Murugan's Vel lance, His 'Jnana Shakti' or 'Power of Gnosis', a vertical shaft of light from heaven symbolising the axis mundi or stambha, the Axis of the World that Murugan the Shakti-Dhara or 'Holder of the Shakti (spear) wields as His ayudha or weapon. Kataragama Devotees Trust banner. For information about the Kataragame Devotees Trust of Sri Lanka go to the Kataragama Kaele Kendra home page.

Chellappa Swami of Nallur

Tamil: யாழ்ப்பாண நல்லூர் தேராடி செல்லப்பா சுவாமிகல்

Chellappa Swamigal
Chellappā Swāmigal

by K.C. Kularatnam

translated by Dr. Mrs. Vimala Krishnapillai

Our country Lanka, land of Shiva, glows like gold in the Indian Ocean. The Tamil word for ‘Eelam' means gold. Saint Tirumoolar in his Tirumantiram, has said that this Ellankai, is an abode of Shiva. There were many Eeswaran temples dedicated to Lord Shiva in this land and many siddhars lived and roamed this land. The traditions of the Siddha Paramparai are deep rooted here. The greatness of these saints, who immersed their minds at the feet of Lord Shiva, is indeed great.

In the Jaffna peninsula a great number of the samadhi temples of these great siddhars are plenty in the northern province. Many jñānis and siddhars from Kadai Swami to Yoga Swami have left their sacred footprints in many places in Jaffna. Guru puja mandapams, the halls constructed near such temples were not only centers of charity but also the seats of cultural and religious activities were conducted. Nallur, which is an ancient city in Jaffna, was immersed in a sacred flood. Nallur may be compared to the Tiruvennai Nallur or the Athitha Nallur of Tamil Nadu.

Nallur, a great city of fame, was the capital city of Emperor Ariya Chakravarti whose sovereignty was widespread. In fact, Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu was under his administration and he earned the title Setukavalar, the protector of Sethu. It was in Nallur that pure refined Tamil and Saivaneri (the Saiva path) flourished. Situated very close to the king's ancient palace, was centered the Kantacuvāmi (Sanskrit: Skanda Swāmi) temple of Lord Murugan. Around this temple, in the four directions were built the sentinel temples for protection; Veyilukanda Pillaiyar Kovil in the east, Kailāsa Nātha Sivan Kovil in the west, Veerakali Amman Kovil in the north and Sattanātha Kovil in the north. The royal flag and the royal seal carried in the insignia, the symbol of the Nandi, which was continued by the successive kings.

In mid-seventeenth Century, the Portuguese erased the temples to ground level and brought down the glory and greatness of Nallur. However during the rule of the Dutch, the Saiva revival dawned and arose like the morning star. During this period there lived several bards and poets, who composed great religious hymns. Thus Nallur was once again was flooded with religious wisdom, jñānam.

Though the Portuguese destroyed the Nallur Kanta Swami Kovil and even uprooted the foundation, during the Dutch rule, around 1734 there was again a period of Saiva revival. Srimat Ragunatha Mappana Mudaliyar, who was holding a high position in the Jaffna Kachcheri, appealed to the Dutch and got their permission to set up a Vel Kottam, where the Vel, the insignia of Lord Murugan could be installed for worship.

The Revered Siva Tiru Suppiah Kurukkal started performing the daily pujas without any impediments and the people flocked to worship the Lord. In the madam situated in Nallur East, Siva Tiru Gangadhara Kurukkal expounded the Kanta Purānam and propagated the path of devotion, which melted even hearts of stone. The rows and rows of camphor light, kavadis and the devotees chanting hymns transformed this place to a heavenly area, a devaloka.

The splendor of Nallur grew day by day and its fame spread. The eastern side, where the temple chariot was parked; the terādi, had a special significance. The merciful glance of beautifully decked protecting deity Bhairavar, attracted throngs of devotees to that spot. To the south of the chariot, there was a large area of farmland. Towards the middle of the 19th Century, a farmer named Vallipuram of Vattukottai, married to Ponnamma of Nallur, and built his house on the edge of the farmland and cultivated the land. The couple had two girls and two boys. One of the sons was named Chellappa and one of the daughters named Chellachi. Chellappa had his early education at the Sivaprakasa Vidyasalai at Kandarmadam and later on joined Jaffna Central College where he was educated in the English medium.

