P.J.Cherian ( Ed )
Essays on the Cultural Formation of Kerala
literature, Art, Architecture, Music, Theatre, Cinema

The Literary Tradition of Kerala -V.Aravindakshan

Contribution of Kerala to Sanskrit Literature / Contribution to Tamil Literature / Malayalam Literature / The Early Period / The Middle Period   The Modern Period /

Malayalam the youngest of Dravidian languages, developed a literary idiom of its own only by the sixteenth century. But the contribution of the Malayalam speaking land to literature has a long history which can be traced back to the Sangam Age. This is marked by richness and fecundity as well as by its trilingual character. Our poets and scholars augmented significantly the wealth of Sanskrit and Tamil literatures, besides creating a splendid literature in their own tongue. Measured by any standard - of magnitude, variety, originality or depth-the literary tradition of Kerala is magnificent.

A fundamental feature of Malayalam literature is the liveliness with which it interacted, first, sub-continental and, later, with transnational trends and movements. Kerala responded readily and imbibed thoroughly the quintessential ethos and energies of the bhakti renaissance, Liberal Democratic Renaissance and Revolutionary-Socialist Renaissance, all of which rolled on in quick succession. Our literature has kept pace with the accelerating tempo of history, with its temporary lulls and accumulating upheavals. But for this dynamism it would not have attained magnificence.

Another noteworthy feature is its flowing in two distinct streams, one popular and the other elitist, one representing the culture of the masses and the other the counter-culture of the classes. The former has ever strived to gain upper hand, and done so, in varying ways and degrees, at crucial phases of history. To translate this fact in terms of the varna system predominant during the early centuries, the popular stream manifested attitudes and aspirations of the deprived and downtrodden, avarnas, while the elitist one articulated those of the upper and orthodox echelons, traivarnikas. The former was energized by expanding self-awareness and increasing self-assertion and desire for change, while the latter was motivated mostly by the instinct of self-preservation and impatience with change. As the varna system weakened, this divergence came to be determined more and more by rivalries and conflicts among economic classes. Or, to put in more precise terms, varna - determined interests got entangled with economy based interests. The impact of this change on literature is discernibly though not infrequently obscured by mystifying glosses and academic (i.e., ambivalent or value-free) interpretations. The historic changes of recent times may have made the divergence subdue or take subtle forms, but it is still there at the core of our literature.

Contribution of Kerala to Sanskrit Literature

From Kulasekhara (ascribed various dates from the seventh to the twelfth century) to Dr. K.N. Ezhuthassan is about a thousand years. Between Mukundamala, a splendid devotional hymn, and Keralodaya, a belated but brilliant Mahakavya, scores of Kerala writers produced a great deal in Sanskrit poetry, drama, criticism and grammar, philosophy and astronomy. a number of other branches of art and learning were enriched by them. Kulasekhara's Tapatisamvarana and Subhadradhananjaya and Shaktibhadra's Ascharyachoodamani are plays of much renown. Tholans' Mahodayapuracharita, Vasudeva Bhattathiri's Yamakakavyas and Lakshmidasa's Shukasandesa are remarkable poems. The illuminating commentaries on major classics by Arunagiri and Poornasaraswathi are classics in themselves. Sree Sankara's contribution, both by way of aggressive exposition of Advaita Vedanta and enchanting devotional poetry, are of unsurpassed eminence. How can one ever forget the Sreekrishnakarnamritha of Vilvamangalam, or Narayaneeya of Melpathur? Names, like those of Thalakkulathu Bhattathiri and Puthumana Chomathiri (Jyothisham), Chennas Namboodiri (Tantra) and Bhattan Tampuran of Kodungalloor (Tharkam) come to our mind as we think of solid learning embodied in sturdy Sanskrit. It is perhaps, this glorious tradition which inspired poets of even recent times to submit themselves to the stern discipline of composing voluminous Epics like Sree Ramacharita of Vidwan Elaya Tampuran of Kodungalloor, Angalassamrajya of A.R. Raja Raja Varma and Keralodaya of K.N. Ezhuthassan. In this context we may also recall the services rendered by koodiyattom, koothu and patakam in making larger audiences familiar with the culture of Sanskrit literature.

Contribution to Tamil Literature

The most ancient literature of the Dravidians was, no doubt, of the Sangam Age in an archaic Tamil language. It does not, however, mean that the springs of that literature were all in the present day Tamil Nadu. Many of the poems of purananooru and patittuppattu had their origin in this land that lies west of the Sahya range. Patittuppattu is a collection of a hundred poems consisting of ten equal sections, each being composed by a poet praising a Cera King. It is believed that at least three of the poets are Keralites. One of them, Paranar, is one of the great trio of Sangam literature, the other two being Kapilar and Nakkirar. Purananooru is a collection of four hundred poems on puram themes (war-poetry), each of four to forty lines. Some of them too had originated here.

Above all, there is Chilappathikaram, one of the five great epics in Tamil. Its author, Ilango Adigal, if legend is to be trusted, belonged to Kerala. It is a long and loose narrative, interspersed with digressions and lyrics, that tells a noble story. It also deals with music and dance. As John R. Marr points out "until the epic Chilappathikaram, composed some time between the second and the fifth centuries A.D., we do not find in Tamil a continuous narrative of the type present in other early literatures, such as heroic poetry from outside India". It is "a distinctly Tamil story contributed to Indian literature."1 A.L. Basham says, its climax has "a grim force and splendour unparalleled elsewhere in Indian literature. It is imbued with both the ferocity of the early Tamils and their stern respect for justice.....'' 2. Its blending of rhythmic prose and lyrical verse, of the narrative with the dramatic and descriptive, and of legend and history enhance its uniqueness.

Malayalam Literature

The history of Malayalam literature may broadly be divided into three periods. The first is a period of receding Tamil dominance and advancing Sanskrit influence. elitist poets of the age were interested in introducing Sanskrit literary forms like Champu and Sandesa Kavya and in Sanskrit oriented linguistic and stylistic innovations. On the one hand, a shrinking into erotic themes and, on the other, an enlargement of the resources of language and style, could be seen. next period witnessed the birth of sage-poets for whom poetry was a highly serious endeavour with a lofty moral purpose. They consolidated formal achievements of the former age and turned to the Puranas for noble themes. Malayalam poetry reached its pinnacle of glory in this age, evidently influenced by bhakti renaissance, and joined mainstream of the national literature. The third period is marked by the impact of liberal-democratic spirit which came in the wake of the first encounter with the west and spread of modern education. It is also to be noted that new radical ideologies started exerting influence on writers. We see the origin and development of the art of prose, spread of journalism, birth of modern forms such as fiction, drama, lyric and literary criticism. In these decades of unprecedented curiosity and enthusiasm the vision widens and creativity seeks new pastures. Prose takes precedence over verse and becomes the vehicle for both imaginative creation and intellectual exploration. We also find systematic studies of growth and structure of the language as well as of modern literary genres.

In the thirties there was emergence of "progressive literature", in consonance with what was happening in other major languages of India. It was evidently an sentiment. Though the movement later fell into disarray, its impact is not yet exhausted. The formalist, disillusionist, existentialist and obscurantist onslaughts against it have not succeeded in annihilating the movement.

The Early Period

For centuries before the beginning of poetry written by individuals whose names are known, there was in existence a vast oral culture and a body of poems passed through generations by word of mouth only. This oral tradition consists of nursery rhymes, primitive story-poems, incantatory verses, folk songs, ritualistic songs, etc. These are associated with the various phases of life and varieties of labour as well as the seasonal cycle. In the course of centuries their texts have undergone changes or become corrupt. None of them can be heard in its original or pure forms, because generations of singers have added or deleted, or brought in unconscious innovations. Many of them might have acquired linguistic characteristics of later origin and changed in other respects as well since the loss of their original functions as a result of the inevitable alterations in mode of production, social organisation and style of life. Of course, they contain a good deal of social and political history, but it is rather risky to treat them as material for reconstruction of history. They cannot even be confidently accepted as evidence for a history of language and literature. We can only say in a very general manner that the corpus of oral poetry is the earliest source of later poetry.

Kerala has an abundant stock of oral poetry. While some of them are entirely Dravidian in diction and other characteristics there are many songs and ballads which show unmistakable signs of "Aryan" influence. Further, there are regional variations in content and form.

The heroic ballads of north Malabar known as vadakkan pattukal and those of south Tiruvithamkur known as tekkan pattukal constitute a well-defined category. The northern ballads relate the exploits of valiant men and women of two clans, viz., Puthooram and Manikkoth. Unniyarcha, Aromal Chekavar and Aromalunni are the towering figures of the former, while Thacholi Othenan is the one dominant figure of the latter. The background of the stories is feudal and medieval. The stories celebrate the valour and fencing skills of the renowned characters. The sacrifices the heores and heroines make in accordance with their code of honour are awesome. The northern ballads show the tragic heights scaled by folk-poetry.

Iravikutti Pillai
Poru is the most prominent among the southern ballads. It tells the story of a warrior who wins eternal honour through death in battlefield. This and other southern ballads are Villupattus i.e., sung to the accompaniment of a huge bowfitted with bells. They are also sung in chorus, unlike the northern ballads.

Some of the ballads of the north are primarily stories of love, while some others retell puranic legends. There are also ballads that express fierce protest against social inequalities and injustices. The puranic ballads show the influence of the Sanskrit puranas in their narrative style.

Songs and sayings of folk-origin are countless and of infinite variety in motifs, metrical patterns, tunes and rhythms. They include lullabies and other nursery rhythms, recreational songs, religious hymns, ritualisitc recitatives and work-songs. They are all endowed with simple but bewitching melodies. Folk-plays, proverbs, riddles and absurd jokes are also found in our rich folk-lore.

The narrative poetry, or pattu, of the earliest period may have drawn much from the resources of the tradition of ballads for its metrical and stylistic devices. The art of narration gained perfection, diction became sophisticated and rhetorical figures acquired variety in course of time. However refined the artistry of the poetry of the literate is, its roots are to be sought in the fertile soil of the invaluable rustic lore.

