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Sri Swami Tapovan Maharaj is one of the most renowned saints of the 19th century. He was a contemporary of Swami Sivananda Maharaj who was the Guru of Swami Chinmayananda Maharaj. Swami Tapovan Maharaj was born in 1889 on the auspicious Suklapaksha Ekadasi day of Mrigaseersha month. His mother, Kunchamma belonged to an ancient aristocratic Nair family in Palghat Taluk of Kerala. His father, Achutan Nair, belonged to Koduvayur in Kerala. Even as a little boy, Swami Tapovan Maharaj exhibited a marked partiality for spiritual life. He delighted in worshipping idols fashioned with his own hands. He was admitted to the local English school, but not liking the thoroughly materialistic education, he decided to quit the school and continued his studies in English, Malayalam and Sanskrit with still greater vigor by himself. Under competent teachers he mastered poems, dramas, grammar and logic. He read all available religious literature in Malayalam, Tamil, English and Sanskrit. He also engaged in spiritual exercises.
Born in Palakkad, Kerala as Subramanian Nair, Tapovan Maharaj exhibited a thirst for spiritual knowledge and self-realisation, also being an accomplished public speaker. He left the modern education system early and dedicated himself to the study of Sanskrit and the Vedanta. After his brother became employed as a lawyer, he entered the order of Sannyasi.
Tapovan Maharaj did not believe in the system of "ashrams", and was known for his strict solitary lifestyle in the Himalayan region of Uttaranchal. The three places along the holy Ganga where the master is known to have resided were Gangotri, Uttarkashi and Rishikesh.
He authored two books on his travels through the Himalayas: "Wanderings in the Himalayas" (Himagiri Viharam) and "Kailasa Yatra." Tapovan Maharaj exhibited a deep love for nature and his accounts of his travels demonstrate such. His autobiography, written in Sanskrit is titled "Ishvara Darshana". After observance of rites and rituals following the Master's last earthly breath (1957), Shri Swami Tapovan Maharaj's body was interred into the holy Ganga by a procession of Sadhus. To this present day, there is a simple, solemn and dignified way in which the Uttarkashi monks mark the samaadhi of any sadhu and Swami Tapovan Maharaj represents the ideal of austerity and pinnacle of wisdom which all anchorites aspire to.
- Chinmaya Publication Trust 1960, Madras-3, India - Translator T.N. Kesava Pillai