Due to certain circumstances, Chellappa discontinued his studies after some years and commenced his employment as an ārāchi at the Jaffna Kachcheri. Being a very efficient worker he received the admiration and the confidence of the authorities and was many a time entrusted, to he in charge of the treasury. Though he was praised and trusted by the Englishman, his strange behavior was an enigma to many.

Though Chellappa enjoyed the high prestige of a privileged post, he was not enamoured by it. He was ever dwelling on the inner kindling of his being. Irresistibly drawn towards jñānam; spirituality there appeared changes in his habits, dress and movements, this intrigued many. Outwardly he carried on with his normal work without giving any room for others to talk about it. Inwardly, during mid night when others were all fast asleep, he was engaged in mystic communion with Lord Murugan of Nallur and began to prate, "Father! Father!"

When this flood of jñānam surged and over flowed outwardly, he appeared like; a mad man, like one possessed by the sprits, like an innocent child. He would speak to himself, repeat "Om, Om" shaking his head, raise his right hand high, wave and shout loudly. He would not let anyone get close to him. He chased them away as they approached him. He neglected his job and finally kept himself away from the Kachcheri. He then sat all day in the corner of his hut.

Kadai Swami of Jaffna booklet cover
Chellappa's guru: see also this article on Kadai Swami of Jaffna

In his outward appearance, Chellappa looked like a mad man, but inwardly he was composed and inclined towards jñānam. There is reason to believe that during this period when he was thus immersed in the ocean of the grace of the Lord of Nallur, he received upadesam from Kadai Swami, who was then wandering around Nallur. Having been blessed by the guru, his inner being was purified, but outwardly there was no change in his appearance. The soul, pasu or jiva, blossomed as God or Pati, the Eternal Self. The radiant grace of his guru drew him out of the dark corner and made him sit beside the chariot in the open space, so that many had the opportunity to have his darshan.

"The one who draws another out from his seclusion so that others come to known him is great indeed," hymns one of the verses in the Fourteen Sithatha sastram of Tirunthiar. When he sat there and meditated, people who sensed that he possessed siddhis supernatural power swarmed around him. The street urchins who found him muttering things to himself considered him mad and threw stones at him, his relatives who thought likewise sometimes kept him handcuffed.

When ascetic inclination overwhelmed his mind, Chellappa renounced the world totally. To the masses he was a mad man, to the great men who wished to redeem their souls he was a jñāni He behaved more and more erratically to conform himself to the title of ‘madman'. He did not care about his personal cleanliness. His hay like hair was let loose; he bathed very seldom; he wore dirty torn unwashed clothes. He was also clumsy, he raised his hands high in an awkward manner and laughed; his teeth jutted out prominently; but his narrow face on the frame of his thin body bloomed like a bright flower.

Drawn by sisterly affection for her brother, Chellachi used to bring his meals at the proper time, but he used to shout at her angrily, "Go! Go! Take it away! You have brought me poisoned food" and chase her away. He would walk a long distance away, come back and sit down again. Whenever he felt like eating, he would eat a little, but leave a major portion of the food for crows, fowls and stray dogs and enjoy watching them eat. He maintained a compassionate relationship with birds and animals.

Chellappa Swami behaved as one who was mad during the day. He waited till all the people had left the temple after the midnight puja, arise from his seat and walk slowly to the entrance of the temple calling "Father! Father!" No one knew whether he had any reciprocal response or not, but he continued to converse with the Lord. Gem-like thoughts – mahavākyas – axioms, arose in his mind. He was then eagerly awaiting the arrival of a good sishya or pupil to pass these gems on to him, so that these could be channeled to flow out like musical notes of a flute to be heard by all.

