Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan

Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan

Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan Malayalam തുഞ്ചത്തു രാമാനുജന്‍ എഴുത്തച്ഛന്‍ is considered as the "Father of the Malayalam language", because of his devotion to the language, his influence on the acceptance of the Malayalam alphabet, and his extremely popular poetic works in Malayalam. He was born in the 17th century in Tirur, which is within the Malappuram district of the state of Kerala ( in South India). His true name is unknown. He is alternatively known as Thunjath Ramanujan Ezhuthachan or sometimes simply Ramanujan, but most often simply as Ezhuthachan. "Ezhuthachan" is a titled bestowed upon a great male teacher or schoolmaster(Ezhuthamma - female counterpart). It is also the name of a caste in old India, the Ezhuthachan (or sometimes Kaduppattan)

"... [T] he phrase ‘father of language’ is a symbolic reference. Language represents culture. So Ezhuthachan is in fact denoting culture. He shone as a brilliant star above our culture. He renovated the alphabets of heart. We see the light of conscience and moderation in Ezhuthachan. We call him ‘the father of Malayalam language’ because he led the language to a new dimension."- Chattanath Achuthanunni Chair Thunjan Festival meeting (1998 )

Circumstances of Birth

Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan was born in the 16th century. The birth place of Ezhuthachan is now known as Thunjan ParambuSome sources state that he was born into a Chakkala Nair (low subcast among Nairs) family, held low among Savarna hindu caste system of Kerala and among the Nair caste. Some apocryphal legends have that Ezhuthachan's father was a Namboodiri Brahmin . [Travancore State Manual by V.Nagam Aiya, Volume II, page 430-431] . A few sources claim that he was of the Ezhuthachan (sometimes called Kadupattan) caste. Dr A.C. Burnell, a noted indologist, had categorically stated that Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan belongs to Ezhuthachan Caste only. He had stated this when he edited an article written by another important scholar F W Ellis when he published that article in "Indian Antiquery " in 1878 after the death of linguist F W Ellis. In that path breaking article F.W. Ellis articulated the evolution of Malayalam ("Malayanma") and other south indian languages.

F.W. Ellis had stated:

"A Brahman without a father must be born of an unmarried female of that tribe, whose celibacy ought to have been inviolate: he is considered, therefore, illegitimate, and has scarcely an assignable place in society. Elutt' Achan, or the 'Father of Letters', was a Brahman without a father, and on that account has no patronymic....The Brahmans envied his genius and are said to have seduced him by the arts of sorcery into the habit of ebriety.....he enriched the Malayalma with the translations, all of which, it is said, he composed under the immediate influence of intoxication...."

To which A.C. Brunell added the footnote:

"Eluttachchan [sic] lived in the 17th century; there is no reason for supposing that he was a Brahman father's illegitimate son; he was certainly an Eluttachchan ( or schoolmaster ) by caste"

Great Malayalam poet and historian Ulloor S Parameswara Iyer concludes Ezhuthachan as either Chakkala Nair or Vattekattu Nair. Sri K Balakrishna kurup in his famous book "Viswathinte Kanappurangal" published by Mathrubhumi ptg and publishing company Kozhikode had stated that Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan belongs to Ezhuthachan caste. Prof T B Vijayakumar noted scholar, historian had written many articles in all prestigious journals, like Mathrubhumi Weekly, had also stated that Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan belongs to Ezhuthachan caste.

Other soruces note that Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan himself stated that he was of the Sudra caste.

Father of Malayalam language

There may have been many popular "keerthanas", "namam" or "japam" by other poets, but it was veritably impossible to find a single house in Kerala without Ezhuthachan's "Adhyathmaramayanam" during those dark times of war, disease and famine. There is no doubt about his contribution to the literary level of the common man. Ezhuthachan taught the people to respect and worship the language and the alphabet, a level of culture which is difficult to find even in the modern era. He refined the Malayalam language style and wrote his works for ordinary people, incorporating whatever is good with a strong sense of righteousness and worship. His contribution to the Malayalam language through the "Adhyatmaramayanam" (a translation of the Ramayana and "Mahabharatham" (a translation of the Mahabharata) is unparalleled, and his contribution in the cultural level is immense. His chief original works are said to include the: [Travancore State Manual by V.Nagam Aiya, Volume II, page 432] :
* Keralolpathi
* Hari Nama Keerthanam - The song of the Holy Name "Hari"
* Ganapatistavam
* Devi Mahatmayam
* Kerala NatakamVarious census reports {Census reports of erstwhile Madras presidency- Census reports erstwhile princely states of Cochin and Travoncore were also included in that) from 1870 onwards- Ezhuthachan Caste was shown as low caste sudra caste. [Dr A C Brunnel, noted scholar,indologist,linguist in his epoch making book " The south Indian Paleography" had categorically stated that Thinchath Ezhuthachan belongs to Ezhuthachan caste(Page 14) ]

Great poet Mahakavi Kodungallore Kunhikuttan Thampuran who was a titan among poets,who singlehandedly translated entire Mahabharatham into Malayalam vernacular within short span of time, stated in an article in a literaray journal, "Rasikaranjini" edited by himself,that Thunchath Ezhuthachan belonged to Ezhuthachan Caste only.