The history of Malayalam poetry begins with Ramacharitham, a pattu. In the preface to his Malayalam-English Dictionary, Dr. Gundert says: "This history i.e., history of Malayalam commences for us (if we accept a few inscriptions on copper and stone) with Ramacharitham, in which we probably have the oldest Malayalam poem still in existence, composed as it was before the introduction of the Sanskrit alphabet and deserving of the particular attention of the scholar, as it exhibits the earliest phase of the language perhaps centuries before the arrival of the Portuguese."

Though there has been much diversity of opinion regarding its language, all agree about the quality of its poetry. The title is rather misleading, because the poet does not tell the whole story of Rama. Ramacharitham confines itself to the Yudhakandas of Valmiki's Ramayana with occasional glances at Kishkindha and Sundara kandas.

The name of the poet is Cheeraman. He describes himself as one "whose mind is immersed in Adi Deva". The influence of the bhakti cult of contemporary Tamil poetry is further confirmed by his depiction of Hanuman and Vibheeshana as symbols of devotion. At the conclusion of the poem he has spelt out his aim, which was "to enlighten the common people".

The poet's special interest in the Yudhakanda has prompted some scholars to conclude that the poet must have been a prince. But such a conclusion seems to be unwarranted. We may take it to mean that his intention was to write a puramkavya and not an akamkavya. Tamil poets, we know, divided poetry into these two categories on thematic grounds. He works within the Tamil tradition in another respect as well. The poem is divided into padelams (164 in number) following the custom of the Alwars and Nayanars. The metres he chose are vrittavisheshas, i.e., non Sanskrit (Dravidian) metres, though we come across Sanskrit metres sometimes. Altogether, the work neatly fits into the convention of Tamil poetry and exactly accords with the definition of pattu in Leelathilakam.

There is much controversy about the language of the poet. It may be described as a dialect-mix, deliberately elevated from the level of the spoken form of the poet's place and time, a bilingual area in south Tiruvithamkur of the eleventh or twelfth century. In spite of the "southernness" of the language Ramacharitam was popular in the north as well.

Ramacharitam is a pattu written in a language intelligible to the common people, in metres familiar to them and in a style pleasing to them, with the noble objective of combining pleasure and profit, observing a well established decorum.

Meanwhile, we also find the increasing dominance of Sanskrit, in the school of poetry known as manipravalam. It is an elitist poetry written in a hybrid diction where the native language and Sanskrit are almost imperceptibly combined in a regular manner. The poets of manipravalam were darlings of fortune and minions of Venus. They churned out poem after poem lauding lascivious dancing girls and licentious love. Their poetry is admired for impressive descriptions, rhetorical extravagances and vivacious wit.

Manipravalam, in its early days, was not merely a matter of linguistic peculiarity or dictional individuality, as the Leelathilakam _ an early work on grammar, rhetoric, etc. which was in circulation by the end of the fourteenth century, that is, two or three centuries after the beginning of this kind of poetry-suggests. According to Leelathilakam this was expected to exhibit certain specific features distinguishing it from pattu; one, blending native and Sanskrit vocabulary; two, using Sanskrit words as tatsamas, i.e., without dravidianizing them; three, using Sanskrit inflexional endings for Sanskrit words invariably and for native words occasionally; four, confining to Sanskrit metres. Incidentally, Tholan's parodies of manipravalam verses are famous.

P. Sankaran Nambiyar explains the developing of such a direction by the Namboodiris thus: "They were presumably more interested in leading by the hand the other less learned classes on to the fair fields of classical literature. Sanskrit vocabulary and grammar, administered in short and sweet doses, would be taken in by the average reader without much effort. He would thus be initiated into the intricacies of Sanskrit grammar in the course of his joyous poetical studies, almost without his own knowledge.3 However, the average reader must have found himself led up "the primrose path of dalliance" to a haven of concupiscence. The Namboodiri poets and others who imitated them were singing paeans to concubines and courtesans "in full throated ease". What they flaunted was an affluent class-hedonism, with special emphasis on erotic scenes and sentiments. The manipravalam poets presented decadent stuff in classical forms. Their works were steeped in rank sensuality.

of about eleventh century, reminiscent of Damodaragupta's Kuttanimatham, is one of the earliest works in manipravalam. It is a hand-book for prostitutes, in the form of an experienced mother's advice to her daughter initiated into the profession. The other important works of this school are three champus, a Sandesa Kavya (message poem) and a verse-narrative. The Champus - compositions mixing verse and rhythmic prose; a genre transplanted from Sanskrit - are Unniyachi Charitham, Unnichiruthevi Charitam (thirteenth century) and Unniyati Charitham (fourteenth century). There was also a plethora of message-poems. The most outstanding of them is Unnuneeli Sandesam (1350 - 1365), renowned for its descriptive passages, where the beauty of nature comes alive, with felicitious phrasing and mellifluous versification supposedly modelled on Kalidasa's Meghadoota, this, as well as the umpteen other Sandesas, is but a glorified travelogue in verse. The triumphant culmination of the manipravala style we find in Chandrotsavam (fifteenth - sixteenth century), a flimsy story in splendid verse.

Dr. K.M. George comments: manipravala poems give us a general idea of the social background of the higher castes of Kerala in those days. Namboodiris and their satellites drank deep at the fountain of life and the moral standards they set are, we think, rather loose. Chastity was of no account and the institution of prostitutes was accepted as sacred, particularly for devadasis. Poets found it worth while to sing glories of those women. No poet of significance missed this opportunity as they were products, or perhaps the victims, of the prevailing social conditions and modes."4

In the midst of all this revelry we hear the mighty strains of a lofty lay rising above the salacious warblings of manipravalam, ramakathappattu to rise above the better known poems of the period. It is "deep, majestic, smooth and strong". Dr. P.K. Narayana Pillai, who published the full text of the work for the first time in 1970 attributes it to Ayyapilla Asan and places it in the bardic tradition. It is a pattu believed to have been composed towards the end of the fourteenth century, and used to be sung until recently to the accompaniment of a musical instrument called chandravalayam. Ayyapilla Asan has deviated boldly from the rules and regulations proposed by the Leelathilakam for pattu. Thus he is a rebel. He is the first poet to render the whole story of Valmiki's Ramayanam in Malayalam. Thus he is a pioneer too. The poet has cleverly condensed the story by selecting episodes judiciously. Nevertheless, the poem is of considerable magnitude. It is an important landmark in Malayalam poetry and the precursor of later Rama-stories in the language.

The Middle Period

The impact of bhakti renaissance became quite pronounced in Malayalam with the arrival of Kannassans in the south and Cherusseri in the north (fourteenth - fifteenth centuries) and reached its peak with Ezhuthassan (sixteenth century). These poets were carrying forward a tradition which was already well established in Tamil. The non-Sanskritic literature of bhakti blossomed earlier in south India. In many puranas we come across the statement; Utpanna draavida bhakti, i.e., the cult of bhakti originated in the Dravida country. The literature it generated is extremely important for the history of the development of modern Indian languages.

Krishna Kripalani says: "The lyrical overflow of religious adoration had an earlier literary burgeoning in Tamil, in the poetry of the saiva and vaishnava saints of the sixth century onwards. The philosophy as expounded by the Tamil sage Ramanujacharya was carried to north India in the fourteenth century by Ramananda who was traditionally the teacher of the famous poet Kabir. Madhavacharya from Karnataka carried bhakti to Bengal where its most ecstatic exponent was the Bengali Saint Chaitanya, whose teachings spread from Orissa in the east to Vrindavan (near Madhura), a district specially connected with the Krishna myth in the west, and travelling south had a marked influence on the development of Vaishnava poetry in Kannada, a significant example of the cultural interaction of Dravidian and Indo-Aryan influences."5

It was a single impulse, that of devotion, glowed in a vast constellation of poets all over India. These poets developed their mother tongues into powerful and flexible means of literary expression. They did this by drawing upon the resources of Sanskrit as well as those of their own spoken dialects. The most impressive example of this is seen in Tulasidas (1532-1623). Besides thousands of Sanskrit words, he used freely thousands of words of Persian and Arabic origin also. Further, he adapted any word he caught hold of to fit nicely into the metres in which he composed. He gave a new texture to the language. It is a process similar to this that we find in the endeavours of the Kannassans, Cherusseri and at its best, in Ezhuthassan.

Bhakti has a sociology which is as significant as theology. The old approaches of sacrificial rites are supplanted by a new attitude to God that is emotional. The result is a monotheistic mysticism. This theology is reflected clearly in the poetry of the time in various ways; retelling the story of Rama, projecting him as an incarnation of the Supreme, propagating a comparable Krishna cult through free translation or creative adaption of the Bhagavata (especially its tenth book); popularising the Bhagavad Gita either by easily accessible exegesis or by rendering its content in free but faithful compositions; producing exquisitely melodious keertana (hymns) the choral singing of which would be successfully rivalling with stereotyped sacerdotal rituals in the orthodox brahmanic mould. All this literary activity was in vernaculars, pushing back the devavani (God's own language), Sanskrit into the mouldering memories of pandits and mahants. It is interesting in this context to recall what Kabir said: "Sanskrit is the water in a well, the language of the people is the living stream". This literary revolution - dominance of vulgari eloquentia - is one aspect of the sociology of the bhakti cult.