A devotee of the Swami felt sorry to see Swami's radiant face in a body that was dirty and wrapped in filthy rags. He bought a set of new verti and calvai worshipped him and begged of him to accept the offering. Feeling sorry for the devotee, the Swami accepted the gift, but tore them to pieces, soiled them and wore them. He then sent him away saying, "Now you may go!"

Those who immersed their minds in Lord Shiva were known as siddhars. By practicing the eight-fold yoga or Ashtanga Yoga and blessed with the grace of the Lord, they were able to perform miracles. When such siddis manifested in Swami, he declared openly, "Chellappa will not exhibit any such powers, he will be known as a mad man to the world and quit away". However strong-willed the siddhas may be, sometimes miraculous power manifest at times without their awareness.

A temple priest from Tirunelveli who had a deep affection for the Swami took great care in bringing some prasādam; food offered to God, for the Swami. Though the Swami admired his devotion on one occasion, he did not take part in the meal. "Take it back, please; I do not want food that is polluted." Disappointed the priest put his head down in shame and went home. He was surprised when he came to know that his children had tampered with the prasādam.

One day, when the Swami was walking along Wayiman Road to the north of Nallur, a youth training a bull came walking proudly in the opposite direction. "Be very careful! It is going to butt you " said the Swami. The youth ignored it as a mad man's uttering. All of a sudden the bull got disturbed, turned around and attacked the youth and sprawled on the ground.

A child in Swami's sister's family fell seriously ill one day. A renowned physician was consulted, but the child refused to take the medicine. The child ran to the Swami and lay itself on his lap. He comforted the child, plucking an orange from a tree near the hut and gave the juice to the child. There was a tremendous improvement immediately and the child was fully cured the next day.

Once, when Chellappa Swami was getting ready to take his food, a puppy followed him licking his feet. Knowing the karma of the puppy, he offered a portion of his food and said, "Eat and go your own way," it ate and went its way. It was over run by a car in a few minutes.

A child of Ramalingam of Columbuthurai was seriously ill. The parents were eager to take the child to Swami, but his mother-in-law warned them, "We do not know to what caste that mad man belongs. Do not take the child to him!" Brushing off this old woman's words, Ramalingam and his wife took the child to Swami. When he saw them, Swami said, "Kanakamma, bring the child here, take the child to a native physician and get this particular medicine. Your mother is speaking of caste. I swear by the sun and the moon that we are no other than Vellala cast from Vaddukkottai." When Swami touched the child the temperature went down. With the native treatment, the child was fully cured.

Chellia Pillai was the father of four girls. He was unhappy that he did not have a male issue to perform his last rites. He came to Chellappa Swami, held his feet tight and said, "Swami, I want a son. Only when I receive you blessings will I let my clutches go". "Chelliah, you will be blessed with a baby boy. Now leave me, leave me" said Swami and released himself. Chelliah was blessed with a son next year.

One day, Swami took a quarter measure of paddy rice, prepared rice and a curry hurriedly. He spread palm thatches on the ground, placed five plantain leaves and served the food. As he raised his head after serving, four people arrived there. He said, "I expected you" and served the food. Though the quantity of rice was little, all five ate to their hearts' content.

Nanniyar was an ardent devotee of Swami. He got hold of the Swami, forcibly tied Swami to a tree and bathed him. "Enough, enough of abhishekam for Nalluran, the Lord of Nallur. Untie me!" he pleaded and fled.

Though Chellappa Swami had openly declared that "Chellappa will not reveal himself", devotees in large numbers came to him, affirming "Chellappah is our father, a good father who showers mercy on us, the golden father of Nallur." Even people from far off places came to him with deep faith, to mention a few; Tiru Jnanasambandhar, Ramalingam, Turaiyappah and Ponniah of Columbuthurai, Arumugam, Ilayatampi, Damodarampillai of Kandarmadam and Murugesu of Kambantarai.

