Ezhuthachan - His Life a Poem in Itself
Ezhuthachan was born in Trikkantiyur in Malappuram district where the Thunchan Parambu is situated. He showed signs of spiritual urge and hunger very early in his life. In the prime of his youth, he set out on a long journey in search of knowledge. He traveled extensively in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, learned Tamil and Telugu and delved deep into the Upanishads. He was also drawn, at this time, to the Bhakti Movement, the main feature of which was that even the layman was emotionally involved in it. He also enhanced his knowledge of Sanskrit and learned the Vedas and Upanishads, something that would have been impossible for him in his native land because of his underprivileged caste. After return from his knowledge expedition, he settled down in Thunchan Parambu and devoted his time to teaching and writing. Towards the end of his life, he moved to Chittoor in Palghat district where he lived more or less in ascetic seclusion spending his time in meditation. Apart from this preface of information about his life and times, an authentic biography of Ezhuthachan, undoubtedly one of the greatest luminaries of Indian literature, has not yet been written.
Thunchath Ezhuthachan lived in the 16th century. Though born in a socially underprivileged class that was forbidden to learn the Vedas, he defied the order of the day with gentleness and firmness that thwarted resistance by vested interests and earned the respect of his contemporaries. He mastered the Vedas and the Upanishads without the blessings of the upper castes.
Unfortunately, we have very little authentic information about Ezhuthachan's personal life. We have to depend on scanty evidence, legends and conjectures to create a bare outline of this great life.
Thunchath Ezhuthachan was born in a Chakala Nair family. This was one of the many underprivileged classes of those days. His parents belonged to Thrikkandiyoor, in Vettathunad, which is in central Kerala. Vettathunad could boast of three of the most famous temples of those days, Thrikkandiyoor, Thiparangode, and the Thirunavaya. Thunchan's house was just one Kilometer away from the Thrikkandiyoor Temple of which the presiding deity is Lord Mahadeva.
The Thunchan memorial is situated at the site of the house in which he was born. It is said that Thunchath Ezhuthachan prompted the Sanskrit poet Melpathoor Narayana Bhattathiri to write his Magnum Opus, the "Narayaneeyam". On this basis, we conclude that he was born four hundred and fifty years ago. There are no reliable documents to support this view. We have no way of even feeling sure of his true name. Four names - Sankaran, Sooryanarayanan, Ramanujan, and Raman are attributed to him. The poet and researcher Ulloor S.Parameswara Iyer concludes that his name was Raman. He had an elder brother who was known as Jyeshtanezhuthanchan, which means the younger brother was known as Ramanujan Ezhuthachan. The suffix anujan might have been added to his name Raman, to indicate that he was the younger brother.
Thunchan's family practiced their traditional occupation of teaching Malayalam to young children. Thunchan and his elder brother too pursued this profession. His "Harinamakeerthanam" and "Irupathinalu vrittam" were probably composed for this purpose. Thunchan then took permission from his elder brother and went to Tamilnadu to study the philosophy of Vedanta and languages like Tamil and Telugu. It was after his return from this tour that Thunchath Ezhuthachan settled down to serious poetic work.
It is believed that Ezhuthachan opted for a saintly life in his old age, left the surroundings which were familiar to him and moved on to Chittoor in Palakkad and passed away after a few years.