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Azhvanchery Raman Thamprakkal, the spiritual leader of Kerala Brahmins (Namboothiris) passed away on 18th February, 2011 at his residence at Aathavanad, Malappuram. He was 84.
Azhvanchery Thamprakkal was the supreme authority of religious matters of Namboothiri Brahmins of Kerala and had the power to take actions against the defaulters. Even he was authorized to punish those who disobeyed the King.
As per the traditional believes Parasurama (who has created Kerala, mythologically) brought Namboothiri Brahmins to Kerala and distributed in 32 villages and also classified these brahmins in status based on their rituals. Perhaps, each village had one Thamprakkal as the supreme to look after the spiritual activities of others. In status also this family had the top position, even Aaddyan Brahmins were considered inferior to Thamprakkal. The known history give the names of families of four more Thamprakkals. But their rights as Thamprakkal had been removed by the Kings of earlier dynasties. Only Azhvanchery Thamprakkal had the original rights during the last century, and with the death of Raman Thamprakkal, perhaps, the last one also is no more .
Only the senior-most member of the family gets married and the younger ones lead life of Brahmacharies with prayers and spiritual activities.
In matters related to temple rituals and spiritual issues Thamprakkal's words were the last. He owned the maximum number of temples in Kerala. He was given highest respect by ever rulers of various kingdoms existed in Kerala, including the King of Travancore. Thamprakkal was specially invited to attend the Murajapam, a vedic ritual organized by the King at Trivandrum at an interval of six years. Most of the Namboothiri brahmins from all over Kerala used to attend this, especially to please the King. While all these Namboothiris, irrespective of their status paid a visit to the King as an act of respect at his Palace, the King himself would visit the Thamprakkal in his residence, temporarily provided by the King during the Murajapam period. Also the King is welcomed by the Thamprakkal without standing up from his seat. On his part the King takes a round around Thamprakkal and prostrate himself in adoration in front of Thamprakkal.
Thamprakkal is specially invited and honored at the site of Murajapam, since the King wanted his final decisions on any spiritual issues arising during the ceremony. These indicate how esteemed was Thamprakkal placed even by the King. In fact he held a status of spiritual head which could be considered as equivalent to that of the Pope.