Thunchath Ezhuthachan
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Thunchath Ezhuthachan

Thunchath Ezhuthachan
Thunchath Ezhuthachan.jpg
Native name
Trikkandiyoor, Tirur, Malappuram
Thekke Gramam, Chittur, Palakkad

Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan (About this soundpronunciation, Malayalam: ?, Thunjathu R?m?nujan E?uttacchan) was a Malayalam devotional poet and linguist from around the sixteenth century. Today he is known as the father of modern Malayalam language - the principal language of the Indian state Kerala and the union territory of Lakshadweep - and its literature.[1][2]

Ezhuthachan was born in Trikkandiyoor, 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, Palakkad.[3] But at the same time another group believe he was a celibate throughout his life.[4]

Ezhuthachan's contribution to the Malayalam language 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 awarded presented by the Government of Kerala is known as the "Ezhuthachan Puraskaram".[8]Sooranad Kunjan Pillai was its first recipient.[9]

Birth and life

Ezhuthachan is generally believed to have lived around sixteenth century.[10][11] Although poet and turned historian Ulloor S Parameshwara Iyer has argued that he was born in 1495 AD and lived up to 1575 AD, a time frame similar to that later proposed by C. Radhakrishnan, other scholars are not sure about it.[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 sannyasa after the birth of a daughter. But at the same time another group believe he was a celibate throughout his life.[4] Leaving house he travelled to various places in the Andhra region 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 Palakkad) 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 bought from the landlord of Chittur.[12][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).[13] 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

Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan is thought to have belonged to the Ezhuthachan caste, a socioeconomic caste of village school teachers. Modern era historians still differ on their speculations and opinions about it. Following the period of Thunchaththu Ezuthachan, learned people from various other castes adopted and were known by this title, as they had been engaged with the vocation of village school teaching.

William Logan's Malabar Manual, page 92 - States that Thunjath Ezhuthachan was a man of Sudra(Nayar) caste.[14] 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 (=School master)' caste.[15] Writer K. Balakrishna Kurup also reports the same, in his book Viswasathinte Kanappurangal.[16] E. P. Bhaskara Guptan a writer and independent researcher in local history from Kadampazhipuram; supports conclusion of K. Balakrishna Kurup about Ezhuthachan's caste background.[17] Historian Velayudhan Panikkassery also expressing the same opinion.[18]

Other sources consider him as a Kaniyar by caste.[19][20][21][22] This community of traditional astrologers were well versed in Sanskrit and Malayalam.[23][24] During the Middle Ages, when people, other than Brahmins, were denied the right of 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.[23] 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)[25] respectively, by virtue of their traditional avocational function as village school masters to non-Brahmin pupils.[26]

Cultural contributions

Copy of Ezhuthachan's Adhyatma ramayanam kilippattu preserved at Thunchan Parambu, Tirur

Ezhuthachan - although he lived around sixteenth century AD - is considered as the father of modern 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.[27] 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.

Beyond the poetry values Ezhuthachan's works became famous for its cultural and moral values. This specialty of his works gave him the role of a cultural leader in history.[18][28]

See also


  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". Times of India online. 5 July 2003. Archived from the original on 12 March 2017. Retrieved 2018.
  4. ^ a b Kurup, K. Balakrishna (January 2000) [May 1998]. Vi?v?sattinte Kppu?aa? ? (2 ed.). Mathrubhumi Publications. p. 39. "?(?) ? . ? ? ? ? .

    ? ? ? ? ? .



  5. ^ a b G. PRABHAKARAN Ezhuthachan's abode needs a prop CHITTUR (PALAKKAD), 19 October 2013 The Hindu [1]
  6. ^ "Ezhuthachan's contributions recalled - KERALA - The Hindu". The Hindu online. 21 March 2011. Archived from the original on 27 July 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  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. ^ "Ezhuthachan Puraskaram for MT Vasudevan Nair". Mathrubhumi. Archived from the original on 17 November 2011. Retrieved 2012.
  10. ^ Burnell, Arthur Coke. Elements of South-Indian Palæography from the Fourth to the Seventeenth Century AD. 1874. p. 35-36. Print.
  11. ^ "Thunchathu Ezhuthachan". Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Kerala. Archived from the original on 8 November 2009. Retrieved 2009.
  12. ^ Vidwan K. Sankaran Ezhuthachan (1926). Tuñcatte?uttacchan (j?vacaritram) (?). Thrissur: Mangalodayam press. p. 29. ? (), ? ? . ? ? " ?" ? ...
  13. ^ "Thunchath Ezhuthachan's memorial starved of funds - KERALA - The Hindu". The Hindu online. 14 June 2011. Archived from the original on 8 March 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  14. ^ William Logan (1951) [1887]. Malabar manual(Republished). Madras: Govt Press Madras. p. 92. It was no less than a revolution when in the seventeenth century one Tunjatta Eluttachchan, a man of Sudra(Nair) caste, boldly made an alphabet-the existing Malayalam one derived chiefly from the Grantha-The Sanskrit alphabets of the Tamils which permitted of the free use of Sanskrit in writing-and boldly set to work to render the Chief Sanskrit poems into Malayalam.
  15. ^ Burnell, Arthur Coke (1878). Elements of South Indian Paleography (Second enlarged and improved ed.). Trubner and Co., 57 & 59 Ludgate Hill, London. p. 42. The application of the Arya-eluttu to the vernacular Malayalam was the work of a low-caste man who goes under the name of Tunjatta Eluttacchan, a native of Trikkandi-yur in the present district of Malabar. He lived in the seventeenth century, but his real name is forgotten; Tunjatta being his 'house' or family-name, and Eluttacchan(=schoolmaster) indicating his caste.
  16. ^ Kurup, K. Balakrishna (January 2000) [May 1998]. Vi?v?sattinte Kppu?aa? ? (2 ed.). Mathrubhumi Publications. p. 24. ? ? ? ? ?. ? (? -)? ? ? ?. ? ? ? ?(?) ? ? .
  17. ^ Guptan, E. P. Bhaskara (2013) [2004]. dyanam(dacaritrakathaka?a) ?(?) (2 ed.). Samabhavini Books, Kadampazhipuram, Palakkad. p. 47. ? ?. . . ? ? . ? ? ?.
  18. ^ a b "Ezhuthachan opposed social evils: Vysakhan". The Hindu online. 3 January 2005. Archived from the original on 4 September 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  19. ^ Origin and Development of Caste'' by Govinda Krishna Pillai, p. 103, 162
  20. ^ A Social History of India'' by SN Sadasivan, p. 371
  21. ^ Studies in Indian history: with Special Reference to Tamil N?du by Kolappa Pillay and Kanaka Sabhapathi Pillay, p. 103
  22. ^ 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
  23. ^ a b Edgard Thurston, K Rangachari. Castes and Tribes of Southern India: Volume 1, 2001. p. 186
  24. ^ Ranjit Kumar Bhattacharya, Nava Kishor Das. Anthropological Survey of India: Anthropology of Weaker Sections, 1993, p. 590
  25. ^ Raja, Dileep.G (2005). "Of an old school of teachers". Thiruvananthapuram: The Hindu.
  26. ^ Studies in Indian history: with special Reference to Tamil N?du by Kolappa Pillay and Kanaka Sabhapathi Pillay, p. 103
  27. ^ Selected Works of Dr. Ezhuthachan (Volume I & II). K. N. Ezhuthachan Kerala Sahithya Akademi, Thrissur.
  28. ^ Narayanan, M. G. S (2017). k?ra?a? caritrava?iyile ve?iccaa? ? . Kottayam, Kerala: Sahithya pravarthaka co-operative society. p. 106. ISBN 978-93-87439-08-5. ? ? ? ? . ? ? ? ?. ? ? , , ? . ? ? ?-? ? ? ? ?. ? ? ? ?. ? ? .

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