Another striking aspect of bhakti movement is the rise of avarnas to leadership. Most prominent personalities of the upsurge were men of "low birth", people derived any right to pollute" the sacred treasure of vedas, itihasas and puranas. The avarna sages and poets violated this stern brahmanical injunction, although they did not denounce or defy the smrities in so many words. They were rebels in action. This too is exemplified by the life and work of Tulasidas. He was the most famous spiritual heir of Ramananda who brought about two radical innovations, viz., removal of caste-creed barriers and exclusive use of vernacular. Tulasidas was continually harassed by the priestly classes who eked out a living by their knowledge of Sanskrit. He had to shuttle between Varanasi and Ayodhya because of that harassment. Nevertheless he persevered in his work undaunted. Legends tell us how our own Ezhuthassan was taunted and insulted by arrogant brahman contemporaries. When they failed to silence him, legends indicate, the crafty pundits claimed that he was the son of a Namboodiri. monopoly of brahmans over learning and preaching was broken once for all. At least on the plane of ideas, and frequently in action too, caste-creed differences were obliterated. The whole of mankind was seen as a fraternity, children of a compassionate God. spirit of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity is pervasive in attitudes, activities and teachings of saintly preceptors and poets of the bhakti cult, though with the limitation that it adopted the medium of a variety of Hindu idiom.

Kannassans elevated plebeian art of pattu to the dignity of classics and gave a new dimension to our poetic diction. They are a trio of poets - Madhavan, Raman and Sankaran - whose place of origin is believed to be Niranam near Thiruvalla, and hence designated as "Niranam poets". It is conjectured that they lived in the second half of fourteenth century and first half of the fifteenth century.

Of all Niranam works Ramayana of Rama Panickar is the best. The skill shown by the poet in condensing as well as expanding is marvellous. Without leaving any of the dramatic episodes in the story and illuminating the drama in striking phrases, he retells the story told by Valmiki in his own independent fashion. He blends narrative, descriptive and discursive elements judiciously. Similar is the achievement of Sankaran Panickar in his rendering of Mahabharatha as Bharatamala.

Madhava Panickar was the first to introduce Bhagavad Gita into Malayalam. His Bhashabhagavad Gita is the earliest translation of Gita into any language. It is not an exact translation but a transcreation. Madhavan's importance is not only in his chronological primacy, he gave the language that sinewy quality which is the hall mark of good metaphysical poetry.

Whether kins (as is aversed by some scholars) or not, they evince a unity of purpose and style. All the three infused high seriousness in their poetry. Their moral edification was so infectious that it influenced to some extent even that "fleshly school poetry" the manipravalam.

Their language is remarkable for its adept fusing of the Tamil and Sanskrit elements. They used Sanskrit words without Dravidianizing them as was expected of the pattu poets. Words from Sanskrit were to be used as tatsamas, in the original form, only in manipravalam; pattu was supposed to render them only as tadbhavas. The Niranam poets violated this elitist rule nonchalantly. Their language represents a transitional stage in the development of our literary idiom.

The niranam poets used a variety of metres. But they preferred one particular metre viz., tarangini, imaginatively modifying it to suit their well conceived purpose. This niranam vrittam was zealously adopted by many prominent poets of later ages. Many of their rhetorical devices were also sedulously imitated by successors of no mean merit.

They were the first to bring the spirit of the bhakti movement into our literature. The transcreation of Bhagavad Gita into vernacular, the courageous violation of traivarnika rules and regulations, and the critical attitude towards brahmans - all these are of immense significance.

This is how Sri Suranad Kunjan Pillai assesses the fundamental significance of the Kannassans as makers of Malayalam language. "Though the language changed in many ways in the succeeding centuries, by and large the foundation of the modern language is the style evolved by the Kannassans. What Ezhuthassan and Cherusseri and, at a later stage, Kunchan Nambiar did was to beautify it in response to the needs of times."6

Another masterpiece of the period is Krishnappattu or Krishnagatha. The author of this long poem is a Namboodiri, known simply by his family name, Cherusseri. From what the poet says in the induction, it is firmly inferred that he was a protege of King Udayavarman of Kolathunadu. That means he lived in the fifteenth century. The poem is an abridged version of the Bhagavatham, one of the usual sources for bards of the bhakti movement. Its avowed aim is to promote vairagya, renunciation. Neverthless, at no point is the poem marked by solemn didacticism. It is alive with
innocent humour. Krishna the poet portrays, is in all phases of his career and in all his activities a winsome playful figure, whom the poet contemplates with a smile on his lips. Cherusseri says at the very outset that he is going to tell the story of the leela of the Absolute. It is couched in gatha, a metre not unknown to earlier dravidic literature. The language has little of the Tamil element in it, not even that much as seen in the modern language of the Kannassans. easy flow of narration, tuneful verse, ever present sense of humour, lively wit, simplicity of diction, altogether give the poem an irresistable charm. The distinguishing characteristic of Krishnagatha is this charm that disarms any one who approaches it with tools of academic criticism.

In the next century, Thunchath Ramanujan Ezhuthassan brought to a splendid consummation the trends released by the masters of the fifteenth century. With him our language came of age. The imbalances and idiosyncrasies, the inevitable result of regional dialectal variations, were ironed out and a standard language established. In his Ramayana and Mahabharatha (as well as in other works positively) classical Sanskrit and popular speech are amalgamated with refined taste and tact. He used Sanskrit words, with long compound words, and (rarely) inflexional endings, but he succeeded in fusing them with the vernacular. Thus he created an idiom which has not yet been superceded or surpassed. He is the father of Malayalam, an appellation none else can share. Many of his expressions and passages have easily become part of the common literary property of the Keralites.

His popularity owes something to the singing metres that he judiciously chose for his Kilippattu. It is suggested that one of the metres, viz., annanada, was invented by him. Until recently it was taken for granted that he was the originator of the genre known as Kilippattu. But now it is suggested that it had been in vogue in early Tamil poetry. This view disregards what the bird (Kili) does in Tamil poetry and what it does in Ezhuthassan's Kilippattu. In the former the bird is only a passive listener, while in the latter it is endowed with moving eloquence. Dr. K.N. Ezhuthassan avers thus: "What we see is an advance in the art, making use of an exquisite simple model. Like manipravalam, Kilippattu is not Kerala origin; nevertheless it must have flowered on the soil of Kerala absorbing a rare bloom and fragrance."7

Adhyatma Ramayana, the most widely and piously read of Ezhuthassan's poems, is a free rendering of a Sanskrit work of that name. It is not merely the story of Rama told anew. It is a religious and spiritual poem. The poet has almost recast the original, compressing and expanding, omitting judiciously, and enriched it by imagination. The characters are realised as human beings, i.e., not as divine incarnations, and incidents endowed with human interest. The story proceeds with ease, guided by the teller with sovereign sureness of touch. The predominant sentiment of this epic is bhakti. Despite the command the poet exercises on his material, the narration is often interrupted by effusive hymns.

The source of the Uttara Ramayana is Valmiki's Ramayana. On occasions Ezhuthassan has boldly deviated from the original to represent the sentiment of pathos (karuna) in a more impressive manner. Once again, the poet shows his marvellous skill in condensation.

It is in the Mahabharata Ezhuthassan's art reaches its highest peak. Vyasa's work has 2,15,000 stanzas. Ezhuthassan's Mahabharata has only a little over 21,000. It is a stupendous feat of condensation. He is, it seems, concerned strictly with the story and its moral essence. He has omitted the philosophical part of the original, the Bhagavad Gita, as he has the various Upakhayanas (subsidiary stories) which are evidently irrelevant. He makes, however, full use of the scope provided by the Mahabharatha to display his talent for characterisation, description and representation of thoughts and feelings. Above all, it differs from Adhyatma Ramayana radically in the restraint the poet shows in detachable hymnal passages (on Krishna) which are not as disproportionately prolific as in the earlier work. The style, too, is more natural. It approximates better language as spoken by men and women in common situations. The adaptation of the grand style to the matter on hand is admirably tactful. For all these reasons the Mahabharata is undoubtedly a work that shows unmistakable signs of maturity

Tradition attributes translations of Devimahatmyam and Brahmandapuranam (work from Sanskrit) to Ezhuthassan. Sitavijayam, a Kilippattu, in which Ravana meets with his end at the hands of Sita, is another work ascribed to him. Scholars have expressed doubts about their authorship. Two other works which can more or less definitely be considered to be his are Harinamakirtanam and Chintaratnam. The former is a vaishnavaite hymn in which the poet expounds several doctrines with remarkable brevity. The latter is supposed to be a work composed especially to impart vedanta to women folk. Ramayanam Irupattinalu Vrittam is also believed to be a work for women, and it has been popular as a string of songs, in different metres, sung by women. Just as Sudras, women had also been denied access to the vedas. It seems Ezhuthassan was eager to make available the essentials of vedanta to them as well.

Ezhuthassan's attitude towards the prevalent orthodoxy was apparently ambiguous. He recognizes the exalted position of the traivarnikas and his own inferior position as a Sudra. He accepts the hierarchy as God ordained. But he dealt with the vedas and the saastras and brought their quintessence into his mother tongue. In this respect he was acting as a rebel, following the precedent of the Kannassans (who were more forthright). Ezhuthassan saw with dismay the corruption at the top and the rot that percolated to all levels of society. His poetry expresses his reaction against all these. Though mediated through an advocacy of other worldliness there is an element of anguished protest implict in his endeavour as a poet.

Dr. K. Raghavan Pillai says: "In a climate where only the power of caste and wealth held sway, and ritualism and ignorance were rife, Ezhuthassan came as a depuranic spiritual leader and showed the masses a way and gave them a new dignity. When reading of the vedas was prohibited for many, he gave to these very people the essence of Vedic knowledge in permissible and palatable forms. He gave them the puranas and the gospel of devotion. And he packed this wisdom in poetry that was memorable for its felicity, sweep and dynamism.8

There are two other poets of this age, namely Poonthanam and Melpathur, whose contribution to the literature of Kerala is universally esteemed. Poonthanam represents bhakti (devotion) in its pure and perfect essence and Melpathur vibhakti (learning) of a very high order. While the former wrote in simple Malayalam the latter opted for Sanskrit. Poonthanam's poetry flows straight from his anguished soul. Though he propounds vairagya (renunciation) - prompted by intense personal grief, he is not entirely unconscious of the evils that vitiated contemporary society. There are remarkable lines in his Jnanappana (The song of wisdom) which are incandescent with social criticism, lines reminiscent of Milton's condemnation of the corrupt clergy in Lycidas. He pours out indignation at pompous princelings, corrupt courtiers, pretentious pedants and the general indulging in fleshly sports. His wrath at the prevalent immorality and inhumanity is expressed in unambiguous terms. In Poonthanam's poetry we find a touch of the sarcasm.

