Even as a formidable scholar, Chippu Kutty’s thirst for knowledge could not be quenched by mere intellectual advances. Despite the accolades earned during his years of public speaking on literature, politics, religion, and Vedanta, he was convinced of the unsubstantial nature of worldly existence and was consumed by the fire of dispassion. Thus, he had already adopted the sannyasi's religious and serene lifestyle long before his initiation into the ochre robe of sannyaasa.
However, since his only younger brother was still in college, he stayed on to fulfil his responsibilities as head of the family, while continuing his own personal spiritual practices and study.
Finally, 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. He studied under a great sannyaasi and requested to be initiated into monkhood. His Guru told him, “Sannyaasa need not be given to you. You take it yourself; you are already a true sannyaasi.” Accordingly, obeying the great call from within, he went to the banks of the Narmada River, performed all the necessary acts of worship, accepted sannyaasa and called himself ‘Tyagananda.’
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.
This hermitage called Tapovan Kutir, in front of the sacred River Ganga, would soon acquire great fame the world over for its spiritual luminescence.