Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan

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Thunchathu Ezhuthachan
Native name തുഞ്ചത്ത് രാമാനുജൻ
Born Trikkandiyoor, Tirur, Malappuram
Died Thekke Gramam, Chittur, Palakkad
Language Malayalam
Nationality Indian

Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan (About this sound pronunciation, 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 Kerala and the union territory of Lakshadweep – and its literature.[1][2]

Ezhuthachan was born inTrikkandiyoor , near the present day Tirur municipality. 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 languag[4]e 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.[5]

According to 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.[6] Ezhuthachan is also considered as a significant voice of the Bhakti movement in Kerala.[7]

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.[2]

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

Eminent Malayalam writer and filmmaker C. Radhakrishnan has been chosen for Ezhuthachan Award 2016...

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 up to 1575 AD, 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.[3]

Ezhuthachan was born at Trikkandiyoor, near the modern-day municipal town of Tirur, in Malappuram. 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.[3]

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 Karunakaran Ezhuthachan (Nair), Suryanarayanan Ezhuthachan (Tharakan), Devu Ezhuthachan (Tharakan), Gopalan Ezhuthachan (Menon). Suryanarayanan's Skandapuranam, Karunakaran's Shivaratri Mahatmyam and Devan's Vijnana Ratna and Vedantasaram are still considered as gems of religious literature in Malayalam.[3]

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).[11] 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.[5] Ezhuthachan's samadhi is also situated there.[3]

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 advice 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.[3]

The present day entrance to Thunchan Parambu in Trikkantiyur

Caste of Ezhuthachan[edit]

Till the day no valid evidence is available to prove the caste of Thunchathu Ezhuthachan, modern era historians still differs on their speculations and opinions about it. The term ezhuthachan was only a title denoting the occupation of people , who were village school masters of olden days,and also from few privileged castes to do so . But following the period of this great poet, learnt people from various castes had adopted and known by this title, as they had been engaged with the vocation of village school teaching.

William Logan's Malabar Manual, (New Edition) pages 139 and 92 - States that Thunjath Ezhuthachan was Nair[citation needed]. People who performed Shaktheya puja were also called by the name Ezhuthachan.[citation needed]. According to Arthur Coke Burnell in his book "Elements of South Indian Paleography(Second enlarged and improved edition)" page 42 states Thunchath Ezhuthachan belonged to 'Ezhuthachan(Kaduppattan) caste'.[12].Writer K.Balakrishna kurup also reports the same , in his book 'Viswasathinte Kanappurangal' [13] The Kozhikkode Grandhavari says that the one who takes care of records is Pattolachan, one who writes is Ezhuthachan, and the minister is Mangattachan.None of these were caste names in that era .[citation needed]

There is nothing in the Kozhikkode Grandhavari which mentions the 'Ezhuthachan caste', or the Kaduppattan[citation needed]

Other sources consider him as a Kaniyar by caste.[14][15][16][17] This community of traditional astrologers were well versed in Sanskrit and Malayalam.[18][19] 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 and Ayurveda.[20] 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)[21] respectively, by virtue of their traditional avocational function as village school masters to non-Brahmin pupils.[22]

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.[23] 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.[2][3] 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.[2]

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.[2] 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).[3]

Adhyatma Ramayanam is also a spiritual text that gave momentum to the Bhakti cult in Kerala.[2] Ezhuthachan, along with Poonthanam Nambuthiri, was one of the prominent Bhakti devotional poets in Kerala.

See also[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. ^ a b c d e f K. SANTHOSH. "When Malayalam found its feet" THRISSUR, 17 July 2014 The Hindu
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Ezhuthachan - Father of literary tradition in Malayalam 5 July 2003 The Times of India
  4. ^ [llbhnl,nnhkm llbhnl,nnhkm] Check |url= value (help).  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ a b G. PRABHAKARAN Ezhuthachan’s abode needs a prop CHITTUR (PALAKKAD), 19 October 2013 The Hindu [1]
  6. ^ Ezhuthachan's contributions recalled. THRISSUR, 21 March 2011 The Hindu [2]
  7. ^ Ezhuthachan gave voice to the voiceless: Azhikode THRISSUR, 27 July 2010 The Hindu
  8. ^ M.K. Sanoo wins Ezhuthachan Award Kochi, 2 November 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. ^ G. PRABHAKARAN. Thunchath Ezhuthachan's memorial starved of funds CHITTUR (PALAKKAD), 14 June 2011 The Hindu
  12. ^ Arthur Coke Burnell, "Elements of South Indian Paleography(Second enlarged and improved edition)" Trubner and Co., 57 & 59 Ludgate Hill, London, 1878, Page number 42,
  13. ^ കെ.ബാലകൃഷ്ണ കുറുപ്പ്, "വിശ്വാസത്തിന്റെ കാണാപ്പുറങ്ങൾ" മാതൃഭൂമി പബ്ലിക്കേഷൻസ് രണ്ടാം പതിപ്പ് ജനുവരി 2000 ,അധ്യായം 2 ,പേജ് 24
  14. ^ Origin and Development of Caste’’ by Govinda Krishna Pillai, p. 103, 162
  15. ^ A Social History of India’’ by SN Sadasivan, p. 371
  16. ^ Studies in Indian history: with Special Reference to Tamil Nādu by Kolappa Pillay and Kanaka Sabhapathi Pillay, p. 103
  17. ^ 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
  18. ^ Edgard Thurston, K Rangachari. Castes and Tribes of Southern India: Volume 1, 2001. p. 186
  19. ^ Ranjit Kumar Bhattacharya, Nava Kishor Das. Anthropological Survey of India: Anthropology of Weaker Sections, 1993, p. 590
  20. ^ Edgard Thurston, K Rangachari. Castes and Tribes of Southern India: Volume 1, 2001. p. 186
  21. ^ Raja, Dileep.G (2005). "Of an old school of teachers". Thiruvananthapuram: The Hindu. 
  22. ^ Studies in Indian history: with special Reference to Tamil Nādu by Kolappa Pillay and Kanaka Sabhapathi Pillay, p. 103
  23. ^ Selected Works of Dr. Ezhuthachan (Volume I & II). KN Ezhuthachan Kerala Sahithya Akademi, Thrissur.