Parama Bhattaraka Theerthapada
Sree Vidyadhiraja Parama Bhattaraka Theerthapada Chattampi Swamikal (1853–1924) was
a Hindu sage and social reformer. Swamikal along with his primary shishya Narayana Guru, strived to
reform the heavily
ritualistic and caste-ridden Hindu society of the late 19th century Kerala.
Chattampi Swamikal denounced the orthodox interpretation of Hindu texts citing sources from the Vedas. Swamikal also worked for the emancipation of women and encouraged them to come to the forefront of society. He said that the enslavement of women was a manifestation of male arrogance. Swamikal promoted vegetarianism and professed non-violence (Ahimsa). He authored several books on Religion, Spirituality and the history of language.
Chattampi Swamikal was known by different names throughout his intellectually and spiritually enriched life. The swami’s original name was Ayyappan, although he was called Kunjan Pillai and later Shanmukhadasan.
The Swami’s father was Vasudeva Sharma, a Nampoothiri, from Mavelikkara and mother Nangamma Pillai, a lady from Kollur, a suburban village of Trivandrum in southern Travancore. In childhood his name was Ayyappanpillai/ Kunjanpillai.
He joined the traditional school conducted by Pettayil Raman Pillai Asan, a renowned scholar
and writer. It was there that he earned the name Chattampi on account of his assignment
as the monitor of the class.
The young Kunjan Pillai was introduced into the science of yoga by the guru Thykattu Ayyavu whom he
met at the Gurukulam. Kunjan Pillai was also called Shanmukhadasan due to his deep devotion
of Lord Subramanya.
It is said that in his youth Kunjan Pillai took to manual labour as a brick worker and later worked as a document writer in Neyyattinkara town, near Thiruvananthapuram.
After becoming a saint, Swamikal got the darshan of Chettikulangara Devi, when he was at Mavelikkara.
Guru of Sree Narayana Guru
It was in 1882 at the Aniyoor Temple near Vamanapuram that Chattampi Swami first met the young Nanu Asan. By then Kunjan Pillai was well versed in yoga and spiritual matters and their meeting proved to be the start of a profound and cherished relationship, although the two were of different temperaments. In those days Nanu Asan was a soft-spoken introvert while Kunjan Pillai an outspoken extrovert. Swamikal took Nanu Asan, who was in search of a mentor, as his disciple.
Later Chattampi Swamikal and Nanu Asan travelled together to many places in quest of truth and spiritual knowledge. It was with Chattampi Swamikal that Narayana Guru made his first trip to Aruvippuram, which was chosen as Narayana Guru’s abode for meditation and spiritual activities. Chattampi Swamikal, however, did not stay there for long, although the two maintained their contacts, respect and regard for each other.
Chattampi Swamikal has got many disciples. Grihastha disciples like Bodheswaran, Perunnelli Krishnan Vaidyan, Velutheri Kesavan Vaidyan etc. as well as Sanyasi disciples like Narayana Guru, Neelakanta Theerthapada and Theerthapada Parmahamsa, who played very important role in renaissance and reformation in Kerala.
Toward the end of his life, Swamikal settled down at Panmana, a village in Kollam district. Swamikal attained Maha Samadhi on May 5, 1924. His mortal remains were enshrined at his Samadhistanam at Panmana. This site is today called Panmana Ashramam, which is a centre for social service and spiritual practices.
Teachings of Chattampi Swamikal
Avoid boastful thoughts about your physical achievements and material accumulations. Contemplate over the ultimate reality of existence. That alone will give meaning to life.
– The whole universe is the manifestation of the one. The apparent differences between different objects are only an illusion. An understanding of this truth will lead to liberation and salvation
– This universe is the manifestation of but one mind. Alienation between one mind and another mind is unnatural. The mind of man is in no way different from the mind of any other creature.
– Enslavement of woman is a manifestation of male arrogance. It is against all canons of justice and ethics. It is criminal, immoral.
Works of Chattampi Swamikal
Swami led a wandering life and left what he wrote with those who were with him at the time of writing. There were no later attempts to collect and conserve them which led to their gradual loss. A few works that got unearthed and published eight decades after his death and inspiring serious discussion 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:
- Advaita Chinta Paddhati
- Keralathile Desa Namangal
- Kristumata Nirupanam
- Jivakarunya Nirupanam
- Devarcha Paddhatiyude Upodghatam
- Devi Manasa Puja Stotra Vyakhyanam
- Nijananda Vilasam
- Pranavavum Sankhya Darsanavum
- Prapanchathil Stri Purushanmarkkulla Sthanam
- Pracheena Malayalam
- Pracheena Malayalam – Part II ( A hundred year old manuscript discovered recently)
- Bhasha Padma Puranam
- Malayalathile Chila Sthala Namangal
- Vedadhikara Nirupanam
- Chila Kavita Sakalangal
- Chila Kathukal
- Chila Sambhashanangal
- srichakra puja