Theekadal Kadanhu Thirumadhuram
Biography of Thunjath Ezhuthachan, the renowned poet.
The novel was serialized every Sunday in the Mathrubhumi newspaper from October 2003 to October 2004.
The work presents an extremely challenging attempt to sketch Ezhuthachan's life and his creative instinct through the great teacher's own mind and emotions. The story is written mostly as the Author had heard from his grandparents in correlation with the known history of that period.
In the novel Ezhuthachan's time has been fixed to approx. 1475 to 1550 A.D. because the events in the original story bears maximum correlation with this time period; the language, style and words used by Thunjath Ezhuthachan correspond to this time period; and Ulloor and many great language scholars have put Ezhuthachan's time period to be this.
Ezhuthachan's real name was Krishnan, but this name has been long forgotten except within the family, as it was not prudent to address teachers by their real name. The great teacher was known widely as "Thunjathe Aniyanezhuthachan" (his elder brother Raman also being a teacher), or simply "Thunjathe Ezhuthachan".
Contrary to a popular belief Ezhuthachan was not born in Thunjan Parambu. But this place is strongly associated with the great teacher, because it was in Thunjan Parambu that the family set up their most famous and influential school. "Thunjan" was not his name. He was called "Thunjath Ezhuthachan" because the family had resided at Thunjan parambu.
Thunjathe Ezhuthachan - the greatest "orchestrator" of Malayalam:
Why is Ezhuthachan considered the father of Malayalam language?
There may have been many keerthanas or namam or japam, but it was impossible to find a single house in Kerala without a copy of his Adhyathmaramayanam in the olden days. There is no doubt about his contribution to the literary level of the common man. The great teacher taught the people to respect and worship the language and the alphabet. 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. Ezhuthachan's style came to dominate Malayalam not only by the popularity that his works enjoyed. His contribution to the language through the Adhyatmaramayanam and SriMahabharatham is unparalleled, and his contribution in the cultural level is immense. There may have been scholars and poets before or after him, but there is plainly no scope for controversy in this matter.
About the alphabet system in Kerala:
Just before Ezhuthachanís time, the following was the situation in Kerala.
1. The 30 letter Vattezhuthu 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 (Granthakshara) were learned by scholars and those interested in Sanskrit works.
3. As the influence of Sanskrit in Malayalam increased, Vattezhuthu 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 may also have been written in this way.
4. Vattezhuthu was used with interposition of letters of the Granthakshara to denote essential Sanskrit phonetics. (Eg. - In important Decrees or Shasanas.)
5. Works needing essential Sanskrit phonetics written using Grantha, remained inaccessible to the common man who, at the most, knew only Vattezhuthu.
It is easy to visualize the glaring inadequacies.
What Ezhuthachan did -
To establish an alphabet system which is equivalent to Sanskrit, instead of the 30 letter script of Malayalam (Vattezhuthu), Ezhuthachan took the best from the existing sets with Granthakshara as the base, and modified them. Common derivations were formed. Ezhuthachan must have thought it auspicious and total for the alphabet set to have 51 characters (See Harinamakeerthanam). "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 Pisharody. The new alphabet set had Ra and zha as parishishtam. (Malayalam does not have words which begin with these characters, but these alphabets are essential in the language.) It was not sufficient to form just an alphabet set, as it will not be accepted in all places easily. Most probably there were different views at that time. The most practical way out was to establish the set by a Keerthanam, so that it will be standardized everywhere.
(However Vattezhuthu continued to be taught in various places as the Malayalam alphabet till the British regulations relating to registration of bonds and deeds eventually led to its disappearance.)
It was in Thunjan Parambu that Ezhuthachan modified the Malayalam alphabets and wrote the Harinamakeerthanam to popularize them. Even after centuries people from various parts of the state come to take sand from Thunjan Parambu to initiate their children to the alphabet. Every year, hundreds of people bring their children to write their first alphabets during the Vijayadasami festival, to Thunjan Parambu.
Anpodu cherkka Hari Narayanaya Nama"
- Harinamakeerthanam 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.
Some of the responses to the previous editions of the novel:
'This book is the author's magnum opus. He has made commendable efforts to sift the grain from the chaff by extensive research on the father of modern Malayalam poetry and language.' - The Hindu, March 22, 2005
Information about Ezhuthachan from Ulloor's works Vol 2. (First published as early as in the 1950s.)
Prof. K. P. Narayana Pisharodi's work Thunjathe Acharyan (The great Sanskrit scholar has written in detail about Ezhuthachan's contribution to the Malayalam alphabet system. Some of the information is provided here.)