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Vedanta Keshari October 2013 Glimpses of Swamiji

In KeralaInteractions with Chattambi Swami

At Ernakulam, in Cochin State, where Swami Vivekananda is next found, he met Shri Chattambi Swami, the guru of the well-known Narayan Guru of Kerala. This meeting took place during December 1892. In 1971 Mr. Bodhasharan, who knew Chattambi Swami intimately, gave these reminiscences to Shri Shankari Prasad Basu: I was very intimately connected with Chattambi Swami. I have often heard from him about his meeting with the Swami. It may have been before or after Swamijis visit to Kanyakumari. At Ernakulam, on e Mr. [Chandu] Lal and a Brahmin [Shri Ramaiya] used to go for a walk every morning and evening. One day, when they had been for a walk to the seaside as usual, they saw a boat coming. A sannyasi clad in ochre robes, and with staff in hand, got out of it. On seeing him they thought that he must be a great man, and a genuine sannyasi, so they must not miss meeting him. They went forward and approached the monk, who spoke with them in Hindi. One of them took the Swami to his house. They asked him, Do you know English? In broken Hindi the Swami replied, I know a little. But later it was revealed that he was a master of the language. The news soon spread. Many people of Ernakulam flocked round him. At this time Chattambi Swami was also in Ernakulam. Once he came to meet the Swami, but on finding a crowd round him, he left, after seeing him from a distance. The local people told the Swami many things about Chattambi Swami; and some of them promised to bring Chattambi Swami to him so that they could be introduced to each ether. At this the Swami said, If he is really a great man, as you tell me he is, why should he come to me? I shall go to see him. Chattambi Swami was then living at Shankar Menons house. The Swami went to see him there. They talked in Sanskrit, since Chattambi Swami did not know Hindi. Chattambi took the Swami under a tree so that they could talk together in a secluded place. On the tree was a monkey, which had been reared by the host. When they were talking, the monkey became restless and started shaking the tree. The Swami looked up at the restless monkey and said, Just like my mind. Chattambi Swami said, Only a great person like you can say such a thing. Then both of them talked about Chinmudra. The Swami asked, Why is the Chinmudra like this? Chat-tambi Swami was a scholar learned in Tamil literature; so he gave a proper reply. The Swami was very pleased with it. Catching hold of Chattambi Swamis hands, and bending his own head down, he said in Hindi, Very good. Some may interpret this by saying that the Swami placed Chattambi Swamis hands on his [the Swamis] head; but Chattambi Swami said, That [interpretation] is not right. It was a way of showing gratitude.

Whenever Chattambi Swami saw me, he used to talk of the Swami. He was charmed by the Swamis voice. He used to say, When the Swami used to sing, it was just like the sound of a golden pot. Oh, how sweet a voice! He used to praise the eyes of the Swami too. Once when the Swami and Chattambi Swami were talking in Sanskrit, a Sanskrit scholar happened to be present. He pointed out a grammatical mistake in the Swamis language. The Swami immediately reacted: I need not follow grammar; the grammar will follow me. . . . . According to K. P. K. Menon, author of the short biography Chattambi Swamigal, the Swamis meeting with Chattambi Swami took place at the house of Rama Iyer, the Dewans Secretary, who was a great admirer of the latter. Research into the Swamis visit to Kerala has been done by Shri P. Seshadri. I n the Vivekananda Centenary Souvenir, published by the Vivekananda Centenary Central Committee of Trichur in 1963, he writes: It is said that Swamiji met the great Chattambi Swami at Ernakulam. Both were impressed with each other and Swamiji asked Shri Chattambi Swami to go over to him alone. He did so and they were talking together one whole night. It is said that one of the topics they discussed was the Chinmudra. It is also said that Swamiji wrote down the name and address of Shri Chattambi Swami in his diary and told him, I am writing that I have met a real man in Malabar [Kerala]. Shri Chattambi Swami often used to speak of Swamiji with great admiration. In a letter he wrote, with his characteristic modesty: I doubt whether the difference between Vivekananda Swami and me is merely that between Garuda [the King of Birds] and a mosquito! o

Chattambi Swami
Life of Swami Vivekananda by His Eastern and Western Disciples, Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, 1.328-9

Note: Revered as Sree Vidyadhiraja Parama Bhattaraka Chattambi Swamikal (1853-1924), Chattambi Swami was a saintly social reformer from Kerala. His thoughts and work influenced the launching of many social, religious, literary and political organizations and movements in Kerala and for the first time gave voice to those who were marginalized. Chattambi Swamikal denounced the orthodox interpretation of Hindu texts citing sources from the Vedas. Swamikal along with his contemporary, Narayana Guru, strived to reform the ritualistic and caste-ridden Hindu society of the late 19th century Kerala. He authored several books on spirituality, history, and language. 3 7