Swami Tapovanam was born in 1889 in Kerala, India as Chippu Kutty. As a child, he was fascinated and delighted by Pauranik stories. Home-schooled until the age of 17, he was a devout Vedantin who mastered both Malayalam and Sanskrit. Both his parents passed away before he turned 21, by which time he was already known for his original poetic compositions. He adopted a sanyasi’s lifestyle long before his initiation into the ochre robe of sanyasa. An introvert, he loved spending his time immersed in spiritual reflection.
The Spiritual Quest
Despite the accolades earned during his years of public speaking on literature, politics, religion, and Vedanta, Chippu Kutty left home in search of truth in his late 20s. For seven years he travelled widely, studying Vedic scriptures and observing austerities. Swami Janardhana Giri of Kailash Ashram in Rishikesh initiated him into sanyasa with the name, Swami Tapovanam – “forest of austerities”. Swami Tapovanam chose to live in a small, remote mountainous area of Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand, in a one-room thatched hut by the sacred River Ganga.
Swami Tapovanam is the guru of Swami Chinmayananda, the founder of the Chinmaya Mission. He shared his wisdom with all devotees who came to him in search of spiritual knowledge, but rarely did he accept resident disciples. When Swami Tapovanam did accept a resident disciple, the latter was trained under the strictest conditions.
As a jivanmukta or self-realised master, Swami Tapovanam was a lover of nature and saw the supreme Lord there, as evident in his poetic works of Himagiri Viharam (Wanderings in the Himalayas) and Kailasa Yatra (Pilgrimage to Kailasa). However, it is his autobiography, Ishvara Darshan (Vision of the Lord), that sages and seekers the world over consider his masterpiece.