Swami was very kind to them. When some of his pupils said that they wanted to follow the ascetic path, he remarked "That life and you are poles apart. You had better get married." When some said that their relatives were compelling them to get married and sought his permission, the swami would say, "Why should you ask me to get married? Go, go at once!" If anyone spoke about marriage, he would chide in a humiliating tone bluntly saying, "Did you hear? The Government Agent wants me to marry his daughter. He wants me to marry. Shall I?"

A farmer from Mullaitivu was one among the best disciples of Swami. He considered it a great privilege to get rice from Swami as prasadam to eat.

Yoga Swami of Jaffna
Yogaswami of Jaffna

Once he was sitting by the side of Swami to have his meals. He kept on looking at Swami's leaf plate now and again. He thought that when Swami finished his meal, he should take all the left over from the leaf and eat it himself. Sensing the feelings of the farmer, as soon as Swami finished his meals, he folded the leaf and walked on and on a long way towards the east to Chemmani. There he threw the leaf into a deep abandoned well. As soon as this happened, the disciple who had followed the guru stealthily, jumped into the well, took the leaf and licked it. He then washed his limbs, smeared himself with holy ash, folded his legs in the pose of padmāsanam and sat under a poo arasu tree to meditate. It is a popular belief that he never got up but attained samādhi there in that state itself. A small tomb built for him remains there to this day.

Ambalavanar of Columbuthurai was by profession a trader in Maskeliya. He married Chinnachie of Mavittapuarm and was blessed with a son in 1871. He was named Sadāsivam. When Sadasivam's father died, his paternal uncle, Chinch educated him at St. Patrick's College in Jaffna. All Christian schools then were in the practice of giving Christian names to all their students. Sadāsivam came to be called 'Johann' (English 'John'; Tamil ஜோகன்). Johann was a very intelligent student who had the ability to explain vividly what he had learned to other students but he discontinued his studies after some years. Later on, 'Johann' (Tamil: ஜோகன்) came to be understood as 'Yogan' (Tamil: ஜோகன்) or Yoganathan.

As he wished to be on his own Yoganathan took to employment. The Kilinochchi Iranamadu tank was being repaired under the supervision of Mr. Brown, an Englishman. Yoganathan was employed there as a storekeeper. During this period, he practiced intense meditation for his spiritual development. He acquired a powerful look in his eyes. Mr. Brown, who had experienced his powerful look, told the chief clerk that as something strange was happening to him when Yoganathan looked at him and asked the clerk to inform Yoganathan to refrain from looking at him.

Yoganathan, having heard about the greatness of Chellappa Swami from Tirujnanasambandar and Ramalingam of Columbuthurai, went with them one day to Nallur to pay his respects to the Swami. Words are inadequate to describe the emotion that welled up in him when he beheld his guru. Yoganathan himself has explained the state of his mind in the innumerable verses he sang in the praise of his guru. These verses are recorded in the Natchinthanai Pādalkal – the 'Songs of Good Thoughts'. A translation of two among the verses are:

Chellappa Swami and Yogaswami (14751 bytes)
Guru and s'ishya: Chellappa Swami (seated) and Yogaswami from the cover of Têradi Chellappā Cuvāmikal

‘I beheld him at Nallur, the abode of worshippers true.
Inscrutable words he uttered unmoved
I stood, "Who are you?" he chided
From that point his Grace play on me.'
‘At my dazed self he gazed in gladness fine
And his voice impervious at Skanda's shrine
With a view to dispel my delusive bonds
I stood entranced in speechless wonder.'

The words that reached Yoganathan's ear there at the Terādi were "Yāradā Nee? Tedadā Ull! Teerada Pattru" – which means, 'Find out who you are! Dive deep within! Give up attachment!' To know who one really is, one has to give up attachment and as a preliminary step, one has to search within.

To the surprise of all those who were present around, the merciful guru looked at him with immense joy, and proclaimed to the overwhelmed pupil, "I had been waiting for you for so long! Come, come! You alone will be crowned by me." The guru drew him close and with deep love and grace, made known to him the path of Dharma or righteousness. This experience transformed the mind of the disciple and his body thrilled with horripilation. Whatever Chellappa Swami spoke later on took root deeply in Yoganathan and in later years poured out in devotional songs illumining the minds of thousands.