The Alphabet Issue

Till Ezhuthachan’s time, there were a few competing and parallel alphabet systems in use in Kerala: Fact|date=February 2007

* 1. Vattezhuthu [ [ Kerala-Gov] ] A 30 letter alphabet which was taught as the Malayalam alphabet by the various Kalaries or schools to the common people.
* 2. Alphabets which are equivalent to those in Sanskrit (Grandhakshara) must have been used by scholars to write their works in Sanskrit.
* 3. Sanskrit alphabets were used by Namboothiri priests and a few great scholars only.
* 4. Various combinations of Vattezhuthu and Grandhakshara may have been tried by some schools, with the result of more confusion and less unanimity. As the influence of the Sanskrit language upon the Malayalam language increased, the Vattezhuthu alphabet was used commonly to write Sanskrit words and other derivations, though distorted. The names of parts of Vedas like Samhita, Ashtakam, Varggam, Anuvakom were written as changatha, attam, vakkom, anam respectively, in Vattezhuthu. What was written, was not exactly what was read. Works were also written in this way. Vattezhuthu was used with interposition of letters of the Grandhakshara to denote essential Sanskrit phonetics. (Eg. - In important Decrees or Shasanas.)

One can clearly see the obvious problems that arise from have a mulitude of alphbets and mixtures of alphabets, used by different people, for different purposes, at different times.

It would not have been sufficient to just create a new alphabet set, as it would not be accepted in all places easily. Most probably there were different views at that time. The most practical way out was towrite a popular Keerthanam (a poetic song) in a standardized alphabet, so that it will be standardized everywhere. Ezhuthachan thus composed the Hari Nama Keerthanam in his new 51 character alphabet. Since the song was so wildly popular, the alphabet grew in use and popularity along with it. The previous, 31 character "Vattezhuthu" alphabet continued to be taught in various places as the Malayalam alphabet until the British regulations relating to registration of bonds and deeds eventually led to its disappearance.

“Hari Sree Ganapathaye Namah” is also 51 according to the system of counting with alphabets. This method of initiating children to the alphabets was also begun by Ezhuthachan according to Prof. K. P. Narayana PisharodyFact|date=February 2007. Ra and zha were used as parishishtam after the 51 alphabets. Malayalam does not have words which begin with these characters, but these alphabets are essential in the language.

It is also believed that Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan contributed to the peace and unity of Kerala in his age because it was a dangerous age of political anarchy.According to Dr K N Ezhuthachan a titan among scholars and intellectuals,only AdhyalmaRamayanam and mahabharatham were only his works.Even the uthararamayanam was not his. Dr K N Ezhuthachan had clearly stated this in his selected works part one published by Kerala Sahitya Academy Thrissur.

The Thunjan Parambu

It was in the Thunjan Parambu that Ezhuthachan modified the Malayalam alphabet and wrote the Hari Nama Keerthanam to popularize the 51 letter alphabet.Fact|date=February 2007 Even centuries after these events, people from various parts of the state come to take sand from the Thunjan Parambu to use in the initiation of their children to the alphabet. Every year, hundreds of people bring their children to Thunjan Parambu to write their first letters during the Vijayadasami festival. They write:

"Anpathoraksharavum oronnithenmozhiyilAnpodu cherkka Hari Narayanaya Nama"

- Hari Nama Keerthanam 14th stanza


There is no controversy that the great teacher was the strongest sponsor of the 51 letter alphabet for Malayalam instead of the 30 letter Vattezhuthu. Fact|date=February 2007

Statue controversy

Few years ago, Malayalam lovers wanted to erect a statue of Ezhuthachan at his birthplace. But local religious fundamentalist groups opposed the statue erection saying that it amounts to idol worship, which is against the tenets of Islam. Even today, the demand for an Ezhuthachan statue at Tirur remains unfulfilled [ [ For Hindus in Kerala it ] ] [ [ The Hindu : Kerala / Kochi News : Government indulging in religious discrimination: Kummanam ] ]



See also

* Adi Shankara

External links

* [ The Travancore State Manual Vol II]

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