Last Updated 25 Jun 2021


Category Culture, India, Language
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Indian poet from around the 16th or 17th century, known as the father of the Malayalam language—which is the principal language of the Indian state of Kerala, spoken by 36 million people in the world. In his era, Vattezhuttu, an old script originally used to write Tamil, was generally used in Kerala to write this language. However, he wrote his Malayalam poems in Arya-ezhuttu, a Grantha-based script originally used to write Sanskrit, so that he could accurately transliterate Sanskrit words into Malayalam.

His works became unprecedentedly popular, which also popularized the writing system adopted by him, and that is the current Malayalam alphabet. He was born in Trikkantiyur, in the town of Tirur, in Kerala. At that time,it was a part of Vettattnad. His personal name is Ramanujan. Thunchaththu is his “family name”, and Ezhuthachan (schoolmaster) is an honorific title or the last name indicating his caste. His name is transliterated in several different ways, including Thunchath Ezhuthachan, Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan, and Thunjath Ezhuthachan.

Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan lived in the 16th century or the 16th century.  He was born at Trikkantiyur (Trkkantiyur) in the Tirur municipality, Malappuram, Kerala, India. His birthplace is now known as Thunjan Parambu. According to Arthur Coke Burnell, he was “a low-caste man who goes under the name Tunjatta Euttacchan, a native of Trikkaiyur 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 Euttacchan (=schoolmaster) indicating his caste”. In 1865, Burnell actually saw the manuscript of the Bhagavata translated and adapted by Thunchaththu, allegedly copied by his sister, preserved at Puzhakkal in the Chittur taluk, and wrote in his book published in 1874: “The author’s stool, clogs, and staff are preserved in the same place; it thus looks as if Tunjatta E? uttacchan was a sannyasi of some order. ” Some sources state that he was born into a Chakkala Nair 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 .

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That version is totally ahistoric. A few sources claim that he was of the Ezhuthachan caste. 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 Ellis. In that path breaking article Ellis articulated the evolution of Malayalam  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 Malayalam 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 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. In nut shell, Ezhuthachan was a Kaniyan by caste and had a title Ezhuthu Asan in relation with his teaching service in Ezhuthupalli. In the Pre and early British ruling era of Kerala, the Kaniyans (traditional astrologers) were the only class who had undertaken the role of teaching letters, grammar, sanskrit and literature to non Brahmin communities.

So they were known Ezhuthu Asan (Ezhuthachan in the vernacular), but, later this professional name was adopted by the descendants of families of non Brahmin disciples of Thunchat Ezhutahchan ,as a special caste or class. Most of these people were from Chakkala Nair and Kadupattan castes. Father of Malayalam language According to Dr K N Ezhuthachan, noted scholar, writer, essayist, poet, only Ramayanam and Bharatham belong to him. Others, usually attributed to him, were not really his . See his two volume selected works of Dr K N Ezhuthachan, published by Kerala Sahithya Akademi Thrissur.

According to Dr Ezhuthachan even " Uththara ramayanam" is not of his. Its compostion lacks Ezhuthachan's stamp and genius. 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: Keralolpathi Hari Nama Keerthanam - The song of the Holy Name "Hari" Ganapatistavam.

Kilippatu Prasthanam Devi Mahatmayam Kerala Natakam Harihara Sudham Various 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. The 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. Great poet Mahakavi Kodungallore Kunhikuttan Thampuran who was a titan among poets, who singlehandedly translated entire Mahabharatham into Malayalam vernacular within short p of time, stated in an article in a literaray journal, "Rasikaranjini" edited by himself, that Thunchath Ezhuthachan belonged to Ezhuthachan Caste only.

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