Chellappa Swami was not really a stranger to Yoganathan. This hallowed face of Chellappa was familiar to him. Yoganathan once had a wound in one of his toes and was on the way to get it dressed. Chellappa Swami met him on the way and said, "There is no need for any medicine. Crush that leaf, apply it to the wound and bandage it!" This cured the wound. Later on, when Nanniyar of Columbuthurai had tied up Chellappa Swami to give him a ritual-bath abhisekam and when the Swami screamed, Yoganathan was one of the neighbors who rushed to the spot to untie him.

Even though he was not his former self, Yoganathan became a jñāni after the darshan of his guru and continuously followed him.

Like transforming iron into gold, the guru's merciful and the gracious look off and on transformed him bringing about a tremendous change. He realized that amidst the harsh words of rebukes and chastisement there were many precious gems of spiritual wisdom to be gathered.

Chellappa Swami, in order to establish to the world the greatness and the spiritual maturity of Yogaswami, adopted various unusual devices to put him to test. He would address his loving sishya, "Come, Yohan (ஜோகன்)! We will go to Keerimalai, bathe there, have our meal at the madam, and come back."

As soon as they reached the shores at Keerimalai, he would say, "Yohan, we have had our bath, we shall return." And walked back at the same speed he had come. The sishya never spoke a word, but patiently followed the guru.

Saying "Yohan, today is Monday in the month of March -Panguni Tingal. Let's go to Pandithalaichi, make pongal milk rice, eat it and return," the sishya would walk fast following the guru like a shadow. Saying "Yohan, come, we shall beg today," he would accompany his sishya to the entrance of the Nattukkottai Chettiyar's shop and stand on a side patiently not bothering about the hot sun and his aching legs. The sishya too would wait humbly with folded arms.

One such day, after a long wait, the kanakkappillai (accountant) gave them a copper coin each worth one cent. Chellappa Swami accepted it with great reverence and said delightedly, "We have earned a lot today" and reverently touched his eyes with it. "Yoga, we shall cook rice and just one curry", he would say and then make elaborate preparation, cook a tasty meal and then partake of it together.

Yogaswami had absolute obedience and humility and never disobeyed the guru. He considered the words of his guru as the words of God Himself and carried out most humbly and obediently whatever task was set for him by the guru.

In early days, there lived a munivar or saintly recluse called Namasivaya Deva in a cave at Tiruvannamalai. He meditated in the cave and conversed with Arunachala Eeswara. Very often he inquired of the Lord, "Arunachala! Are you getting on well?" and the Lord would reply " I am well."

A sishya by the same name Namshivayar came to the cave. To test his maturity, the saint Namashivaya Deva ordered him to stand at a particular place. The sishya obeyed the guru to the very words. He stood there rooted day and night. It started raining, yet the sishya stood still. Strange enough, it rained heavily all around the saint but not on him and water didn't touch him.

The guru realized that the sishya had reached the stage of perfection. He honored the sishya with the title ‘guru Namashivaya' and, saying "two elephants should not be fastened to a single stake," sent him to another place. Likewise, when Chellappa Swami ordered, "Yohan, sit here!" Yoganathan sat there and it was only after three days that Chellappa Swami put him up from that place with a pat.

One day in 1910, Chellappa Swami made Yogaswami and Katiravelu Swami to sit side by side and meditate. Tirujnanasambandar of Columbuthurai took the responsibility of attending to their needs and safety. The two sishyas did not know the passing of time day or night for they were immersed in deep meditation of great tapas or penance for forty days.

By the end of the fortieth day, Chellappa Swami made them to rise and ordered them, saying, "Now run away!" Both of them walked on fast facing the east.

