25 August 1853|
|Died||5 May 1924
|Resting place||Samadhistanam at Panmana|
|Guru||Ayyavu Swamikal, Subba Jadapadikal|
|Disciple(s)||Narayana Guru, Neelakanta Therthapada, Theerthapada Parmahamsa|
Sree Vidyadhiraja Parama Bhattaraka Chattampi Swamikal (25 August 1853 – 5 May 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, Narayana 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 Major disciples
- 8 Death
- 9 Major works
- 10 Research methods
- 11 Women’s rights
- 12 Published and unpublished works
- 13 Depictions
- 14 References
- 15 Further reading
- 16 External links
Chattampi Swami was born on 25 August 1853 at Kollur in southern Travancore. His father was Vasudevan Namputhiri, a Nambudiri Brahmin from Mavelikkara, and his mother was Nangamma, a Nair from Kannammoola. 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 Thycaud 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 Qur'an and Sufi mysticism who taught him the main tenet of Islam. Kunjan acquired proficiency reading Qur'an 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 Siddhas who knew the scientific art for realising God. He returned to Kerala as a great scholar and saint.
Swamikal's prominent disciples are Narayana Guru, Neelakanta Theerthapada and Theerthapada Parmahamsa. In 1882, at the Aniyoor Temple near Vamanapuram, Swamikal met Nanu Asan, later known as Narayana Guru. Asan was three years younger than Swamikal and in search of spiritual guidance. By then Swamikal 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 In those days Nanu Asan was a soft-spoken introvert and Swamikal was an outspoken extrovert. They lived and travelled for many months together. Swami introduced Asan to all arts and sciences he had mastered and also gave him the Balasubrahmanya mantra. These were the formative years of Asan, who later became a social reformer. Later Swamikal took Asan to his guru, Ayyavu Swamikal. After completing Asan's studies under Ayyavu Swamikal the men left him and wandered together in southern Tamil Nadu where they met many scholars. Narayana Guru practised austere Jnana and Yoga under Swamikal during this period. It was with Chattampi Swamikal that Asan made his first trip to Aruvippuram, which was chosen as his abode for meditation and spiritual activities and which was where he was led to self-realisation. It was after this that he was known as Narayana Guru. Swamikal did not stay there for long, although the two maintained a lifelong contact, respect and regard for each other.The poem Narayana Guru composed when he came to know of Swami's samadhi was the only offering he gave to any person and it reveals how he considered Swamikal to be a realised soul. It is the most authoritative critical assessment on Swamikal ever done.
In 1893 Swamikal met his second disciple, 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 died on 5 May 1924 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. 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'.
Works on Vedanta
Swami wrote many guides and commentaries on Vedanta for the common man. Notable among them is Advaita Chinthapaddhathi (1949), an introductory manual on practical Advaita. written in simple language to enable ordinary people without knowledge of Sanskrit to learn Vedanta. The book describes the trigunas, trimurthees, jivatmas, panchabutas, sukshma, sthula, sarirotpatti, dasagunas, prapancholpatti, Tatvamasi, and related Vedic concepts.
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.
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
Swamikal led a wandering life and left what he wrote with those who were with him at the time of writing. Most of the 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 them. A few works were discovered and published eight decades after his death and inspired serious discussion, such as Adhibhasha and Pracheena Malayalam Part -II. The Centre for South Indian Studies has formed the Chattampi Swami Digital Archive (CSDA) project as an attempt to collect and collate extant documents related to Swamikal. Important works available in print are:
- Advaita Chinta Paddhati
- Vedanta Saram
- Vedadikara Nirupanam
- Christhumatha Saram
- Christhumatha Nirupanam
- Adi Bhasha
- Keralathile Desa Namangal
- 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
- 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, 48.
- Ayyavu Mission (1997). Brahmasree Thycaud Ayyavu Swami. Trivandrum, author.
- Nair, R. Raman; Devi, L. Sulochana (2010). Chattampi Swami: An Intellectual Biography. Chattampi Swami Archive, Centre for South Indian Studies. p. 59.
- Nair, R. Raman; Devi, L. Sulochana (2010). Chattampi Swami: An Intellectual Biography. Chattampi Swami Archive, Centre for South Indian Studies. p. 71.