Apart from his magnum opus, Narayananeeyam, Melpathur had composed a dozen champus. His champus too were in Sanskrit and they came to be used by koothu and patakam artists. It seems many poets took to champu composition as a pastime. Besides champus in Sanskrit there was a deluge of them in manipravalam. According to an earlier estimate, there are atleast seven hundred of them! But Vatakkumkoor Rajaraja Varma, an authority on the subject avers that the number of Bhashachampus cannot be higher than two hundred. Of these there are two which are of special distinction, namely, the Ramayanam champu of Punam Namboodiri and the Naishadham champu of Mazhamangalam. Unlike champu of the early days these works drew their material from the hoary puranas and show seriousness of purpose.

and patakam are performing arts in which puranic stories are told in an elaborate manner, in a humorous style and interspersed with moral and religious teachings. Constrained by ritualistic practices and confined to temple-precincts, they produced and propagated a sort of elitist literature. Kathakali was another performing
art which remained confined to extremely narrow circles for a long time and still succeeded in giving rise to a genre of high quality poetry. It is a dance drama in which dialogue is in the form of songs sung by musicians to the accompaniment of chenda and maddalam, while the actor representing a few typical characters, "speak" through gestures and rhythmic physical movements. Of all the three, kathakali has the histrionic element in highest proportion and sophistication. The literary quality of some of the attakkathas (librettos for kathakali, literary "story for dancing and acting") is very high. The earliest of the attakkathas is believed to be a cycle of eight Ramayana stories (collectively known as ramanattam) composed by Kottarakkara Tampuran about whose date there is an ongoing controversy. Next in importance are the works of Kottayathu Tampuran whose period is about the middle of the seventeenth century. Since the four attakkathas he wrote _Bakavadham, Kalyana saugandhikam, Kirmeeravadham and Kalakeyavadham punctiliously conform to the strict rules of kathakali, they are particularly favoured by orthodox artistes and their patrons. Another attakkatha poet of this category is Irayimman Tampi (1783-1863).

The kathakali literature reached its pinnacle of glory with the Nalacharitam of Unnayi Varier. This work stands head and shoulders above all other attakkathas, as an excellent classical drama in kathakali mould. The poet is more of a genuine artist than a master craftsman. He transferred dramatic conflict from the stage to the soul. To achieve this end Variar defied rigid conventions nonchalantly and thereby gave a new dimension to kathakali as such. In every respect-designing and developing of plot, characterization, ending of the story, choice of appropriate ragas for the songs, style and diction Nalacharitham is unconventional and unrivalled. This is the first dramatic composition in Malayalam. Unnayi Variar transformed a "blood and thunder" melodrama into a brilliant tragedy. Unfortunately, significance of the revolution he brought was not fully understood or appreciated by his successors.

As Prof. K.P. Narayana Pisharodi says: "There is no other literary genre than thullal which has the power to portray our rural life so truthfully and comprehensively.9 It is the creation of our astonishingly original and enterprising genius, Kalakkathu Kunchan Nambiar. Thullal is of three kinds-ottan, sheetankan and parayan-which are collectively called ottanthullal. Nambiar fashioned it out of elements drawn from kootiyattam, kathakali and koothu, all classical arts, on the one hand, and patayani, a popular form of ritual, on the other. The most striking characteristic of thullal is the extreme simplicity. It's costume, singing, dancing and accompanying orchestra, are simple. Though an amalgam of diverse, traditional elements, it has unity and freshness. It was Nambiar's genius that gave birth to the first "people's theatre" of Kerala, and he remains unsurpassed.

Nambiar was the last abashed when he declared that he wrote only of regale" rugged soldiers" (bhatajanam). Koodiyattom, kathakali and koothu addressed on "elite few. But kunchan Nambiar was determined to reach a wider audience, the common masses, the "martial sort". Naturally, he wrote in a style suited to his purpose. He selected stories, episodes and characters from universally revered itihasas and gave them all an earthy tang. He brought the celestials down to the terrestrial dust reversing the time honoured tradition. In the thullal immortals act and speak just as mortals. This is a device used by the poet to heighten the pervasive humour in his compositions; and this has not missed the mark.

Nambiar's characters constitute the cross-section of contemporary society. He has also included some representatives of communities who speak their own outlandish lingos that are ludicrously mutilated or distorted versions of standard Malayalam. The poet's commitment to realism is uncompromising. He has made at least one of them speak in pure Sanskrit, e.g., Ravana's hymn in that language. Nambiar is never at a loss for words. It is as if he "lisped in numbers". Words and verses flow freely and plentifully. If he does not find a word that will not rhyme aptly with another he would coin a new one without any compunction e.g., pooshakan Nambiar's telling modification of the word poocha meaning cat happily rhyming with "mooshikan" meaning rat. His language, which is invariably plain and vigorous, gain colorfulness thus. The language may not be elegant, but its vibrancy is unmatched. The narrative is interspersed with vivid descriptions, and both are equally brisk and vivacious and sonorous.

Kunchan is a satirist par excellence. High and low, rich and poor, learned and "lewd", saint and sot, all come within his sweep. None escapes the darts that are scattered far and wide. He attacks vice and folly without mercy. What is particularly astonishing is his deeply felt sense of equality, particularly in an age which accepted caste-system as divinely ordained and revered the high- born with awe. Kunchan anticipated the defiant and inspired a new progressive literature. The leveller that he was the poet still retains his relevance and vitality. Naturally, later, progressive with their resolve to create a literature of militancy and mass appeal paid homage to Kunchan by imitiating (with different degrees of success though) him.

Kunchan's contribution to the genre of Kilippattu is also of considerable merit. But his one attakkatha, palazhimathanam is of little worth. His works other than the thullal compositions testify to his learning, versatility and diversity of interests.

The Modern Period

After the departure of Kunchan Nambiar, there was a lull in Malayalam literature, which lasted for about half a century. The creative genius of Kerala was hibernating. It was waiting for the right season or for a conjunction of circumstances which would rouse its vital impulse once again. And finally the moment arrived by the middle of the nineteenth century. The circumstances were invigorating indeed and they gave a new fillip and purpose to literary endeavours.

It is not suggested here that there was no literary composition at all during the long period of droopping on dormancy. There were of course remarkable talents keeping poetry alive. But the mahakavya as they sedulously churned out were obviously imitative and derivative. That is, we see in them only the faint gloam of the neo-classical but not the radiance of the genuinely classical. The verses are pleasing to ear, but they are not "mighty harmonies". even in the major compositions, of the period a lamentable lack of vision, vigour and vitality is evident.

The new stirrings were the result of the radical and comprehensive changes brought about in the life of Kerala by forces of alien as well as native origin. The first revolutionary development usually cited is the advent of English education. Sri Surendranath Banerjee, President of the Indian National Congress, said thus in 1902 "If today its instinct with a new spirit and a new life, if new broadened ideas have the horizon of our vision, it is all due to English education". According to him, the English education had created "the most stupendous revoultion...... it may be a silent and bloodless revolution, but one of the greatest revolutions ever witnessed in any age or country".

There is no gain saying the importance of English education as a powerful catalyst. However, it could have produced the result people experienced only if it had unprecedented materials to work upon. Those materials had their origin in indigenous social forces, urges and aspirations thrown up by flow of history. First there was the emergence of an enterprising middle class who could easily and immediately attune and adapt itself to the "modern, challenging the authority and discarding the attitude of the medieval age. The spirit of individualism, perfectly concomitant with the institution of free enterprise, made its appearance and asserted itself with increasing vigour.

Second, the traivarnikas became more and more self assertive, organized and militant. They became aware of their natural rights and dignity as human beings and social, political and economic rights as citizens of a polity the governance of which was hitherto the privilege and preserve of secular and ecclesiastic magnates of the savarna summit. They would no more be deprived of their right of admission in educational institutions, to be employed in civil service, to have their due share in political power, to worship in temples and have their own temples, to reform their rituals and manners, etc.They did not wait for the munificence of the powers that be. They established their organizations to agitate and institutions to propagate their views, journals to air their demands and educate the masses. The foremost of the symbols of this resurgent Sudra attentiveness was Sri Narayana Guru. The turbulance thus created by the "under-dogs" led to the dissolution of the traditional hierarchical structures which had consolidated themselves after the two earlier-Buddhist and bhakti-challenges.

It was at this juncture that institutions of modern education radicated the impact of English education. This impact got a fillip and further means of disseminations when modern technology of reproducing books made its headway and journals came to be established. The development of means of transport and communication also played its significant role in pushing modernization ahead.

The over-all effect of all these on the minds of writers and intellectuals was tremendous. The new spirit impelled them to welcome literary genres from the west and strive for greater linguistic mobility. Rationalistic attitudes and scientific temper overwhelmed them in the course of a few years. The astonishing changes they saw forced them to read history anew and steer it in unprecedented directions. The final outcome was steady secularisation and democratization of imaginative literature. Further the period witnessed the beginning of research into the history of our literature and scientific study of the structure and growth of Malayalam language.

There was also a new thinking on the nature and function of literature and new critical criteria were evolved for evaluating literary works. This was inevitable with the birth of romantic poetry and modern prose fiction. It was impossible to strait-jacket typical poems, novels and plays into the rigid frame of old rhetoric. There was need for a new poetics, and it was met by adopting freely, principles of western literary criticism and delving deep into Indian poetics. The process was accelerated and enlarged by academic studies at various levels. As the reading public grew in number and all kinds of journals devoted columns for book-reviews, critical activity ceased to be confined to coteries and class-rooms.