Yogaswami, though he did not express it openly, had the desire to go to Katirkāmam and he was granted permission. No one else knew about his secret pilgrimage. The relations of Yogaswami, who did not see him for many days, inquired about him from Chellappa Swami and wanted to know where he was. Chellappa Swami very abruptly said in a firm voice, "Yogan is dead." When the relatives heard this, they wept bitterly, returned to Columbuthurai, performed the last rites and mourned his death.

Yogaswami undertook his pilgrimage to Katirkamam as pāda yātrā -- on foot. On his way, he worshipped the shrines in Trincomalee and proceeded to Batticaloa. A Muslim hermit, who had magical powers, expressed his desire to join Yogaswami to Kataragama. Both of them took the jungle route.

At Pottuvil, a herd of wild buffaloes rushed out from the jungle bushes towards them to charge. With all his might and great determination the hermit chanted his magical words. Though his lips moved frantically as he pronounced the words, they had no effect on the buffaloes. Seeing this, he ran fast, jumped on to a huge tree for cover. Yogaswami stood still and stared at the buffalo that came towards him. When the buffalo saw the Swami, looking at it, its violence vanished and calming down it became tame and departed, and following with it the other buffaloes too went away. The magician came down gingerly from the tree praising the great powers of Yogaswami.

After spending a week of worship at Katirkamam, Yogaswami walked via Matara, Galle, to Colombo. From Colombo he walked to Matale via Kandy, and other places in the hill country. When he reached Matale, he had neither changed his clothes nor had a bath for six months. God could no more endure to see Yogaswami in this pitiable condition.

An overseer, a devotee of Lord Shiva, had a mystical dream. God commanded him thus "My father, engaging himself in severe penance has been to Katirkāmam and has suffered a great deal in coming to Matale. He is in a secluded place here; it is your duty to approach him. Explain to him that God wills that he should bathe, wear new clothes, appease his hunger and be sent back to Jaffna."

The pious overseer took to heart this merciful command of grace. The overseer's eyes welled with tears of joy when he saw Yogaswami in the neighborhood. He prostrated to Yogaswami and conveyed his dream to him. Having listened to it Yogaswami said, "If that is the will of God, then I submit." The overseer took him home, entertained him worshipfully, purchased a railway ticket to Jaffna and offered it to Yogaswami as willed by God.

When Yogaswami returned as if resurrected, the relatives were overjoyed to see him. They were perturbed that Chellappa Swami had said that he was dead. Some wanted to tell him about the mischief he had played on them. When they met Chellappa Swami he acted as if he knew nothing and said, "I never speak lies. I spoke the truth. Even now, I repeat, Yogan had died." As he spoke, he nodded his head with conviction. The relatives laughed at him. "Leave the madman alone and come away," they said and went their way.

When a jeevātma soul lives with attachments, that stage is called the Petha Nilai. When his stage of jiva-hood passes, he attains liberation; the mukti stage of eternal bliss, the Sivatuva stage. The muktas who know the path to mukti are careful not to accumulate karma. Having burnt their sanjita karma by the grace of their guru, they are ever watchful not to accumulate new karmas as ākamiya karma. They move around as a jeevan muktar until they exhaust the effects of the parabhda karma. Though they are alive, they are dead to the world. They are people in whom ‘I' is dead. The ‘I' ego had died in Yogaswami.

Chellappa Swami was instrumental in destroying his malam or impurities, thus freeing him from bondage to merge in Siva, the Paramātma. It is to be understood that the grace of the guru is none other than the grace of God. The spiritually inclined felt that by his sacred words, Chellappa Swami wished to indicate that Yogaswami had been blessed with the greatest gift of seeking union with Lord Siva. The others considered these to be the words of a madman.

Swami Vivekananda, after addressing the World Parliament of Religions in America, came to Ceylon and addressed crowds in Colombo, Kandy, Matale, Anuradhapura and Jaffna. After his address at the Hindu College Hall in Jaffna, the crowd made him sit in a horse carriage and drew the carriage. As they neared the Columbuthurai junction where the three roads meet, Swami Vivekananda got down from the carriage and in joy exclaimed, "Oh! This is an oasis." There was nothing special or sacred about that place at that time. There were only an ilupai trees then. Swami Vivekananda had foreseen that the area would be a holy place very soon.

