A Himalayan hermit who, with his penance, imbued Swami Chinmayananda with faith in the scriptures and fire for the Truth.
Swami Tapovan Maharaj was that pristine glacier of Self-knowledge through whom flowed the Ganga of Vedantic Wisdom of Swami Chinmayananda, the architect of the Chinmaya Movement.
Swami Tapovanam was a saint of the highest order, a consummate Vedantin, strict teacher, a compassionate mentor, and a poet whose every thought throbbed with ecstatic awareness, and a sage of unsurpassed wisdom and tranquillity.
That Truth, which Swami Tapovanam realized and indicated in all his teachings is beyond words, as much as he himself was. Swami Chinmayananda said of his Guru, "He was a God without temple, a Veda without language".
In 1886 at Mudappallur (near Alathur), in Palghat Taluk, a son was born to Balammal. He was named Chippu Kutty. The entire childhood of Chippu Kutty was spent in his father's house in Koduvayur.
Sri Achuthan Nair had great hopes that his son would get himself educated,in the modern sense of the temr, and come to occupy a high position in life. While studying in high school, Chippu Kutty returned home one day from school declaring his decision to go to school no more. His father, feeling extremely disappointed, expressed his surprise that a member of his family should be so stupid as not to continue his education.The young boy said, "I am only giving up the place and method of education. I no longer want to get myself fully educated."
Very few then understood the born yogi was seeking his education in the infinite Truth and that he was expressing his dissatisfaction with everything limited or conditioned. The loving father immediately arranged foe two tutuors to attend to the child's education, one to instruct him in English and the other to educate him
in Sanskrit. Within a short period, the boy gained mastery in both languages, and realizing the hollowness of English, switched to a deeper and more exhaustive study of Sanskrit literature and the vernacular Malayalam.
All these years he had been studiously preparing himself for his great mission in life. He continued his deep studies of Vedanta directly from the original textbooks. Though himself the head of a rich family, he looked after the estate as a trustee and lived in a thatched shed away from home. His contemporaries remember how they met the young boy living in his hut in the open field, sleeping on the ground, and living with one single dhoti as his sole personal possession. They confess that, though the boy appeared tp be extremely intelligent, they took him to be "slightly mad".
Balambal, his mother, had her own plans for seeing her son married and settled in life. She often pointed out the girl chosen for him and said, "This is the girl for you to marry. When are you going to marry?" Chippu Kutty's usual answer was rather evasive: "Yes, I shall marry; and when I marry, you will see whom I marry. You will have no reason to regret."
Years rolled on. During those years, the young seeker, full of book knowledge, had oftengone seeking satsang at the feet of Swami Satyananda, Ramana Maharishi, Avadhutha Chattambi, Swami Thiruvatigal, Brahmananda Swami, Mangaraswamy of Malabar. During his pilgrimages he visited the Himalayas three times and roamed about the various sacred pilgrim centers in India.
One day, after his brother had returned home after completing his education, Chippu Kutty, entrusted the responsibility of the family to him, quietly ordered a small feast in his own home. Almost all the available members of the family were invited. They were all surprised. Was not Chippu Kutty rather strange in his behavior?" They did not , therefore, try to interpret his "Last Supper." A couple of days later, the two brothers were together in Palghat. As usual, they went out in the evening for a walk, and near the gates of Victoria College, Chippu Kutty turned and said, " It is getting late. You can go back home; I am going to Harihara Temple." Thus, in 1923, when Chippu Kutty Nair was thirty-four years of age, he left the worldly life and took to the life of a roaming monk.
Swami Tapovanam did not leave the the Himalayas since he got there at age 34 years. In the winter months, he would come down to Rishikesh and spent time at Swami Sivananda's Ashram. He travelled roaming around in the Himalayan valleys from Kashmir to Almora and was very well known to the remote villages in that region. He reported his travels in two splendid volumes, both in Malayalam: Himagiri Viharam (Wanderings in the Himalayas) and Kailas Yatra (Journey to Kailas).
Besides these two important books, Swami Tapovanam wrote in chaste Sanskrit, Iswara Darshan, which is a garland of spiritual thoughts of a man of realization as he waded through the welter of life. Apart from this main work, he wrote smaller pieces, all in easy Sanskrit and in different meters, such as Sri Saumya Kashisha Stotram (Hymn to the Charming Lord of Uttarlasi). Each of them—a glorification of some beautiful spot of divine association where he had lived and spent his life of perfection, such as Uttarkasi, Gangotri, Gomukhi and Badrinath—is in essence a summary of difficult Vedantic textbooks and the Upanishads.
In the midst of his varied activities, Swamiji’s physical health began to suffer. He told nobody about it. The disciples themselves came to know only when his body was very much reduced. in spite of his failing health he strictly continued all his old observances. His disciples wanted to give him medical aid, but he told them that the physical body would have its way. On the auspicious occasion of Magha Pournami in Uttarayana at Brahma Muhurta at Uttarkasi, Swamiji entered into eternal Samadhi. It was February 16th, 1957.
The life and teachings of Sri Swami Tapovan Maharaj are and will continue to inspire humankind to divinize their lives by turning towards God.