Tunjathu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan
Tunjathu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan is a devotional poet from Kerala, who is most widely known for his kili pattu style of narrating mythological tales of Ramayana and Mahabharata. He is credited with popularizing the language Malayalam through his works and is widely regarded as the Bhashapithavu (father) of Malayalam.
The literary master is believed to have lived during the 16th century, near Tirur in the present day Malappuram district of Kerala. However, many contradictions and controversies surround his actual name / caste and occupation.
Moving away from these seemingly insignificant factors, one would come across a literary genius who was able to standardize the language and popularize it among common people. He translated two of India’s greatest epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata – into Malayalam. He borrowed liberally from Sanskrit but used Dravidian metre for his poems. He was able to strike a balance between Sanskrit and Tamil in his works and made it more accessible to common people. The religious texts were no more the sole right of Brahmins and the common man had access it.
In C.Radhakrishnan‘s Teekadal kadanja thirumaduram (a biographical novel of Ezhuthachan), the author talks about how at the master’s ezhuthukalari (school), all children were given education irrespective of their caste or class. The novel also talks about how the young Ezhuthachan found the scripts (Vattezhuthu and Kolezhuthu) used during his time inadequate to write words the way they were spoken.
Though it is not known for sure whether the alphabets of the language were created by Ezhuthachan, it can be safely said that he refined the style of language. Malayalam was now not just a sister language of Tamil, but an individual language with a proper form.
Some historians believe that during his later years, Ezhuthachan started a matt in Tamil Nadu. A Malayalam University has been set up at his birthplace Tirur. Also, the state government’s literary award is also named after him – Ezhuthachan Puraskaram.