Chellappa Swami put Yohan Swami through many tests and trails transforming him into pure gold. He refined the human nature and raised him to a divine plane embodying the qualities of the Paramatma in him. He then said to Yohan Swami, "Two elephants can't be fastened to a single stake. Run away and find another place!" "Swami, where am I to go? I don't have any one," pleaded Yogaswami. "Yogan! Look, there at the foot of the ilupai tree at the Columbuthurai Junction", said the guru. Before he left, he looked with longing at the earthen begging bowl that was in the hands of his guru. "Oh! This is a great bond," said Chellappa Swami and smashed it on Yogaswami's head. Then Chellappa Swami bid him farewell, saying, "Yoga, look there at the hut, too."

Once, during a festival Nalluran -- Murugan the Lord of Nallur – was brought to the outer courtyard of the temple to be taken in procession round the temple. The weather was fine but Yogaswami uttered, "Nalluran is going to be drenched." Chellappa Swami, who was at a distance laughed at this and said, "Many have uttered like this." When the Nallur idol was brought to the northeast corner, it started pouring. It is believed that it was in this context that Chellappa Swami remarked to Yogaswami, "Chellappa will never reveal his true self as a Swami. If he did so, the Jaffna man will never leave him in peace. Chellappa, will be known as a madman until his death."

The Jaffna people are noted for perseverance, handicraft and farming. Traditionally, having lived with the palmyrah tree, they were skilled in various handicrafts using the products of the palmyrah tree. They wove fans, boxes, baskets, huge utensils, sieves bags, mats, umbrellas and many more such items. Their work and skill in this was unique. The culture of the Tamils is linked with the palmyrah. The palmyrah was used to make the tali – the sacred symbol of marriage and ornaments to adorn the ears.

The leaf called the olai was used traditionally to initiate children to learn to write the Tamil alphabet. Ancient knowledge in many fields of sciences and arts were preserved in ola edukal. The very ancient heritage and rich cultural tradition of the Tamils would have been lost to the younger generations if they had not been recorded on Ola.

Chellappa Swami had great skill in making various articles out of palm leaves. His artistic handy works were many. He made beautiful articles with jak leaves and coconut palm leaves, plate like vessels in which food was served and many such items. He also wove pretty garlands with flowers. He was also noted for his cooking of delicious porridge, odiyal kool, made from tender dried palmyrah roots.

Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan's reverence for Chellappa Swami was well known and the Swami too had affection towards him. When Sir Ramanathan was appointed as the sole representative of the people of Ceylon in 1910, Swami was very delighted and was all praise for him.

On one occasion, Swami heard at a distance a small group of people engaged in speaking ill of Sir Ramanathan. Chellappa Swami in a loud voice cried out, "No! No! He's a good man, a good man!" They felt ashamed of themselves and changed their opinion. When Sir Ramanathan founded Ramanathan College in 1913, on the day the foundation was laid, Swami went all the way, presented to him a most beautiful fan which was woven by him out of ola leaves, blessed him and the school. Sir Ramanathan was very thankful and worshipped Swami. Swami left the place immediately.

When Bhagavan Śrī Ramakrishna Paramahamsa took ill, he comforted his anxious students saying, "Let the disease and the body that is afflicted by it clash with each other. I shall not be affected by that clash." Whenever Chellappa Swami felt unwell, he would request Sabharatnam, a relative who was helpful to him, to go to Keerimalai to bring neermulli leaves and boil them in water taken from the well in front of the Nallur temple. When the decoction was given he would command, "You have poisoned it. Throw it away".

Next he would ask Sabharatnam to fetch the leaves of castor shrub from Navatkuli and matured leaves of portia tree from Chemmani and boil them in water from the well of the guru pooja madam at Nallur. He would then accuse him that it too was poisoned and order them to throw it away. After controlling his suffering and testing the spiritual maturity of those who served him, he would ask them to pick margosa leaves from a tree near the Vairavar temple, boil it in the water from his compound and wash himself with it.

