Friday, 5 October 2012

Chattampi Swamikal

Sree Vidyadhiraja Parama Bhattaraka Chattampi Swamikal (1853–1924) was a Hindu sage and social reformer. His thoughts and work influenced the launching of many social, religious, literary and political organizations and movements in Kerala and for the first time gave voice to those who were marginalized.
Chattampi Swamikal denounced the orthodox interpretation of Hindu texts citing sources from the Vedas. Swamikal along with his contemporary Nārāyana 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. He said that the enslavement of women was a manifestation of male arrogance. 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.
Chattampi Swami was born on 25 August 1853 at Kollur, a suburban village of Trivandrum in southern Travancore. His father was Vasudeva Sharma, a Namboothiri, from Mavelikkara and mother Nangamma a lady from Kollur. He was formally named Ayyappan. But he was called by his pet name Kunjan by all and so was later known as Kunjan Pillai.
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. The school served as a meeting place for many scholars of that time and it facilitated Kunjan to acquaint himself with many great men. He also could learn Tamil from Swaminatha Desikar and philosophy from Professor Sundaram Pillai during his study at the gurukulam. Kunjan Pillai was introduced into the science of yoga by the Thykattu Ayyavu a scholar and yogi who used to give lectures at the Gurukulam. A wandering sadhu who came to the 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 Lord Subramanya.
As the burden of supporting the family fell on him, Kunjan Pillai took to many manual works. For some time he worked as a document writer. He stood first in a test for clerical posts in Government Secretariat Thiruvananthapuram conducted by Sir T Madhava Rao the then Divan of Travancore State. But he left the service after a short while as it prevented his wanderings and studies.
He spent many years learning under a great scholar Subba Jatapadikal in the village named Kalladiakurichi in southern Tamil Nadu. 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. He spend long periods of learning and under a Christian priest and a Muslim saint and also spent months with many avadutas in Southern Tamil Nadu. At the end of his wanderings and quest he was led to self-realization by an avaduta whom he met at a wayside in Vadaveeswaram a village in in Tamil Nadu. He returned to Kerala as a great scholar and saint.

Maha Samadhi

Toward the end of his life Swamikal settled down at Panmana, a village in Kollam district. After a short period of illness during which he objected to take any medicine, at an auspicious time marked by him on May 5, 1924 Swamikal attained Maha Samadhi. 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.



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