Swami Tapovan Maharaj

He is one of history’s few, God’s own ascetic, a beacon of knowledge, and a Himalayan jewel — all rolled into one. Swami Tapovanam is a symbol of complete abidance in Truth, the light that never descended — philosophically, literally, and figuratively. He was that pristine glacier of Self-knowledge from whom flowed the Ganga of Vedantic wisdom through Swami Chinmayananda, the founder of Chinmaya Mission.

Swami Tapovanam was born in 1889 as Chippu Kutty, and was a devout Vedantin. At the age of twenty-eight, unable to control his spiritual hunger, Chippu Kutty left home in search of Truth. He met priests, scholars, saints and sages, devoutly read Vedic scriptures and observed austerities. For seven years he travelled widely, from famous South Indian pilgrimage centres to Kolkata, to Varanasi, Haridwar and Rishikesh. It was in Rishikesh that Swami Janardhana Giri of Kailash Ashram traditionally initiated him into sannyaasa with the name, Swami Tapovanam – “forest of austerities.”
Swami Tapovanam chose to live in the then small, remote mountainous area of Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand. He lived in a one-room mud hut, with no belongings, no comforts, and no involvement whatsoever with the world. Each day, he ate one meal (a watery lentil soup and roti) and took two baths in the freezing Ganga.

Filled with divine Light, the compassionate sage shared words of wisdom with all devotees - Monks, householders, pilgrims, and seekers from all stages and fields of life continually thronged to Uttarkashi to be in the presence of, and learn from, this Self-realized master and erudite scholar. The resident disciples, were trained under the strictest conditions. There were very few who could undergo and survive such hardships, but those seekers who did, were blessed by the Master with supreme Enlightenment.

This pure-hearted monk saw God in everything. He would often stop in his wanderings to point out the majestic scenery saying, “Why can’t man see Divinity behind the ecstatic Artist who has painted this inspired beauty?”

A saint of the highest order, Swami Tapovanam was a consummate Vedantin, strict teacher, a compassionate mentor, a poet whose every thought throbbed with ecstatic awareness, and a sage of unsurpassed wisdom and tranquillity. He is one of those rare sages who personifies the Absolute in every sense of the word — eternal and infinite — radiant and resplendent, dazzling with the effulgence of a million suns. A local sannyaasi remarked, “Gangotri and Uttarkashi lost their glory when Swami Tapovanam left his mortal coil.”