Information about Tunjath Ezhuthachan from Mahakavi Ulloor S. Parameswara Aiyer's work Keralasahityacharithram Vol. 2
Thunjathe Ezhuthachan had written his works using the language prevalent among the people at that time, so that some of the words and styles in his language help in fixing a time period.
Many of Ezhuthachan's words and styles have a similarity to that of the language prevalent during the time of Niranam poets. That style of writing remains to a lesser degree in the works of Ezhuthachan. Considering the language and style of his works, it becomes clear that Ezhuthachan lived in 8th century of the kollavarsham era (1500 to 1600 A.D.)
(More about this subject in the section on Ezhuthachan's works.)
There is a verse in his Gurumutt in Chittur, where Thunjathezhuthachan lived his last days, which provides a date - nagasyanunasaukhyam - kali era. (1554 A.D.). According to the document the land was gifted to Tamil Brahmins by the Acharyan's disciple Suryanarayananezhuthachan during this year. It is likely that Ezhuthachan lived a few more years after this. Anyway it is not possible for Ezhuthachan to have lived beyond 750 kollavarsham era (1575 A.D.).
Burnell believed that Tunjathe Ezhuthachan lived sometime during the end of 1600 A.D., but Ezhuthachan's language style does not permit such a possibility.
It is controversial to assume that the Malayalam alphabets that we are using now were made by Tunjathe Ezhuthachan, because even from Kollavarsham 5th Century (13th Century A.D.) we have noticed grandha (works) with similar alphabets. And it is a also a sure fact that even during the time of the beginning of Kollavarsham era (825 A.D.), a few of these alphabets, or variations of some of them, were being used.
To read further information about Ezhuthachan's contribution to the Malayalam alphabet, please click here to read the opinion of the renowned Sanskrit scholar Prof. K. P. Narayana Pisharody.
Some say that Ezhuthachan's father was a Namboothiri, but it is not likely to be true. If there are any talented writers in Kerala they are usually attributed to being born from the Namboothiri lineage or as the birth of some celestial being(gandharva), superstition being the reason. There are a lot of legends concerning Ezhuthachan's birth. A popular one is: once a very famous Brahmin astrologer went to his native place and had to return via Thrikkandiyur. He knew that the night he stayed at Thrikkandiyur was special in that a child conceived that night was destined to become a very special man. He stayed that night at Thattaramparambath Moosad's house. While thinking disconsolately about not reaching his house in time, a maid of the house asked him what the matter was, and when he told her, she requested him to grant her that special child, and thus Ezhuthachan was conceived. However, this story cannot be true. One reason is that if this Namboothiri was such a great astrologer, he would be at his own house at that time. And for such a person, it is impossible to do things like this to the maid when he was a guest in the Moosad's house. Also, there is enough evidence that Thunjathe Ezhuthachan's household was not such a kind from Ezhuthachan's verse itself:
"Agrajan mama sadam vidushamagresaran
For a house which was well off and had such learned men with many disciples, a story like this is not plausible.
There is an absurd story that Ezhuthachan said kadu, kadu to Brahmins at Thrikkandiyur temple, and they made him dumb and stupid, and his father, the learned Namboothiri, gave him alcohol to save him and make him his intelligent self again.
Some portray Ezhuthachan as a drunkard. Ezhuthachan had lahari, but it was bhakthilahari (ecstasy of devotion) which even great sages found difficult to attain. The good teacher has voiced his opinion many times about drinking, in his Mahabharatha, that drunkards are performing one of the biggest sins imaginable.
In a verse, Tunjathe Ezhuthachan had mentioned his elder brother Raman, and he must also have been an Asan, as he had many disciples. It is not easy to learn who his other teachers were. There is a mention about Neelakantaguru.
Four names have been attributed to Ezhuthachan: 1. Sankaran 2. Suryanarayanan 3. Ramanujan 4. Raman. Among them the name Ramanujan has been used some hundred years back, so how that suggestion came about is to be thought of. There could be two reasons - one is that Ezhuthachan had an elder brother named Raman, and the other that Ezhuthachan had stayed outside Kerala as a disciple of Ramanujacharyar and later adopted that name. Both these suggestions have difficulties. 'Ramanujan' is not a name found among Keralites then or even now. Ezhuthachan would not be called just as a younger brother of Raman, he would have established an identity far above his brother. About the other suggestion - those who say that Ezhuthachan was a disciple of Ramanujacharyar do not have any knowledge about Kerala history or literature. Ramanujacharyar lived as early as in 1100 A.D. And as the Smrithis have categorically said that one should never even utter his Guru's (teacher's) name, it seems incredible that Tunjathe Ezhuthachan, such a pious person, would name himself after his Guru.
Instead, if Ezhuthachan had went by the name Ramanandan during Sanyasa, then that name could have been misquoted as Ramanujan later. It is possible that Ezhuthachan's real name was Raman, and it explains his name Ramanandan during Sanyasa.
In Malappuram district, in the old Vettathunad, there is a place called Thunjan parambu about a mile from Tirur railway station. For a long time there was only a foundation of a house there, but now it has developed into a small Mutt, and some devotees offer their prayers there. Tunjathe Acharyan was born there. Legend says that he prayed underneath a kanhiram (the Nux vomica tree) in Tunjan parambu. Nowadays devotees place lamps under the tree too. Even today the people of the nearby areas take some soil from the place to start teaching their children to write.
