which is a voluntary and controlled exit from the body on 5 May 1924 as per the memoirs of witnesses quoted in his earliest biography; after a short illness during which he objected to taking any medicine He was buried at his Samadhistanam at Panmana.
The compositions of Swami have come out in various forms of single stanzas, muktakas, bhajan songs, essays, critical works, translations, commentaries, short notes, and letters. Of them a few major works available in print are discussed in the following sections.
Vedadikara Nirupanam is considered as one of his greatest works. It refuted the baseless customs and rules that existed in Kerala. For the first time in the region's history the work questioned the monopolisation of Vedas, sciences and education by a minority. Vedadikara Nirupanam has infused strength and inspiration to the subaltern groups to fight for their rights and spread the ideas that lead the movements for reformation and renaissance in Kerala. While Nitya Chaitanya Yathi read it to his Master Nataraja Guru, the Master told that 'The words of the book are true like fire and it was to be considered our luck that these papers have not got burned'.  So revolutionary was the content of the work. It was a bomb placed in the then world of social discrimination.
Works on Vedanta
Swami wrote many guides and commentaries on Vedanta for the common man. Of them Advaita Chinthapaddhathi is an excellent manual on Advaita. written in simple language to enable ordinary people without knowledge of Sanskrit to learn Vedanta. It is an introductory manual on practical Advaita. The book describes with clarity the trigunas, trimurthees, jivatmas, panchabutas, sukshma, sthula, sarirotpatti, dasagunas, prapancholpatti, Tatvamasi, and related Vedic concepts. It is a great work, which explains Advaita Siddhantha, which is the cream of Hindu religious thought, in accordance with sruthi, yukthi and anubhava.
Works on Christianity
The book Christumatha Nirupanam  contains Two books – the Christumatha Saram (meaning Cream of Bible) and Christumatha Chethanam. The first part is a sum up of what is Christianity. Swami describes the life of Christ in a long sentence, which is like placing an elephant in a mustard seed. In second book quoting the Christian scriptures Swami points out how far the missionaries misinterpret and divert the concepts in the Bible and are working against the teachings of Christ.
Pracheena Malayalam  also aimed at awakening the mind of the people of the region divided by various complexes to a collective sense of 'We'. Convictions of common origin and belief in a common ancestry were indispensable for the development of a collective mindset. Swami explored the roots of Kerala society and original inhabitants, and sociologically and genealogically connected most of the present groups in Kerala including the priestly class to common ancestors who were the original inhabitants known as the Nakas. Prof. Hrdayakumari opines that Pracheena Malayalam is not only a good example of Swami's logical arguments but is the earliest examples of application of hypothesis and fixed methodology for historical studies. Pracheena Malayalam and Vedadhikara Nirupanam of Swami were the theoretical weapons that gave strength to the marginalised to fight against the colonial-feudal dominance that existed in Kerala.
Swamikal also worked for the emancipation of women and encouraged them to come to the forefront of society. He stated that ancient religion and law in India gave equal status to women and that their role is very important in family and society. He stated that it was the misinterpretation of ancient texts resulting from male arrogance that degraded the position of women and their enslavement.
Published and unpublished works
Swami led a wandering life and left what he wrote with those who were with him at the time of writing. Most of their works were only partially recovered and published. There were no later attempts to collect and conserve them, which led to the gradual loss of many of his works. A few works that got unearthed and published eight decades after his death and inspiring serious discussion like Adhibhasha and Pracheena Malayalam Part -II  show the value and the extent of the loss that occurred to Kerala society which was at one time unmindful of preserving his works. Recently Centre for South Indian Studies has initiated Chattampi Swami Digital Archive (CSDA) project as an attempt to collect and collate documents related to Swami that still exist. Major works of Swami available in print are the following:
- Advaita Chinta Paddhati
- Vedanta Saram
- Adi Bhasha
- Keralathile Desa Namangal
- Kristumata Nirupanam
- Jivakarunya Nirupanam
- Devarcha Paddhatiyude Upodghatam
- Devi Manasa Puja Stotra Vyakhyanam
- Nijananda Vilasam
- Pranavavum Sankhya Darsanavum
- Moksha Pradipa Khandanam
- Prapanchathil Stri Purushanmarkkulla Sthanam
- Pracheena Malayalam
- Dravida Mahatmyam
- Kerala Charithravum Tachudaya Kaimalum
- Bhasha Padma Puranam
- Malayalathile Chila Sthala Namangal
- Vedadhikara Niroopanam
- Chila Kavita Sakalangal
- Chila Kathukal
- Chila Sambhashanangal
- Srichakra Pujakalpam
The following works are not available, except through excerpts published in various journals and books by contemporaries.
