What we have is a gift from Him.
What we do with what we have is our gift to Him.
-Swami Chinmayanandaji



Tapovan Maharaj (1889-1957) was a Hindu Sannyasi and Vedanta scholar.

Sri Swami Tapovan Maharaj is one of the most renowned saints of the 19th century. He was a contemporary of Swami Sivananda Maharaj and was the Guru of Swami Chinmayananda Maharaj. Swami Tapovan Maharaj was born in 1889 on the auspicious Suklapaksha Ekadasi day of Margaseersha month. His mother, Kunchamma belonged to an ancient aristocratic Nair family in Palghat Taluk of Kerala. His father, Achutan Nair, belonged to Kotuvayur in Kerala. Even as a little boy, Swami Tapovan Maharaj exhibited a marked partiality for spiritual life. He delighted in worshipping idols fashioned with his own hands. He was admitted to the local English school, but not liking the thoroughly materialistic education, he decided to quit the school and continued his studies in English, Malayalam and Sanskrit with still greater vigor by himself. Under competent teachers he mastered poems, dramas, grammar and logic. He read all available religious literature in Malayalam, Tamil, English and Sanskrit. He also engaged in spiritual exercises.


Born in Palakkad, Kerala as Subramanian Nair,Tapovan Maharaj exhibited a thirst for spiritual knowledge and self-realisation, also being an accomplished public speaker. He left the modern education system early and dedicated himself to the study of Sanskrit and the Vedanta. After his brother became employed as a lawyer, he entered the order of Sannyasi Tapovan Maharaj did not believe in the system of "ashrams", and was known for his strict solitary lifestyle in the Himalayan region of Uttaranchal. The three places along the holy Ganga where the master is known to have resided were Gangotri, Uttarkashi and Rishikesh. He authored two books on his travels through the Himalayas: "Wanderings in the Himalayas" (Himagiri Viharam) and "Kailasa Yatra." Tapovan Maharaj exhibited a deep love for nature and his accounts of his travels demonstrate such.His autobiography, written in Sanskrit is titled "Ishvara Darshana". After observance of rites and rituals following the Master's last earthly breath (1957), Shri Swami Tapovan Maharaj's body was interred into the holy Ganga by a procession of Sadhus. To this present day, there is a simple, solemn and dignified way in which the Uttarkaashi monks mark the samaadhi of any sadhu and Swami Tapovan Maharaj represents the ideal of austerity and pinnacle of wisdom which all anchorites aspire to.


A Himalayan hermit who with his penance imbued Swami Chinmayanandaji with faith in the scriptures and fire for the truth.

Swami Tapovan Maharaj was a pristine glacier of Self-Knowledge through whom flowed the Ganga of Vedantic wisdom. He was a saint of the higher order, a consummate vedantin, a strict teacher, a compassionate mentor, and a poet whose every thought throbbed with ecstatic awareness, and a sage of unsurpassed wisdom and tranquility.

Filled with divine light, the compassionate sage, shared words of wisdom with all the devotees who came to him in search of spiritual knowledge, but rarely did he accept any resident disciples. When Swami Tapovanam did accept a resident disciple, the latter was trained under the strict conditions. There were few who could undergo and survive such hardships, but those seekers who did, were blessed by the Master with Supreme Enlightenment.

As a jivanmukta or self-realized master, Swami Tapovan Maharaj was a lover of Nature and saw the Supreme Lord in all expressions, within and without. The Truth which Swami Tapovanam realized and indicated in all his teachings is beyond words, as much as he himself was. Swami Chinmayananda said of his Guru, “ He was a God without temple, a veda without language.”


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