Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan
Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan.jpg
A modern depiction of Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan
Born Trikkantiyur, Tirur, Malabar
Died Thekke Gramam, Chittoor, Palghat
Language Malayalam

Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan (Malayalam: തുഞ്ചത്ത് രാമാനുജൻ എഴുത്തച്ഛൻ, Tuñcattŭ Rāmānujan Eḻuttacchan) was a Malayalam devotional poet and linguist from around the 16th century. Today he is known as the father of Malayalam language – the principal language of the Indian state of Kerala and the union territory of Lakshadweep – and it's literature.[1][2]

Ezhuthachan was born in Trikkantiyur, near the present day Tirur municipality, in south Malabar in an under-privileged sudra caste. After the birth of his daughter, Ezhuthachan became a monk and wandered throughout southern India before finally building his monastery at modern day Chittoor, Palghat.[3]

Ezhuthachan's contribution to the Malayalam language is widely considered as unparalleled. He brought massive changes and standardisation in the language through his works. He translated the two Hindu epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata, to Malayalam for the common man with the mingling of the Sanskrit and Dravidian languages.[4]

According historians and linguists, Ezhuthachan refined the "style" of Malayalam language and it was during his period that Malayalam literature attained its "individuality" and Malayalam became a "fully fledged" independent language. He also brought the language to the level of the non-Brahmins's understanding. Ezhuthachan used Malayalam language to challenge the prevailing social conditions. He is known for using his literary works as a powerful tool against the rule of privileged.[5] Ezhuthachan is also considered as a significant voice of the Bhakti movement in Kerala.[6]

Ezhuthachan's other major contribution has been in establishing an (51 character) alphabet system equivalent to Sanskrit instead of Vattezhuthu, the 30-letter script of Malayalam.[7]

The highest literary honour instituted by the Kerala Government is known as the "Ezhuthachan Award".[8]

Birth and life[edit]

Ezhuthachan is generally believed to be lived c. 16th century.[9][10] Though poet – turned – historian Ulloor S Parameshwara Iyer has surmised that he was born in 1495 AD and lived upto 1575, other scholars are not sure about it. Backed by painstaking research, C. Radhakrishnan argued that Ezhuthachan’s age must have been between 1475 and 1550 AD. It is however generally accepted that he lived in the sixteenth century.[11]

Ezhuthachan was born at Trikkantiyur, near the modern-day municipal town of Tirur, in south Malabar. His precise birthplace is now known as Thunchan Parambu. His parent's names are not known clearly and there is some confusion about Ezhuthachan's actual name as well. After completing his education he got married but embraced "sanyasa" after the birth of a daughter. Leaving house he travelled to various places in Andhra and Tamil Nadu and learnt Telugu and Tamil. Some scholars surmise that his Ramayana and Mahabharata were adopted from the Telugu versions of these Sanskrit epics.[12] Though born in an under-privileged class (a low caste belonging to the "sudra" varna) of the social hierarchy of the times, Ezhuthachan had mastered the Veda and the Upanishads.[13]

It is believed that Ezhuthachan on his way back from a pilgrimage to Tamil Nadu had a stopover at Chittur (in Palghat) and settled down at Thekke Gramam near Anikkode with his disciples. A monastery, then called "Ramananda ashrama" and now known as the Chittur Gurumadhom, was constructed by him on a piece of land donated by the Nair barons of the area. In this village he founded a Rama temple as well as a Siva temple. Ezhuthachan lived for nearly four decades at the monastery, writing his masterpieces (such as Adhyatma Ramayanam and Sri Mahabharatam). In his monastery, he trained a group of famous disciples, such as Suryanarayanan Ezhuthachan, Karunakaran Ezhuthachan, Devan Ezhuthachan and Gopalan Ezhuthachan. Suryanarayanan's Skandapuranam, Karunakaran's Shivaratri Mahatmyam and Devan's Vijnana Ratna and Vedantasaram are still considered as gems of religious literature in Malayalam. [14]

The madhom is flanked by temples of Rama and Siva and the street has an array of Agraharas (where the twelve Brahmin families migrated along with Ezhuthachan live).[15] At the madhom, some of the instruments used by Ezhuthachan are still preserved. A Sri Chakra and a few idols worshipped by him, the stylus, the wooden slippers, and a few old manuscripts are exhibited for visitors. [16] Ezhuthachan's samadhi is also situated there.[17]

Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri, the author of famous Narayaneeyam, was a friend of Ezhuthachan. It is said that when he sought the advice of Ezhuthachan about how to start his intended book, he gave him a cryptic advise to "start with fish", meaning to start with Matsya avatara - the fish avatar of god Vishnu. Bhattathiri understood the enigmatic message and started composing his poem in the Guruvayur Temple.[18]

The present day entrance to Thunchan Parambu in Trikkantiyur

Caste of Ezhuthachan[edit]

The exact "caste" to which Ezhuthachan belonged under the large umbrella of "sudra" varna - if indeed he was a sudra - is still not known to the historians. Ezhuthachan is currently an Other Backward Class (through out Kerala state) in the reservation system present in India. [19] Until the early decades of twentieth century they were popularly known by the caste name "Kadupattan" , but there after it was changed and officially declared as Ezhuthachan. Their traditional occupation was salt making and palanquin bearing. It was not uncommon in the past few centuries, that meritorious members from this community had said to been taken up various avocations,including teaching.

According to Nair Service Society, Ezhuthachan was one of the prominent personalities who belonged to the Nair community. Meanwhile, the Akhila Kerala Ezhuthachan Samajam, the organisation that represents the Ezhuthachan community, has come forward with an objection, saying that Thunchath Ezhuthachan was not ‘Nair’, and that he belonged to the ‘Ezhuthachan’ community.[20]

According to Arthur Coke Burnell, the famous 19th century Sanskrit scholar, Ezhuthachan was indeed a low - caste man. "His real name is forgotten; Thunchaththu being his house/family-name, and Ezhuthachan indicating his caste". In 1865, Burnell discovered the manuscript of Devi Bhagavatam allegedly translated and adapted from Sanskrit by Ezhuthachan, allegedly copied by his sister, preserved at Puzhakkal in the Chittur taluk. He wrote that "the author's stool, clogs, and staff are preserved in the same place; it thus looks as if Ezhuthachan was a monk of some order."[21]

There are also legends that Ezhuthachan was an "illegitimate" Nambudiri Brahmin.[22] Ellis has noted that

"Ezhuthachan was Brahman-without-a-father and on that account has no patronymic. The difficulties with which he had in consequence to struggle gave him an energy of character which it is probable he would not have possessed had his cast been without blemish. The Brahmins envied his genius and learning and are said to have seduced him by the arts of sorcery into the habit of ebriety, wishing to overshadow the mental powers which they feared. The poet, however, triumphed on his habits, though he could not abandom them, and in revenge against those whom he considered the cause of his debasement, he opposed himself openly to the prejudices and the intolerance of the Brahmans. The mode of vengeance he chose was the exaltation of Malayalam, declaring it his intention to raise this inferior dialect of Tamil to an equality with Sanskrit. In the prosecution of this purpose he enriched the Malayalam with the translations, all of which, it is said, he composed under the immediate influence of intoxication."[23]

Burnell agreed with Ellis, saying that "Ezhuthachan [sic] lived in the 17th century; there is no reason for supposing that he was a Brahmin father's illegitimate son; he was certainly an Ezhuthachan (or schoolmaster) by caste."[24]

Other sources consider him as a Kaniyar by caste.[25][26][27][28] This community of traditional astrologers were well versed in Sanskrit and Malayalam.[29][30] During the middle ages, when people, other than Brahmins, were denied of the right for learning Sanskrit, only the Kaniyar community had been traditionally enjoying the privilege for accessing and acquiring knowledge in Sanskrit, through their hereditary system of pedagogy. They were learned people and had knowledge in astrology, mathematics, mythology, the Vedas and Ayurveda.[31] They were generally assigned as preceptors of martial art and literacy. In addition to the common title Panicker, the members of Kaniyar from the South Travancore and Malabar region were known as, Aasaan/Ezhuthu Aasans/Ezhuthachans (Father of Letters)[32] respectively, by virtue of their traditional avocational function as village school masters to non-Brahmin pupils.[33]

Cultural contributions[edit]

Ezhuthachan - although he lived around 16th century AD - is considered as the father of Malayalam language and Malayalam literature. No original compositions are attributed to Ezhuthachan. However, his contribution to the Malayalam language through Adhyatma Ramayanam is considered unparalleled.

