When the world celebrates 150th anniversary of birth of Swami Vivekananda, the revolutionary sage who spread the knowledge of Vedanta and Upanishads to The West, it is worthy to remember the visit of Swami Vivekananda to Kerala and his meeting with Chattambi Swamikal, who inspired Nairs to become leaders and instilled confidence among Nairs.
It was a remarkable meeting for both yogis. Vivekananda who was searching for a proper explanation of Chinmudra got the perfect answer from Chattambi Swami. Vivekananda’s enlightened thoughts on eradication of social inequalities had a profound impact on Chattambi Swami who was already against such discriminations. It won’t be an exaggeration to say the meeting was a catalyst for social reform movements in Kerala launched by Chattambi Swami and Sree Narayana Guru.
The meeting of the two towering personalities occurred during Swami Vivekananda’s Kerala visit in early December 1892 at Ernakulam. Vivekananda was the guest of W. Ramaiya, secretary of Diwan Peshkar of Kochi. Many people came to see Vivekananda and Chattambi Swami also went to see him. But seeing a huge crowd around Vivekananda, Chattambi went back. Later, when people told Vivekananda about Chattambi Swami the former said he would call on the latter.
Esoteric knowledge on Chinmudra
Chattambi was then living at one Sankar Menon’s home. He took Vivekananda beneath a secluded tree and they spoke in Sanskrit one whole night. They discussed many things and according to historians, Vivekananda who was searching for a proper explanation on the neurodynamics of Chinmudra asked Chattambi the question.
Vivekananda got a satisfactory explanation and he bowed and thanked Chattambi. Chattambi unfolded the esoteric meaning of Chinmudra and its role in achieving higher levels of consciousness. Quoting from an old commentary on the Brahadaranya Upanishad, Chattambi is said to have, explained that when the tips of the forefinger and index finger touch together a vibratory energy would be produced, and it would flow up to the Sahasrara Padma of the aspirant elevating him to a higher stage of consciousness.
Needless to say both were impressed with each other. Swamy Vivekananda who earlier termed Kerala a mental hospital pained by the untouchability and other social evils existing here, after meeting Chattambi wrote in his diary that “I have met a real man in Kerala.” Chattambi was also full of praise of Vivekananda and said when he sang it sounded like a golden pot. Chattambi also praised the knowledge of Vivekananda.
Before coming to Kerala, Vivekananda was a guest of Dr. Palpu(a leader of Ezhava community) at Bangalore who made Vivekananda aware of the discriminations based on caste that existed in the state and had asked Vivekananda to do something to eradicate it. Vivekananda when landed in Kodungalloor in Kerala later, had a first hand experience of the discriminations in Kerala as he was denied permission to enter the Devi temple there. The temple authorities told swami that non keralites were denied permission to enter as there was no way they could ascertain their caste.
One can say with conviction that the anti-discriminatory movements launched by Chattambi Swami and Sree Narayana Guru were inspired by Vivekananda. Chattambi Swami’s “Vedadhikara Niroopanam” (A review of Vedas) ascertained that even Sudras are empowered to learn and interpret Vedas. Sree Narayana Guru later launched anti-caste movement which uprooted caste system in Kerala. These movements saved Hindu community of Kerala and those historic personalities accomplished their mission.