- Advaita Panjaram
- Ozhuvilodukkam (Translation)
- Chidakasa Layam
- Tarka Rahasya Ratnam
- Parama Bhattara Darsanam
- Punarjanma Nirupanam
- Brahmatatva Nirbhasam
- Bhugola Sastram
- Shanmata Nirupanam
- Sarva Mata Samarasyam
- Stava Ratna Haravali
- Nair, R. Raman; Devi, L. Sulochana (2010). Chattampi Swami: An Intellectual Biography. Chattampi Swami Archive, Centre for South Indian Studies. pp. 44–45.
- Ayyavu Mission (1997). Brahmasree Thycaud Ayyavu Swami. Trivandrum, author.
- Nanu, G Vazhavila Mattathu. Sree Narayana Hamsacharitham. 1909
- Kunjuraman Vaidhyan, M. Sree Narayana Guruswami Charitham. 1913
- Narayana Guru. Navamanjari (1884).Collected in Sree Narayana Guruvinte Sampoorna Krithikal: Vidhyothini Vyakhyanam by T Bhaskaran. Calicut, Mathrubhoomi, 1985
- Narayana Guru. Samadhi Slokam (1924). Collected in Sree Narayana Guruvinte Sampoorna Krithikal: Vidhyothini Vyakhyanam by T Bhaskaran. Calicut, Mathrubhoomi, 1985
- Nanu Pillai, Pannisseri and Krishna Pillai (1920). Neelakanta Theerthapada Swami Charithra Samuchayam. 1920
- Vidyananda Theerthapada and Ramakrishnan Nair C (1962). Sree Theerthapada Paramahamsa Swamikal. Kottayam, Theerthapada Ashram
- Patchen, Nancy Freeman (1989). Journey of a Master; Swami Chinmayananda: The man, The path , The Teaching.. Bombay, Chinmaya Mission
- Kumaran Tampi, T (1911). Abbhedananda Gurudevan. Trivandrum, Lakshmi Nivas.
- Gopala Pillai, Paravoor K (1935). Parama Bhattara Chattampi Swami Tiruvatikal.Trichur, Ramanuja Mudranalayam
- Chattampi Swami (1899) Vedadikara Nirupanam. Printed in 1920. Kottayam, Vaneekalebaram Press
- Nitya Chaithanya Yathi. Preface to Nijananda Vilasam by Chattampi Swami. Varkala, Narayana Gurukulam, 1980
- Chattampi Swami (1949). Advaitachintapaddhati. Kottayam, Theerthapada Ashram
- Maheswaran Nair (1995). Chattampi Swami: Jevithavum Krithikalum (Malayalam). Trivandrum, Kerala: Dooma Books
- Chattampi Swami (1884). Christumatha Chetanam. Reprinted in 1992. Kottayam, Visvahindu
- Chattampi Swami (1962 Reprint). Pracheena Malayalam. Kottayam, NBS
- Hridaya Kumari, B (2002). Chila Keraleeya Navodhana Pravanathakal. Bhashaposhini, September 2002. p. 16-23
- Chattampi Swami (1953.Reprint). Prapanchathil Stree Purushanmarkulla Sthanam (The position of women and men in the universe). Quilon, Sadabdha Smaraka Grantham. p. 154
- Chattampi Swami (2010). Pracheena Malayalam (Randam Pusthakam) With Study by Vaikkam Vivekanandan. Trivandum, Chattampi Swami Archives
- "Stamps 2014". India Post. Department of Posts, India. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
- Prajnananda Theerthapada Swami, Ed and Comp. (2011). Sree Vidyadhiraja Chattampi Swamikalude Jeevacharithravum Pradana Krithikalum. Vazhoor, Kottayam, Kerala: Sree Theerthapadasramam.
- Santhkumari Amma, Kumbalath (2003). Vidyadhiraja Chattampi Swamikal. Trivandrum, Kerala: Dept of Cultural Publications, Govt of Kerala.