Adhyatma Ramayanam, written in Kilippattu style, is considered as a landmark of Malayalam literature.[34] Ezhuthachan used different Dravidian metres in the cantos of his poems: "Keka" for Bala Kanda and Aranya Kanda; "Kakali" for Ayodhya, Kishkindha and Yuddha Kanda; and "Kalakanchi" for Sundara Kanda.[35][36] Throughout the Malayalam month of Karkkidakam, Adhyatma Ramayanam is still recited - as a religious practice - in Hindu homes in Kerala. According to critic K. Ayyappa Panicker, those who see Adhyatma Ramayanam merely as a devotional work "belittle" Ezhuthachan.[37]

Adhyatma Ramayanam, his other major work Sri Mahabharatam (translation of Hindu epic poem Mahabharata), and shorter pieces Irupathinalu Vrittam and Harinama Kirtanam mark the confluence of Sanskrit and Dravidian linguistic streams.[38] However, there is no unanimity of opinion among the scholars about the authorship of certain other works generally attributed to him (such as Devi Bhagavatam).[39]

Adhyatma Ramayanam is also a spiritual text that gave momentum to the Bhakti cult in Kerala. [40] Ezhuthachan, along with Poonthanam Nambuthiri, was one of the prominent Bhakti devotional poets in Kerala.

Thunchan Parambu[edit]

Thunchan Parambu - the legendary location of Ezhuthachan's ancestral home - is now a Hindu pilgrimage centre. People from around Kerala come to take sand from the Thunchan Parambu to use in the initiation of their children to the alphabet (a Hindu ceremony). Every year, hundreds of people bring their children to Thunchan Parambu to write their first letters during the Vijayadasami (Dussehra) which falls in the months of October–November. Children are initiated into the "world of letters" by masters, teachers or parents by holding their fingers and writing the letters in a plate filled with rice. The letters will also be written on their tongues with a golden ring.

Cultural depictions[edit]