The literary renaissance of the period was part of the movement that swept the whole of India. In all the major languages of the country similar phenomena had come into prominence. Prose swamped verse, romantic impulse became active, novel began to charm the readers, new linguistic studies and, modern lexicography evolved, literary associations and journals got established, literary criticism influenced by western principles were introduced, academic studies of literature gathered momentum, printing had started and the art of writing had filtered down to the masses, and, above all, the old genres had receded into enclaves of orthodoxy and new ones gained widespread recognition. There was an entirely new ideological atmosphere and revolutionary urge combined with nationalist fervour. The writers of the epoch approached epics and other revered master-pieces of the past not with worshipful but critical attitudes, resulting in new interpretations of well known characters and situations. It is also remarkable that the Sanskrit works selected for translation were not poems and plays noted for their spiritual, religious or metaphysical content, but for artistic qualities. The fact that there was keen interest in the works of Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti is not without its distinct significance.

A towering personality of our literary resurgence was Kerala Varma Tampuran. Though born and brought up in an orthodox family and educated in the traditional way he was sensitive to the progressive changes and even promoted them in his own way. With his sure ear for the tremors of the epoch he "warned the writer of following the beaten track by choosing themes from Hindu mythology".10 He said, in his presidential address, to Bhashaposhini sabha, in 1910: "Only works written on the basis of common subjects would appeal to the Keralites consisting of the followers of different religions."11 He also appealed to the writers of the day "not only to make it reflect human life."12 Probably, this was the earliest championing of secular and humanist literature.

Kerala Varma's enthusiasm for the development of a good prose style and more of prose literature is unprecedented. What he did in this direction, as Chairman of the Text book committee of the government of Tiruvitamkur, is worthy to be remembered with gratitude. Some efforts had already been made by Christian missionaries to develop modern prose in Malayalam. They had evolved a new prose style out of the speech of the "vulgar" populace, and fashioned it as a medium for descriptive, narrative and discursive writing. Scholars trace the history of prose, back to the princely prose (of royal proclamations, decrees, edicts etc.) and the ornate and rhythmic prose of the champus and the involved prose of early commentaries and stage-manuals. But none of these varieties of prose has anything to do with the homely but sinewy prose that emerged in the new age. Prose as we know and use had its birth only in the sixteenth century that is, with the deliberate cultivation of it by Christian missionaries. A utilitarian prose of a common standard, which provided the infrastructure for a dynamic literature could have come only from a source outside the well entrenched tradition.

We get an idea of the ideal that was envisioned them from these words, O. Chandu Menon wrote in the preface to his novel.

"The language I have used in this book is the language I would ordinarily speak at home. All though I have firm knowledge of Sanskrit, I have as a rule employed Sanskrit words only in the manner and to the extent in which they are employed colloquially by us, Malayalis..........I may also here remark that I have used the active and passive and transitive and intransitive verbs in the mode in which they are used.

They are used in ordinary conversation, and I have made no attempt to abandon, in favour of a style modelled on pure Sanskrit prose, the diction of Malayalis conversing in Malayalam."13

The missionaries took their message in a language plain and intelligible enough to the lower classes who had no acquaintance with conventional writing. Their Pathiribhasha is found in Samkshepavedartham (1779) by Fr. Clement, Vedatharakam (1786) by Fr. Kariyattil Ouseph and Varthamanapusthakam (published in the eighteenth century, and probably the first travelogue in any Indian language) Printing presses had already been installed in Goa (1577) and Vaippin kotta and Kochi (1579) to print books dealing with Christianity. Not only did the missionaries write books in lucid Malayalam and got them printed, they also produced grammar books and dictionaries. Robert Drummond wrote the first grammar of the language (printed in Bombay in 1797) and Benjamin Bailey prepared the first Malayalam-English Dictionary (published in 1846). These linguistic and lexicographical efforts were brought to a glorious culmination by an indefatigable German, Rev.Herman Gundert, with the publication of his Malayalam Grammar (1856) and Malayalam-English Dictionary (1872). Rev. Gundert also wrote a number of works in excellent prose, including text books. It was he who prepared the ground for linguistic studies which followed soon.

Meanwhile, Journalism took roots in Kerala. The first Malayalam periodical Rajyasamacharam was published in Thalasseri during 1847. It was a religious journal. The earliest of journals devoted to secular matters, Paschimodayam made its appearance before long. Another periodical, Paschimatarka was also started. This was co-sponsored by an enterprising Gujarati businessman Deviji Bhimji who later started his own venture, Keralamitram a weekly with a pronounced interest in promoting literature, in 1881. Within a few years there was a proliferation of journals, providing outlets for people with literary ambition.

It was when the "other harmony" of prose, the art of printing and journalism had reached a stage of growth that Kerala Varma became the zealous chairman of the text book committee in 1888. He was acutely conscious of the need for evolving a standard prose style and bringing out more and more works in prose. He recognized that "To gauge the development of a language, the number of prose works in it is to be adopted as the standard". He was not satisfied with the quality of contemporary prose. He said, "In these days there are many prose writers. But I cannot say that a prose style marked with qualities such as simplicity, maturity, dignity, lucidity, beauty, brilliance and power has become popular in Malayalam."14 He dreamed of a prose that is elegant but not ornate, and simple but not vulgar. He was happy to see it realized in the writings of O. Chandu Menon, the novelist and C.P. Achutha Menon, he critic.

In the course of a century Malayalam prose achieved remarkable richness and variety. Attempts to give it greater range and flexibility were crowned with success. We have now a prose capable of communicating the latest achievements in all sciences, physical and social to the common reader, thanks to the efforts of many individual writers, mass media and institutions like the kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, the State Institute of Languages, etc.

Malayalam got its first significant novel from the pen of O. Chandu Menon, the author of Indulekha (1889) and Sarada (1891) who was not a writer by profession. The novels he wrote, drawing inspiration from the English novels he widely read, became immediately popular. Indulekha is the first work of prose-fiction in Malayalam which can rightly be called "a realist novel".

In the west, realism became so widespread and well established as to warrant a proper definition, by the end of the eighteenth century. Dr. Johnson took note of the prevailing interest in realist writing in 1750 thus: "The works of fiction, with which the present generation seems more particularly delighted, are such as exhibit life in its true state, diversified only by the accidents that daily happen in the world, and influenced by those conversing with qualities which are really to be found in conversing with mankind" (The Rambler, I, 4 March 1750). Within a few decades in 1826, realism was defined by a French journalist as "a literary doctrine... which would lead to the imitation not of artistic masterpieces but of the originals that nature offers".15

Further, as Hemmings points out, "A society needs to have achieved a certain degree of complexity, diversification and internal mobility for the realist novel to come into being, and further, it needs to be able to draw for its patrons on an energetic ascendant group within that society".16 These conditions had become actualities by the time Chandu Menon made his debut as a writer of fiction. The simple tradition-bound society was dissolving and new social forces and factors were becoming active. There was also a newly enlightened and energetic group of producers and consumers of literature to patronise the new genre.

Chandu Menon presents a faithful picture of certain features of the rapidly changing social life in Malabar. The story of Indulekha is apparently a simple life-story. But it is also the story of the conflict between the older generation steeped in patriarchal notions and orthodox ambitions, and the young involved with the spirit of freedom of the individual. The novelist, through characters and situations, declares his faith in the liberating influence of English education. He is convinced of the need to give that education to all, especially to women to whom the smrities had denied all liberties.

In short, Indulekha is a typical product of the new middle class ideology, it is a ''bourgeois epic'' indeed. It represents the genre that revolts against the fetters of tradition and strikes to cultivate the morality of individualism. We had the combination of the comic and the epic in Nambiar's thullal way back the previous century, and it is now only that we have a ''comic epic in prose''.

Another pioneering novelist was C.V. Raman Pillai. His art is fundamentally different from that of Chandu Menon. Though it is the practice to designate his novels as historical novels, it is more appropriate to call them, as Prof. N. Krishna Pillai has suggested, ''political novels''. While Chandu Menon was interested in depicting the conflicts inevitable in a tradition bound family when it is caught in the maelstrom of rapid social changes, C.V. Raman Pillai chose for his domain a whole Kingdom which was expanding and encountering hostile aliens and had become a cockpit of political power struggles. In the trilogy he composed - Marthanda Varma (1891), Dharma Raja (1913) and Ramaraja Bahadur (1918) - Raman Pillai focuses attention on the turbulent political history of eighteenth century Tiruvitamkur. Each of the novels of the trilogy is at once a self-contained entity as well as an integral part of the whole. The plot is well constructed. The characters are partly historical personages as they were and partly creations of a powerful and fertile imagination. A remarkable characteristic of Raman Pillai's work is his dexterous blending of the realistic and marvellous. His novels are products of deliberate art. While Chandu Menon told history in a direct manner and in a language that is racy and colloquial, Pillai's manner is elaborate and language highly literary, in consonance with his theme. The one social novel he wrote was a lamentable failure. His genius did not lay in that direction; it was more akin to Walter Scott than that of Fielding or Dickens. Though in later times we had a few historical or political novels, C.V. Raman Pillai's achievement remains unique and unsurpassed.

Our novelists preferred to tread the path broken by Chandu Menon and smoothened and widened it in the course of a hundred years. In this labour they were encouraged and assisted by the variegated examples they encountered in world of fiction as practised by illustrious writers of the east and west. Our social and political history has been eventful, and hence we see variations in the concrete representation of this theme. Society in change, weakening or fracturing of social traditions, individual versus society, social classes warring amongst themselves, communities striving to break down their specific moulds and to gain greater mobility-all these and many more social themes, attracted and inspired our novelists. It is only recently that some of them veered away from this outward voyage and started exploring the dim or dark caverns of the minds of exceptional individuals and wrote psychological novels. A few of them have also been influenced by modernist techniques and existentialist philosophies. In the process Malayalam prose fiction has attained great heights and pushed its frontiers ahead. Diversified themes, more and more sophisticated techniques, linguistic and stylistic experiments, are clearly evident in the history of our novel.