Ezhuthachan must have been attracted to Vedanta even from childhood, and he must have had adequate knowledge in Tamil to read Tamil grandhas on Vedanta. He also knew Vedanta grandhas in Sanskrit, but there is no evidence that he knew Andhra language. It would not be right to say that his Adhyathmaramayana was a translation of the Andhra Ramayana for the Chempakassery king, because even much earlier the scholars in Kerala had contacts with the Sanskrit scholars of Andhra and Tamil Nadu. Ezhuthachan might have come back to Thrikkandiyur after his travels outside Kerala and set up a school where he taught his students, and written the Adhyathmaramayana and then the Mahabharatha. It is not easy to say whether Ezhuthachan married or not. Burnell had written that the people staying near Chittur Matt told him that Ezhuthachan had a daughter, and Ezhuthachan's works present in Chittur Matt were the ones she had copied. Ezhuthachan is said to have married from a family at Amakkavu near Koottanad. However one cannot be definite about this. Members of that family are also Ezhuthassans. After the death of his wife Ezhuthachan embraced Sanyasa, and many followers and disciples came to him, and Ezhuthachan visited many Holy places with them and coincidentally came to Chittur, and liking the place, set up his Ashramam there and lived there the rest of his life.
It is definite that 1. Adhyathmaramayanam, 2. Uttararamayanam, 3. Mahabharatham, and 4. Devimahathmyam are his.
It is not a right assumption that the Acharyan had written about Sakteya religious principles. Ezhuthachan's religion was Vedanta, not Sakteyam.
The kilippattu style in Malayalam was introduced by Ezhuthachan. In Tamil this system had been present long back.
It is likely that Ezhuthachan's first major work was Adhyathmaramayanam. His initial style of using plenty of Sanskrit words becomes less with writing and is not found much in the Mahabharatham. Yet Ezhuthachan left out Bhagavad Gita and some other parts, and also shortened Santiparvam. Some say that this was because Ezhuthachan feared Brahmins, but there is no evidence that he had any reason to do so. The Brahmins at Thiruvillvamala was against Niranath Madhavappanikker writing the Bhagawad Gita. There is no proof that a similar situation existed in Thrikkandiyur. Anyway, for a man who taught never to take into account bad words said by bad people, he must have feared nothing except his conscience.
Devimahathmyam: There are only 13 chapters in all books of the original work, even though 18 chapters were claimed to be present. Ezhuthachan also had written only 13 of them, and it's manner indicates that it was written in Tunjan's early years.
Brahmandapuranam: This is also written by Thunjathe Ezhuthachan, even though there were some doubts about it being Karunakaranezhuthachan's (his disciple) work. The language styles of this book also indicate the same time period of Tunjathe Ezhuthachan.
It is also thought that Azhvanchery Thamprakkal entrusted Ezhuthachan to write the Brahmandapuranam. 'Netranarayanan' is another name for Azhvanchery Thamprakkal.
Seethavijayam kilippattu: The language and styles used point to Ezhuthachan's time again. It is not possible to suggest any other name than the Acharyan as its Author.
Sreemalbhagavatham kilippattu: There is no doubt that the language in Bhagavatham relates to that used in the first half Kollavarsham 8th Century (first half of 16th Century - ie, 1500 to 1550 A.D.). There are numerous examples to prove this point.
It is worth discussing whether this poem was written completely by Ezhuthachan, as the greatness and style of the work is found to deteriorate towards the end. Yet many parts present such superb work that it is sure to have been written by none other than Tunjathe Ezhuthachan. I believe that this poem was written by Ezhuthachan when he was old, and he might have narrated parts of the work and entrusted his daughter or disciples to write some parts. He could have been unable to fully check and correct the mistakes in those parts. That Bhagavatham was written when he was old is shown by the style of writing and his progress in the verses which speak the maturity of age. He shows his knowledge in the Vedanta and his fervor in his devotion to the Lord similar to what is written in the Mahabharatha in a way only Tunjathe Ezhuthachan can write.
Ezhuthachan with his disciples came to Chittur and decided to stay there. After buying a place near the banks of the Sokanasini river from Champattil Mannadiyar for 4000 panam, he built a Sreerama temple and a Siva temple, and brought twelve Tamil Brahmin families to live there. Some old people say that Ezhuthachan had kept 10000 panam with the Zamorin of Calicut, and he sent Suryanarayanan there to fetch it. Till the work of the Asramam was over, Ezhuthachan with his disciples stayed at Ezhuvath Gopalamenon's house. This Gopalamenon later became Ezhuthachan's disciple and assumed the name of Koppaswamikal. Champattil Mannadiyar later returned the 4000 panams that Ezhuthachan gave for the land. Ezhuthachan divided the amount equally among Champath house, Vadassery house, Ezhuvath house and Kochi Raja's government. Everyone of them agreed to give 90 paras of rice to the temple each year. Ezhuvath house later returned the money to the Devaswom, Vadassey Mannadiyar's house still gives the stipulated amount of rice. The administration of Kochi still gives money. In the centre of the river in this place there is a rock called as 'Ezhuthachan rock'.
The belief that Ezhuthachan was an Acharyan of Samoothirippad is unlikely to be true. If it was, then Ezhuthachan would have easily selected a good place within the king's empire and would have entrusted the required amount of money for the future of the Mutt to him. Instead he had set up the Mutt at Kochi Raja's territory and entrusted Kochi administration for this.
Ezhuthachan was born into a Nair family. According to the legend the great teacher was born into a Chakkala Nair family. But it may not be wrong to suppose that he was of a Vattakkatt Nair family who could enter the temples. Ezhuthachan used to offer prayers in temples.
From Ulloors' work: