Mahakavi Sree Thunchath Ezhuthachan is acclaimed as the Father of Malayalam, the language of Kerala, India.
Mahakavi Thunchath Ezhuthachan was a saint & great poet who lived in the 16th century. His literary works Adhyatma Ramayanam and Mahabharatam, both written in the style of Kilippattu, laid the foundation for a modern poetic language in Malayalam. The script for the present Malayalam too gained popularity through these two classic works of Ezhuthachan. Hence the title ‘Ezhuthachan’ or the ‘Father of (Malayalam) Language.
Ezhuthachan wrote the Ramayana and Mahabharata as if made to sing by the (kili)bird, the parrot. And thus originated the style called Kilippattu, the song of the bird parrot. The poet depended not on the Ramayana of Valmiki for his translation, but an Adhyatma Ramayana in Sanskrit, of a later period.
Any conclusive information on his full name, place of birth, family etc., is not available. There is a claim that his full name is ‘Ramanujan Ezhuthachan. There was a family called ‘Thunchath’ near the Shiva Temple of Thrikandiyur near Tirur of the state of Kerala ( in South India). The birth place of Ezhuthachan is now known as Thunjan Parambu.
Apart from Ramayana-Bharata Kilippattus, some other works too are credited to Ezhuthachchan, like Uttara Ramayanam, Bhaagavatam, Harinama kirttanam, Chintaratnam, Brahmanda puranam, Devi Maahatmayam, Irupatthinaalu vruttham, Shatamukha Ramayanam, and Kaivalya anvaneetam. Though not conclusively proved, the Malayalis love to believe that Harinama kirttanam and Bhagavatam in Malayalam were originally written by him.
Hari Nama Keerthanam
The Hari Nama Keerthanam is a poetic Indian song. Its title translates into English as “The Song of the Holy Name Hari”. It was composed by Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan in Kerala around the 16th century. The work is historically important as it solidified the acceptance of the 51 letter version of the Malayalam alphabet owing to the song’s immense popularity. The work is of great length and ususually presented in book form. There are 66 original verses, to which a number of later verses and commentaries have been added, such as a section called the “Hari Narayanaya Nama”, and the philosophical thoughts of the composer Ezhuthachan
P.R. Ramachander, in an introduction to his translation, notes of Ezhuthachan that:
From the book, it is clear that […] Ezhuthachan was a Vaishnavite who was fondly in love with the Advaitha philosophy. He mentions that his Guru was one Neelakanta Somayaji in one of the verses.
Opening lines from P.R. Ramachander’s translation with his brief explanations:
Omkaramaya porul moonayi pirinju udane,
Angaramayathinnu thaan thane sakshiyithu,
Bodham varuthu vathinnu aalayi ninna,
Paramacharya roopa ,Hari Narayanaya Nama.
Onnayi ninneyiha randennu kandalavi,
Yunadyi orindal batha mindavathalla mama,
Pande kanakku varuvan nin krupa valikal,
Undakayengaliha narayanaya nama.
My salutations to that Narayana,
Who is also the lord Hari,
For being the great teacher,
Who stood as a person , to make me know,
That truth which is revealed by the sound of Om,
Though split in to three forms of trinity,
As soon as it was born,
Is only an illusion created by my ego.
[This verse is the invocation by the author not to any God figure but to the Paramathma, whose clear vision to us is prevented by the veil of “Maya”]
My salutations to that Narayana,
With a request from humble self,
To make me see him as one reality,
For I was made sad extreme,
To see that the indivisible one, has been split in to two.
[Ezhuthachan continues to tell us that though the god is one, we are made to believe that we as persons(antharatma) we are different from the all pervading reality (Paramathma)]
Traditionally, two ancient sources of Ramayana are, Valmiki Ramayan and Adhyatma Ramayana, and Tulsidas’sRamacharitamanas written in Hindi, Kamba Ramayanam , and other versions in regional languages are with Valmiki Ramayan as their main source.
Adhyatma Ramayana (Devanāgarī: अध्यात्म रामायण) is an ancient Sanskrit work extolling the spiritual virtues of the story of Ramayana. It comprises around 4200 verses, is embedded in Brahmānda Purana and is considered to be authored by Ved Vyasa.
Literally meaning ‘Spiritual Ramayana’, Adhyatma Ramayana is a poem spread across 4200 double verses, and considered a treatise of Vedantic philosophy. It is supposed to have provided Tulsidas (1511-1637 AD), the inspiration to write his seminal workRamcharitmanas.
Traditionally it is believed that Adhyathma Ramayan was narrated by Shiva to Parvati. The sacred verses are an extract from the latter portion of the Brahmanda Purana composed by the great Veda Vyasa. The verses are a dialogue between Lord Shankara (another name of Lord Shiva) and goddess and universal mother Parvati. This pious story was recited to the universal mother Parvathi by the Lord Shankara. This religious book contains the ideal characteristics of Lord Rama, the precept related to devotion, knowledge, dispassion, adoration and good conduct. The main context of the book based on spiritual and metaphysical knowledge. Mere reading of or listening to these verses enables one to attain self-realization.