In the thirties of this century the short story in our language attained its stature as a mature literary form. There were even earlier a few writers such as MRKC, Ambadi Narayana Poduval, Oduvil Kunju Krishna Menon and E.V. Krishna Pillai who had tried their hand at writing short stories. But the stories were by and large non-so-long stories only. It was only when our writers became familiar with the writings of masters like Maupassant and Chekhov that earnest efforts began to be made here to refine the art of story-telling. Now we can legitimately take pride in the significant work done by many who have won nation wide, and even world-wide, renown.

In the beginning of this century Malayalam poetry underwent a major change. Neo-classical poetry vanished and romantic poetry came to the fore. Kumaran Asan, Vallathol Narayana Menon and Ulloor.S.Parameswara Iyer -are the three poets who brought radical change, in Malayalam poetry each in his own way. All the three were keen students of the classical literature in Sanskrit as well as Malayalam. Asan and Ulloor had the advantage of intimate knowledge of English poetry also. We can guage the strength of the neoclassical tradition from the fact that two of them-Vallathol and Ulloor even wrote mahakavyas before they turned to lyrical poetry. It was with the publication of Veena Poovu (The Fallen Flower), a long elegiac poem, (1908) by Asan that romanticism dawned in our poetry.

Kumaran Asan came of a backward caste (Ezhava) family of moderate means. He had made a thorough study of Sanskrit language and literature from his childhood. He was inclined to sanyasa, and came under the influence of Sree Narayana Guru early in his life. Through the good offices of the spiritual leader ''Kumaru'' got an opportunity to go to Bangalore for higher studies. Later he spent sometime in Calcutta, again as a student. life in Calcutta brought him into direct contact with the spiritual and social resurgence in Bengal. It took no time for him to recognize its revolutionary potential, and when he came back to Kerala he was imbued with its soul-stirring spirit. His poetic genius, consequently, underwent a transformation. Moreover, he was also actively involved for many years in the work of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Sangham which was agitating against the brahmanical rules which deprived the lower castes of their liberties as well as their own primitive custom and ceremonies. He was the General Secretary of the Sangham and a highly respected member of the Tiruvitamkur Legislature.

In the midst of his public activities he found time to write poetry of a high order and also to spell out his views on literature. In this work he received unstinted support and encouragement from Professor A.R.Rajaraja Varma, one of the towering personalities of our literary renaissance. Though Asan's poetic career spans only sixteen years, his contribution to Malayalam poetry is of permanent value.

It was with Veena Poovu that Asan caught the attention of lovers of poetry who were eagerly waiting for a new wave in Malayalam poetry. It was followed by a series of poems all of which were enthusiastically welcomed. The major poems of Asan, which won immediate and unqualified acclaim from all those who kept their ears open for a new voice, are Nalini (1911), Leela (1914), Duravastha (1923), Chandalabhikshuki (1923) Karuna (1925) all of which are story-poems, Prarodanam (1919) an elegy on the death of Raja Raja Varma, and Chintavishtayaya Seeta, a dramatic monologue. His Gramavrikashathile Kuyil, Buddhacharitam, Balaramayanam and short lyrics are also poems of considerable merit.

Love is a recurring theme of Asan's poetry. He has even been hailed as Snehagayakan (the singer of love). There, his narrative poems tell stories of young love. It was not a theme unfamiliar to readers. But it was only once before in the history of Malayalam poetry that a poem (Nalacharitam) of love treated the theme as a noble passion. What used to be presented in the name of love was carnal desire. Asan's lovers are impassioned men and women in their youth longing ardently to bind themselves in wedlock and unite their souls. Further, these stories of love are also redolent with the spirit of individualism. Asan's heros and heroines refuse to be swayed by parental authority or societal injunctions, Nalini and Leela tell stories that are of the poet's intention. The stories of Chandalabhikshuki and Karuna are drawn from the Buddhist lore. In these the theme of love is explored afresh and endowed with new dimensions. Asan, acutely conscious and resentful of caste, engendered inequality, was fascinated by the defiantly egalitarian outlook of Buddhism. In both these poems the heroines are awakened to a knowledge of their human worth and dignity by a Buddhist monk. The Duravastha has for its setting a gruesome contemporary happening and tells the story of a Nambudiri girl marrying a Pulaya youth. This is a realistic poem, tempered by lofty idealism, and it is the first poem of its kind in Malayalam language. In Chintavishtayaya Seetha the poet pursues the tortuous thoughts that pass through the mind of Seeta, abandoned in the forest, as she contemplates on what Rama had done to her reminiscing her eventful past. In the elegy Prarodanam Asan pays fulsome tribute to Raja Raja Varma for what he had done to rectify and refine the taste and sensibility of his contemporaries.

Asan had considered views on the art of poetry, and he was a purposeful artist.

He rushed the classical and the romantic into a glorious unity. He transmuted his knowledge, thoughts and emotions into great poetry by the alchemy of his imagination. His sense of drama, narrative skill, lyrical charm, intellectual discipline, emotional restraint and, above all, philosophical temperament happily united to make Asan's poetry sublime. Professor N. Krishna Pillai reckons only four as mahakavis, Ezhuthassan, Unnayi Varier, Kumaran Asan and C.V. Raman Pillai. This is an indication of the high esteem in which Asan is held by perceptive critics.

Vallathol is reputed as a poet of Indian nationalism. He wrote a number of poems extolling India's rich heritage, our freedom struggle and its leading lights. His poem on Mahatma Gandhi is one of the distinguished poems in the language. He too, as Asan had done early in his career, wrote some conventional poetry before he joined the new movement inaugurated by Asan. with the composition of the autobiographical poem Badhiravilapam (1910) he moved to the centre of the stage. It was followed by the long narrative poem Bandhanasthanaya Anirudhan (1914) which established him firmly as a prominent representative of the age. As a poet who had not yet severed himself completely from the entrenched tradition, Vallathol published Chitrayogam, a typical mahakavya. Asan's severe criticism of the work and the subsequent controversy, probably, induced him to get out of the frame of orthodox rhetorical conventions. He made a final break and never did he look back. Now his renown rests on the scores of lyrical poems which came to be published in a series of volumes entitled Sahitya manjari, and a number of long story-poems. His translations of Valmikiramayana and Rigveda are monuments of unflagging perseverance. Vallathol's poetry is remarkable for its sweet sensuousness, serene fluency and deep clarity.

The convergent and divergent virtues of Asan and Vallathol are pointedly summed up by Prof. G.Kumara Pillai thus:

''What Kumaran Asan and his contemporaries did was to revive the healthy element in our tradition and to extend it under the impact of western thought and literature. They did not reject the past, nor were they blind imitators of the west. Their greatest achievement was to recapture the spirit of Cherussery and Ezhuthassan and to forge another synthesis in a new context. They discarded the decadent neoclassicism in which they themselves were matured and restored the central tradition of our poetry to which they added a new dimension. The central tradition had two elements in it _ the Cherusseri style _ simple, sweet and beautiful, and the Ezhuthassan style _ deep, intense and grand. Of the two dominant figures in the first generation of our renaissance poetry, Vallathol, was the follower of the Cherusseri style while Asan inherited the Ezhuthassan style.''17

Ulloor's response to the new upsurge was not immediate, nor was it spontaneous. There were subjective as well as objective factors inhibiting him. His erudition was unrivalled, and industry amazing. His English education had not wrenched him from his tenacious attitude of devotion to the arsha heritage. He was not without sympathy towards the nationalist and democratic urges of his time. Nevertheless, the pull of the past constantly restrained him. Dr. M. Leelavathi's evaluation of his genius is just and precise:

''His inherent poetic trait linked him to the neoclassical trends rather than to the romantic. He admired the authors of champus and his technique resembled their style in the beginning. In fact, he could not shake off completely the influence of this style even when he turned to the romantic lyric later.''18 Quite characteristically, Ulloor, took the plot for his mahakavya, Umakeralam, from a page in the history of the royal family of Travancore. Two of his story-poems, Karnabhooshanam and Pingala, are held in high esteem still. The greatest contribution he made is his massive history of the literature of Kerala. (Kerala Sahithya Charithram, 5 volumes)

In this atmosphere of new creative endeavours, renewed thinking on the nature and function of literature and on principles of evaluation was inevitable. There were debates on diction, verse forms, rhyme-scheme, etc.

There was also diligent study of earlier masters. The upshot of all these was the emergence of that branch of literature known as criticism. It was an entirely new phenomenon. For centuries, we had only some handbooks of verse-craft, commentaries and technical analysis, all derived from or in imitation of Sanskrit rhetorical tradition. It was only in this age of renaissance that literary criticism declared its independence, with due stress on moral and aesthetic categories.

The first gleams of modern criticism are found scattered in the introductions and encouraging letters that Kerala Varma wrote. His observations are by and large laudatory. But soon appeared another star in the firmament, with a fierce glow,

C.P. Achyutha Menon. The reviews and other articles he wrote in his monthly journal Vidyavinodini (est.1890) are replete with new ideas. His writings are of interest both for content and style. He was a man of wide reading and keen wit. He was well versed in Sanskrit poetics and conversant with contemporary English criticism. He denounced trickery vehemently and encouraged true merit generously. In the process Menon administered principles and standards for evaluation of literary works of various genres. Critics like K.Ramakrishna Pillai, C.Anthappay and Moorkothu Kumaran also deserve to be mentioned for the abiding value some of their writings possess. Literary criticism received an impetus from journals like Bhashaposhini, Rasika Ranjini and Mangalodayam and from the discussions in literary societies such as Bhashaposhini sabha.