  • Theekkadal Kadannu Thirumadhuram (2004) by C. Radhakrishnan: a novel written by C. Radhakrishnan that sketched Ezhuthachan’s life and journeyed through the emotions he must have gone through. The take-off point for Radhakrishnan’s research was the tale of Ezhuthachan he heard as a child from his grandparents.[41]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). "Malayalam" Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 2014: (Dallas, Texas) Web. 29 Sep. 2014.
  2. ^ K. SANTHOSH. "When Malayalam found its feet" THRISSUR, July 17, 2014 The Hindu
  3. ^ Ezhuthachan - Father of literary tradition in Malayalam Jul 5, 2003 The Times of India
  4. ^ G. PRABHAKARAN Ezhuthachan’s abode needs a prop CHITTUR (PALAKKAD), October 19, 2013 The Hindu [1]
  5. ^ Ezhuthachan's contributions recalled. THRISSUR, March 21, 2011 The Hindu [2]
  6. ^ Ezhuthachan gave voice to the voiceless: Azhikode THRISSUR, July 27, 2010 The Hindu
  7. ^ K. SANTHOSH. "When Malayalam found its feet" THRISSUR, July 17, 2014 The Hindu
  8. ^ M.K. Sanoo wins Ezhuthachan Award Kochi, November 2, 2013 The Hindu
  9. ^ Burnell, Arthur Coke. Elements of South-Indian Palæography from the Fourth to the Seventeenth Century AD. 1874. p. 35-36. Print.
  10. ^ "Thunchathu Ezhuthachan". Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Kerala. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 
  11. ^ Ezhuthachan - Father of literary tradition in Malayalam Jul 5, 2003 The Times of India
  12. ^ Ezhuthachan - Father of literary tradition in Malayalam Jul 5, 2003 The Times of India
  13. ^ G. PRABHAKARAN. Thunchath Ezhuthachan's memorial starved of funds CHITTUR (PALAKKAD), June 14, 2011 The Hindu
  14. ^ Ezhuthachan - Father of literary tradition in Malayalam Jul 5, 2003 The Times of India
  15. ^ G. PRABHAKARAN. Thunchath Ezhuthachan's memorial starved of funds CHITTUR (PALAKKAD), June 14, 2011 The Hindu
  16. ^ G. PRABHAKARAN Ezhuthachan’s abode needs a prop CHITTUR (PALAKKAD), October 19, 2013 The Hindu [3]
  17. ^ Ezhuthachan - Father of literary tradition in Malayalam Jul 5, 2003 The Times of India
  18. ^ Ezhuthachan - Father of literary tradition in Malayalam Jul 5, 2003 The Times of India
  19. ^ Kerala Public Service Commission [4]
  20. ^ Aravind KS. Casteing a Shadow on the Legacy of Ezhuthachan The New Indian Express 9 September 2014
  21. ^ Burnell, Arthur Coke. Elements of South-Indian Palaeography from the Fourth to the Seventeenth Century AD. 1874. p. 35-36. Print.
  22. ^ Travancore State ManuaL by V. Nagam Aiya, Volume II, page 430-431 The Travancore State Manual Vol II
  23. ^ Indian Antiquary, ed. AC Burnell, 1878.
  24. ^ Indian Antiquary, Ellis, ed. A.C. Burnell, 1878.
  25. ^ Origin and Development of Caste’’ by Govinda Krishna Pillai, p. 103, 162
  26. ^ A Social History of India’’ by SN Sadasivan, p. 371
  27. ^ Studies in Indian history: with Special Reference to Tamil Nādu by Kolappa Pillay and Kanaka Sabhapathi Pillay, p. 103
  28. ^ India Without Misrepresentation - Book 3: Origin and Development of Caste by GK Pillai, Director of the Centre of Indology, Allahabad, Kitab Mahal 1959, p. 162
  29. ^ Edgard Thurston, K Rangachari. Castes and Tribes of Southern India: Volume 1, 2001. p. 186
  30. ^ Ranjit Kumar Bhattacharya, Nava Kishor Das. Anthropological Survey of India: Anthropology of Weaker Sections, 1993, p. 590
  31. ^ Edgard Thurston, K Rangachari. Castes and Tribes of Southern India: Volume 1, 2001. p. 186
  32. ^ Raja, Dileep.G (2005). "Of an old school of teachers". Thiruvananthapuram: The Hindu. 
  33. ^ Studies in Indian history: with special Reference to Tamil Nādu by Kolappa Pillay and Kanaka Sabhapathi Pillay, p. 103
  34. ^ Selected Works of Dr. Ezhuthachan (Volume I & II). KN Ezhuthachan Kerala Sahithya Akademi, Thrissur.
  35. ^ K. SANTHOSH. "When Malayalam found its feet" THRISSUR, July 17, 2014 The Hindu
  36. ^ Ezhuthachan - Father of literary tradition in Malayalam Jul 5, 2003 The Times of India
  37. ^ K. SANTHOSH. "When Malayalam found its feet" THRISSUR, July 17, 2014 The Hindu
  38. ^ K. SANTHOSH. "When Malayalam found its feet" THRISSUR, July 17, 2014 The Hindu
  39. ^ Ezhuthachan - Father of literary tradition in Malayalam Jul 5, 2003 The Times of India
  40. ^ K. SANTHOSH. "When Malayalam found its feet" THRISSUR, July 17, 2014 The Hindu
  41. ^ K. SANTHOSH. "When Malayalam found its feet" THRISSUR, July 17, 2014 The Hindu