The human mind travels much faster than the wind. There are scientific instruments to measure the speed of the wind and control it. The instrument to control the mind is pure jñāna (gnosis). The jñānis who have acquired jñānam are able to control the mind. Chellappa Swami had the power to control his mind. Sometimes, he would cook a curry and rice for his meal.

Once, he walked all the way to Madduvil, well known for its tasty brinjals, purchased just one brinjal and, holding it by the edge of its stem with his thumb and forefinger, walked back. On his way he bought a quarter measure of rice at the fair at Muthirai and tied it in his shawl. He paid a cent less to the vendor and was quite delighted to receive her scolding.

After returning to his hut, he prepared the meal very carefully. Then he went round looking for a stick. With the one he found, he smashed all the pots and pans and collected the whole things and threw them out for the hens and crows to feed on. Having done this he sat and laughed.

Chellappa Swami was a lover of the palmyrah. He was an expert in making the odiyal porridge. His disciples who had relished his porridge were one day contemplating this. The guru read their thoughts, called them and asked each one to buy one item: rice, beans, chilly, tamarind, and salt. He washed the pot and placed it on the fire. With the ingredients brought by his pupils, he prepared the delicious porridge.

As it started boiling, the tempting aroma arising from it made the tongues of the pupils to water. They even imagined plucking jak leaves and fashioning cups to drink the porridge. When Swami realized their eagerness and greed, he took a stick from a corner of the room and smashed the pot of porridge. The greed of the pupils then subsided.

Yogaswami, a spiritual master by now heard that Chellappa Swami was ailing and came hurrying to serve his guru. Chellappa Swami realized the anguish with which he came and before he could step into his hut commanded in a loud voice, "Stay out and watch!" Yogaswami obeyed his master. Picturing his guru mentally He stood outside worshiping.

Chellappa Swami knew beforehand the day of his departure. In preparation for the day, he requested his relation and disciple Sabharatnam, a violin master, to perform his last rites. Ramalingam arrived obtaining three days leave to be with Swami. "If you had obtained another three more days of leave, you would have been able to partake in the festival to the full," said Swami."

To another disciple Arumugam Swami, he gave an indication saying, "Tonight I am going to enact a play." It was midnight of Friday in the month of Panguni 1915, the ascending naksatra was Aswani. Chellappa Swami laid himself down, folded one of his legs and kept it over the thigh of the other leg, closed his eyes and placing the right hand thumb in his mouth with the sound ‘Om' reverberating he left the body.

Yogaswami having realized Chellappa Swami's spiritual attainment trailed behind him for five years. By his guru's guidance and grace, Yogaswami blossomed into a poorna jñāni. The Mahav;ākyas of this jivan mukta Yogaswami picked up from Chellappa Swami spread from Jaffna to all the corners of the world. Yogaswami lived long like Appar Adigal and gave us the Natchintanai hymns so that not only the people of our land but the world too might benefit.

These eternal truths revealed to Chellappa Swami of great tapas are to us, like the upanishadic truths culled from the four Vedas. These Mahavakyas are none other than the Advaitic truths propounded by Tirumoolar, Tayumanavar and those of their lineage. These eternal truths uttered by Chellappa Swami and established as the Mahavakyas by his disciple Yogaswami are:

Oru pollappum illai Everything is alright.
Epapvo mudintha kariyam. The task has been accomplished long ago.
Nām ariyom We know nothing.
Muzhuthum unmai. Truth, truth everywhere!

Order Words of Our Master
Order Words of Our Master (pp. 371, US$10 including surface postage) from Dr. Vimala Krishnapillai:

Author of Tamil original: K.C. Kularatnam, 1984.
English translation by Dr. Mrs. Vimala Krishnapillai:

See also:
Sayings of Chellappa Swami
Homage to Yogaswami
Lord Soulbury's article about Yoga Swami
Chellappa Swami's guru Kadai Swami of Jaffna