Literary discussions of the time tended increasingly to discard the old rhetorical jargons and to use an idiom intelligible to common readers. There was no more pedantic flaunting of high sounding terms from text-books of alankara. The new development may well be described in the words of George Watson (in his comment on what happened in English criticism after Dryden). ''The readership of criticism changes ...from poets to readers of poetry, from professonals to amateurs, from producers to consumers; one cause, no doubt, if it also not the result, of the simplification of the language of criticism.''19

The brightest luminary of that age of enlightenment was Professor Raja Raja Varma, nephew of Kerala Varma. He was scholar, critic and poet. Science and sensibility were united in him; so were tradition and modernity. Most of his poetry is in Sanskrit, and he wrote even an excellent mahakavya (Angalasamrajya) in that language. In whatever he wrote, there is the stamp of his romantic temperament. His one substantial poem in Malayalam (Malayavilasam) has a romantic radiance. It is not without significance that the Sanskrit works he selected for translating into his mother-tongue were mostly those of Kalidasa. Rajaraja Varma was the first of our critic to discover the uniqueness of Unnayi's Nalacharitam as drama. Above all, how strongly and sincerely he could identify himself with the new romantic poetry is quite evident from the brief but historic introduction he wrote for Asan's Nalini. This is acclaimed as ''the manifesto of romantic criticism.''20

Professor Joseph Mundassery lays particular stress on Rajaraja Varma's revolutionary role thus; "People think of Rajaraja Varma as a great grammarian who chronicled and codified the rules and regulations of Malayalam language. But, really, the clarion call of that genius, who entered the field of our literature in the guise of a master of grammar and rhetoric, was for a revolution for a radical transformation of style and literary tradition.''21

Raja Raja Varma's Keralapaniniyam (1894), that epoch making work on the growth and structure of Malayalam language, remains even today the best book on the subject. Since there was new interest in the study of Malayalam grammar, for diverse reasons, some work had already been done by European and Keralite authors. The European scholars were interested in making the mechanism of a "native'' language familiar to their compatriots and usually they made use of categories of Indo-European grammar, scholars like Pachu Moothathu and Kovunni Nedungadi laboured hard to fit Malayalam into the framework of Sanskrit. Excepting Dr.Gundert, who worked in close association with Bishop Caldwell, none of these scholars recognised Malayalam as a language of the Dravidian family. Rajaraja Varma is heavily indebted to Caldwell's A Comparative Grammar of Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages (1856). He combines in his book the content that he derived
and developed from Caldwell with a modified version of the style of Panini. Mahakavi Ulloor pays tribute to this great work in these words. ''Although perhaps the last word has not yet been said on all the vexed questions bearing on the language, it may be asserted without fear of cavil or contradiction that most of the conclusions arrived at by him after patient investigations are radically sound and that any future work on the subject can only be in the nature of a super structure on the elaborate foundations laid by that inimitable master-builder."

Bhashabhooshanam (1902) presents the quintessence of Sanskrit poetics for the benefit of students and practitioners of poetry. Sahityasahyam (1911), another work of lasting value, is a manual of prose composition. Here he turned to the western tradition, because he realized that prose had developed as a genuine art-form only in the languages of the west. He envisaged a rapid growth of prose of various kinds, and he felt the need for bringing discipline into prose-writing and developing the art of it. Sahityasahyam is the product of Raja Raja Varma's concern for fundamental discipline in the new kind of literature.

That epoch is also remarkable for great translations. The greatest of the translation-feats was that of Kodungalloor Kunjukuttan Tampuran who rendered the whole of Vyasa's Mahabaratam verbatim into Malayalam. Bhasa and Bhavabhuti became familiar figures to common readers. Kalidasa's works too became accessible to all through translations. Two translations of Sakunthalam, the first by Kerala Varma (Manipravala sakuntalam) and the next by Raja Raja Varma (Malayala sakunthalam), are of much historical interest, as they represent the two prominent contending trends of the time. While the former shows reluctance to enfranchise itself from the domination of Sanskrit, the latter evinces intense desire to develop the mother-tongue as an independent language following its own laws. These two tendencies have been christened Kerala Varma School and Raja Raja Varma school.

There was also a third school, viz., venmani school, with its centre at Kodungalloor. In matters of language and style it seems to have been closer to the Raja Raja School. Some poets of this school, however, adopted an extreme position of writing only in pachamalayalam ('pure' malayalam), avoiding Sanskrit words deliberately. This linguistic extremism would have impoverished our literature, because the best element in our language is the product of our exquisite synthesis of the Sanskrit and Dravidian traditions. Luckily for the language, the pachamalayalam experiment faded out soon, and better wisdom prevailed.

This was also a period of resuscitation of old texts and of critical studies of early poets. Zealous searchers like Ulloor went around ransacking the bookstores of old feudal families and brought to light many dust-laden texts. The discovery of works like Unnuneeli Sandesam, Leelathilakam, etc., shed new light on the evolution of our language and literature, and opened new channels for further research.

Interest in old works encompassed folk-poetry as well, and, there was significant research into the traditional Dravidian metres by scholars like Appan Tampuran. For the first time there appeared very systematic studies of Ezhuthassan, Cherusseri and Kunchan Nambiar. These excellent studies are distinguished by newly discovered biographical facts and convincing evaluation. We are indebted to P.K.Narayana Pillai (Sahityapanchananan) for the three gems of early criticism.

In the eventful thirties of this century, Kerala experienced a new literary upsurge. Movements for national freedom and social reform had gained increasing acceleration in the earlier decades, and the energies they released electrified literary and other cultural activities. There was also, at this juncture the rapid and large scale development of radical peasant and labour movements. Many of our writers were closely associated with or deeply inspired by the revolutionary ideology of those mass movements. The outcome of all this was the birth and growth of what came to be known as 'progressive literature'. Of all the branches of literature it was drama that gained most from the new stirrings. Prose fiction too was stimulated and moved on to new frontiers. Literary criticism fought and found sociological dimensions, and the influence of Marxism became more and more pronounced. The socialist revolution in Russia, the ''Great Crash'' of 1929, national liberation movements, and anti-fascist and anti-nacist struggles - all these had their echoes in our literature. Malayalam literature became polyphonal.

An important fact of the history of the period after mid-thirties is the influence of the progressive literature movement. It was a 'broad-spectrum' movement wherein writers of diverse temperaments and ideological affiliations assembled as in a loose alliance. What brought them all together were the passions: indignation at prevailing socio-economic inequities, and desire for an equalitarian society. At one end of the spectrum was sympathy for the 'down-trodden' (or to use the nomenclature that is now in fashion, 'weaker' or 'vulnerable' sections of society). At the other end there was an active identification with the exploited classes fighting the ubiquitous socio-economic system that embodied the paradox of social production and individual appropriation. In between, there were various hues and shades.

It is rather difficult to give a strict definition of 'progressive literature'. However, we find the explanation given by Munshi Premchand, in his Presidential Address in the First All India Progressive Writers' Congress, Lucknow, 1936, quite adequate, as it spells out the philosophy and programme of action:

For us, 'progressive' is that which creates in us power to act; which makes us examine those subjective and objective causes that have brought us to such a pass of sterility and degeneration, and finally which helps us to overcome and remove those causes, and become man once again. We have no use today for the poetical fancies which overwhelm us with their insistence on the ephemeral nature of this world and whose only effect is to fill our hearts with despondency and indifference. We must, resolutely, give up writing those love romances with which our periodicals are flooded. We have no time to waste over sentimental art. The only art which has value for us today is that which is dynamic and leads to action''.

Progressive literature rejected 'Art for art's sake' and wholeheartedly accepted the norm of 'purposeful art'. But there erupted contradictions within the movement between those who gave greater attention to artistry on the one hand, and those who insisted on correctness of content on the other. Any attempt to bring different sections of writers, however united they be in their general purpose, into a monolithic organization, demanding of them total allegiance to a doctrine, is doomed to fail. And the brief and troublesome history of the 'progressive writer's organization' serves to underscore this inescapable truth. However, this radical humanist movement is by no means exhausted, in spite of the modernist and obscurantist (or 'fundamentalist' as it is called in demotic language) trends.

The passion for radical reforms and revolutionary restructuring gave a new thrust to our drama. One may even say that it was that combative radicalism that was responsible for the origin of modern drama in Kerala. It is usual to reckon 1882 as the date of our drama's birth. It was in 1882 that Kerala Varma's translation of Sakuntalam saw the light of day. But to take it as the beginning of modern drama is rather anomalous. There followed move of such translations from Sanskrit and adaptations from English. There were also a few original plays, governed by the conventions of Sanskrit drama or the failure of the Tamil theatre.

At any rate, it was only with the arrival of V.T.Bhattathiripad's Adukkalayilninnu Arangathekku, on the threshold of the thirties, that Malayalam had its first Drama of high seriousness and social purpose. In its wake came two more kindred plays by two other Namboodiri playwrights, Marakkutakkullile Mahanarakam by M.R.Bhattathiripad and Rithumathi by M.P.Bhattathiripad. These plays proved highly successful in demolishing the barbaric practices of Namboodiri orthodoxy. Thanks to the Namboodiri playwrights, people realized how powerful a weapon drama could be.

Pattabakki, a play that focussed attention on distresses of the poor peasants of Malabar, by K.Damodaran, is another landmark. Here the canvas is wide. The Namboodiri plays were concerned only with problems of one particular community. But Damodaran widened dramatist's concern so as to embrace the whole society. He did it towards the end of the thirties. In the following decades powerful playwrights like P.J.Antony, Cherukad, K.T.Mohammed, Thikkodiyan and Thoppil Bhasi enriched our popular drama, both as literature and theatre, in many ways.

Parallel to the strengthening of popular theatre committed to change in the northern region, what developed in the south was an elitist theatre devoted to entertainment. C.V. Raman Pillai and E.V.Krishna Pillai wrote farces and hilarious comedies, which occasionally showed flashes of satire as well. Drama of a serious tenor and tone made its appearance only lately. We are indebted to Professor N.Krishna Pillai and his Ibsenist plays for this. Later, C.J.Thomas, C.N.Sreekantan Nayar, G.Sankara Pillai and Kavalam Narayana Panickar did a lot by way of technical experiments and innovations. Their efforts were directed mostly towards creating a new drama which would accommodate renovated traditional theatric technique. On the whole, the southern school has remained elitist.