- Nair, R. Raman; Devi, L. Sulochana (2010). Chattampi Swami: An Intellectual Biography. Chattampi Swami Archive, Centre for South Indian Studies. pp. 78–79.
- Nair, R. Raman; Devi, L. Sulochana (2010). Chattampi Swami: An Intellectual Biography. Chattampi Swami Archive, Centre for South Indian Studies. p. 91.
- Sukumaran Nair, G (2000) Chattampi Swamikal (Navakerala Silpikal Series). Ernakulam, Kerala History Association. p.25
- Poulose, C (2002). Advaita Philosophy of Chattampi Swamikal. Kanyakumari, Ayya Vaikunta Nathar Siddhalayam. p.25
- Nataraja Guru (1980). Word of the Guru. Cochin, Paico. p.259
- Maheswaran Nair, K (2016). Sree Narayana Guru. Kottayam, Sahithya Prvarthaka Sahakarana Sangham. pp. 104-105.
- Poulose, C (2002). Advaita Philosophy of Chattampi Swamikal. Kanyakumari, Ayya Vaikunta Nathar Siddhalayam. p.26
- Nair, R. Raman; Devi, L. Sulochana; Vivekanandan, Vaikkam (2016). Chattampi Swamikal: Oru Dhaishanika Jeevacharithram. Chattampi Swami Archive, Centre for South Indian Studies. p.145.
- Narayana Guru. Sree Narayana Guruvinte Sampoorna Krithikal: Vidhyothini Vyakhyanam by T Bhaskaran. Calicut, Mathrubhoomi, 1985.pp.530-531
- Narayana Guru. Sree Narayana Guruvinte Sampoorna Krithikal: Vidhyothini Vyakhyanam by T Bhaskaran. Calicut, Mathrubhoomi, 1985. p.531
- Gopinatha Pillai, N R. Sarvajnanum Sadguruvum. Kerala Kaumudhi, 11 May 1985.p.4
- Santhkumari Amma, Kumbalath (2003). Vidyadhiraja Chattampi Swamikal. Trivandrum, Kerala: Dept of Cultural Publications, Govt of Kerala.
- 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
- Nair, R. Raman; Devi, L. Sulochana; Vivekanandan, Vaikkam (2016). Chattampi Swamikal: Oru Dhaishanika Jeevacharithram. Chattampi Swami Archive, Centre for South Indian Studies. pp. 220–222.
- Gopala Pillai, Paravoor K (1935). Parama Bhattara Chattampi Swami Tiruvatikal.Trichur, Ramanuja Mudranalayam
- Nair, R. Raman; Devi, L. Sulochana (2010). Chattampi Swami: An Intellectual Biography. Chattampi Swami Archive, Centre for South Indian Studies. pp. 212–213.
- Chattampi Swami (1899) Vedadikara Nirupanam. Printed in 1920. Kottayam, Vaneekalebaram Press
- Nair, R. Raman; Devi, L. Sulochana (2010). Chattampi Swami: An Intellectual Biography. Chattampi Swami Archive, Centre for South Indian Studies. p. 216.
- Nitya Chaithanya Yathi. Preface to Nijananda Vilasam by Chattampi Swami. Varkala, Narayana Gurukulam, 1980
- 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
- Nair, R. Raman; Devi, L. Sulochana; Vivekanandan, Vaikkam (2016). Chattampi Swamikal: Oru Dhaishanika Jeevacharithram. Chattampi Swami Archive, Centre for South Indian Studies.
- "Stamps 2014". India Post. Department of Posts, India. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
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- Gopala Pillai, Paravoor K (2010). Parama Bhattara Chattampi Swami Tiruvatikal(Malayalam). Thrissur, Kerala: Current Books.
- Vijayalaksmi, K V (2011). Contribution of Chattampi Swamikal to Advaitha Philosophy: A Study with Special Reference to Advaithachinthapaddhathi (PhD Theses). Kannur, Kerala: Kannur University.
- Poulose, C (2002). Advaita Philosophy of Brahmasree Chattampi Swamikal. Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu: Ayya Vaikunta nathar Siddhasramam.
- Narayana Moodithaya (2008). Sree Chattampi Swamikalu (Kannada). Kasaragod, India: Kasaragodu Prakasana.
- Karunakara Menon, K P (1967). Chattampi Swamikal: The Great Scholar saint of Kerala. Trivandrum: PG Narayana Pillai.
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