Again, prose fiction also blossomed fully only after the thirties. Those writers who are now reputed for their achievements as novelists entered the arena with short stories. P.Kesavadev (stark realism and angry rhetoric), Thakazhi Shivasankara Pillai (Earthiness and plain style), Vaikkom Mohamed Basheer (a unique blend of humour and pathos), S.K.Pottekkat (picturesque description and fluent narration), P.C.Kuttikrishnan (Uroob _ all embracing humanity and elegant style) perfected their narrative skill by means of exercises in this genre. In due course they ventured to write longish stories or novelettes and, ultimately, full fledged novels. Now the Malayalam novel has attained world renown through translations of a few distinguished works. We may also recall in this context that of the four Keralaite authors who won the coveted Jnanpeeth Award three are novelists, Pottekkat, Thakazhi and M. T. Vasudevan Nair.

The first notable work of social realist fiction of a length decent enough to deserve the name novel was inspired by the Namboodiri reform movement. Muthiringot Bhavathratan Bhattathiripad's Apphante Makal (1930), which raised our fiction to an unprecendented artistic quality, is a work of unfailing charm. This was followed, after a lapse of a decade and a half, by Kesavadev's Odayilninnu and Basheer's Balyakalasakhi (1944), Thakazhi's Randidangazhi, Chemmeen and Kayar, Kesavadev's Ayalkkar, Basheer's 'Ntuppuppakkoranentarnu', Pottekkat's Oru Desathinte Katha, and Uroob's Sundarikalum Sundaranmarum are works of impressive epic qualities. This pioneering quintet had equally brilliant successors, such as karoor Neelakanta Pillai (who wrote only short stories), M.T.Vasudevan Nair, Kovilan, Parappurath, C.Radhakrishnan, Kakkanadan, O.V. Vijayan and many others. Fiction is a field in which women writers also made excellent contributions. Lalithambika Antharjanam, K.Saraswati Amma, Rajalekshmi, Madhavikutty and P.Valsala are some of them. One consistent example of inspiration from the progressive Literative movement and influence of socialist realism is presented by Cherukad. This versatile writer, who wrote poems, plays and even pataka prabhandhams, has not yet received adequate notice from critics and literary historians. Of course, Kesavadev and Thakazhi too show signs of Marxist influence in some of their writings. But it was Cherukad alone, of the more important writers, a Marxist from beginning to end. And he is, as the novel Muthassi proves, a novelist of no mean talent.

While the novelists of the Early phase were all motivated by social concern, the younger generations tended to focus their attention on the adventures and aberrations of the individual psyche. Naturally, we have novels of the stream - of consciousness school. Many novels, which came out after the sixties, were moulded and coloured by the irrationalist philosophies of European origin.

It is impossible to do full justice to such a vast and multifarious genre as fiction in this brief survey. All through the years forms, themes and techniques have been proliferating. In the course of a few decades Malayalam fiction has conquered new territories and plumbed new depths, reflecting many social, moral and philosophical trends. Our novels and short stories have acquired new aesthetic dimensions.

Leopold Senghor says: "I insist that a poem is only perfect when it becomes a song: word and music are combined, Poetry must rediscover its beginnings, the time when it was being sung and danced''. Changampuzha Krishna Pillai, who burst on the scene with the lyrical drama Ramanan took our poetry to its beginnings. He revived the primordial pattu, tradition, and raised romantic poetry to dizzy heights.

Changampuzha was impulsive, impetuous, eloquent and, enchantingly musical. He would whimper and whine this moment rant and nave the next; he would pity himself in one verse, lacerate himself in another; embrace the whole human race with love and sympathy in one poem, kick and curse his brothern in another. However, there was method in his madness; what drove him into tantrums, was his indignation at inequality, injustice, hypocrisy, savage arrogance of the rich and the abject humiliation of the poor. His identification with the despair and frustration that gripped the people in the years of the great depression ensured for him a popularity which would rouse envy of even the best of the established poets. He became poet of the masses and for the masses whose sentiments and urges he echoed in the most sonorous style.

Changampuzha was a unique, poet, and it was he that many aspiring poets of those days considered a model. It was his influence that spread far and wide and lingered longest. young poets of the fifties who would be tribunes of the revolutionary classes drew inspiration from him and even imitated, consciously or unconsciously, his style. We hear cadences of Changampuzha lyric resounding in the early poems, of P.Bhaskaran, Vayalar Rama Varma and O.N.V.Kurup.

Changampuzha was active only for about twelve years, 1936, to 1948. Though his was the dominant voice in those years in which he poured out his ''plaintive anthems'', there were Vallathol and Ulloor bringing out some of their significant works. There were also G.Sankara Kurup, winning new laurels, and Vailopilli Sreedhara Menon and Edassery Govindan Nair enriching our poetry with new strain. The most recognisable characteristic of the period after the thirties is the increasing popularity of the lyric. Long narratives were going out of fashion.

Sankara Kurup began as a follower of the Vallathol school, but he found his own voice and realm soon. He wrote poems on international themes and expanded the range of our poetry. His more famous works are meditative or mystical poems on cosmic themes, in which he uses multidimensional images and symbols. He was the first recipient of the Jnanapeeth Award. Vailopilli always maintained a perfect equilibrium between reason and passion. His poetry is remarkable for its articulating the dilemmas of the middle classes in an age of violent changes.

He is all for change though he values what is rich and vibrant in tradition. His poetry expresses full faith in man's creative powers and final triumph. Edassery took pride in being a ''tiller of the soil''. He was a rustic through and through, evincing directness, candour and even a refreshing ruggedness. He was a realist to the core, who fearlessly articulated the belief that the exploited sections relentlessly should fight and capture power.

Almost all the poets of the forties and fifties were associated with the progressive movements, each in his own way. Some of them were later disenchanted with it when it became somewhat doctrinaire and turned against it. However, Malayalam poetry maintained its humanist tradition, though we happen to hear more and more frequently notes of disillusionment, despair and even cynicism. Certainly, there was a reaction against effusive romanticism and facile optimism. There was growing recognition of the need for more of fundamental brain work and fresh modes of expression. In this change the works of N.V.Krishna Varier and Prof.Ayyappa Panickar are of a crucial nature. In recent years modernist and new leftist ideology became quite evident in the poems of Kakkad, Kadammanitta, Sachidanandan and others. Of the women poets, Balamani Amma and Sugatha Kumari are the most distinguished.
Early in the thirties literary criticism underwent a 'sea-change' The discoveries of Freud and Jung on the mysteries of mind, Marxism socio-economic theories and European aesthetic theories enlarged its scope. The critic who initiated this change was A.Balakrishna Pillai. In his journals Prabodhakan and Kesari he wrote editorial notes and many articles demolishing conventional wisdom and exhorting youth to attack established beliefs and institutions. He was a futurist who longed ardently to see the world built anew. His illustrious predecessors were acquainted only with English literary theories and practice besides the Sanskritic. Balakrishna Pillai introduced the aesthetic theories and literary masterpieces of contemporary Europe to Malayalis. Thus he brought in a spirit of internationalism. Another important thing he did was to raise the status of creative writing in prose. He was the first to proclaim that prose-writers may also be called mahakavis if they were pioneers of new literary movements. It was, again, Kesari who familiarized our writers (and readers) to the new psychological theories. Thus he gave a new tool to the young writers to explore the depths of the human mind and improve the art of characterization. He would enrich literary criticism by assimilating into it new sociological theories too. Though we find a good deal of discussion on literary techniques in his writing, his emphasis was always on the content of literature. He stressed the need for literature to be purposive. This made the task easier for the champions of progressive literature who too were more concerned with the revolutionary role of literature rather than with questions of form. He did all these in the face of stiff opposition and with combative fervour. The young writers who were uneasy with the narrowness and timidity of contemporary literature, looked up to him for enlightenment, guidance and encouragement. His radical pronouncements, made in uncompromising terms, emboldened them to embark upon adventurous creative experiments.

The radicalism of Kesari was further taken forward by the leaders of the progressive literature movement. The mentors of the movement - such as M.P.Paul, Joseph Mundassery and Kuttippuzha Krishna Pillai - developed energetically the heritage of Kesari and widened the scope of criticism. Meanwhile, there emerged a group of critics, namely, E.M.S.Namboodiripad, K.Damodaran and M.S.Devadas who spelt out the aims and objectives of literature on the basis of Marx's materialist interpretation of history, Lenin's theory of reflection, Gorky's socialist realism and proletarian internationalism.

Professor M.P.Paul had a deep understanding of the English literature of all ages, and his criticism was profoundly influenced by it. His criticism was mostly of novels and short stories. His books on the art of fiction are the earliest ones on the subject. Kuttippuzha was a rationalist, and he wrote of literary theory in a forceful and lucid style. His applied criticism is rather meagre. The most important contribution of Joseph Mundassery is the synthesis of the western and Indian theories of literature. His book devoted to the endeavour, Kavyapeetika has not found a successor yet.

Kuttikrishna Marar was the stoutest of the critics who opposed progressive literature and its ideology. He stressed the significance of ''Eternal Values'' both in life and art and wanted literature to be a vehicle for them. He denounced the progressives as adores of the ephemeral. His knowledge of Sanskrit literature was deep and wide. Marar's critical views on the important characters and situations in Ramayanam and Mahabharatam are quite unorthodox. His prose-renderings, with illuminating commentaries, of Kalidasa's work remain unique. Dr.Sukumar Azhikode is the next important critic of this school,. He has written an excellent history of criticism in Malayalam, the one and only work of its kind, besides scores of essays and studies on authors and works. Professor N. Krishna Pillai is another important critic, whose more valuable work is Kairaliyute katha, a concise history of Malayalam literature. Dr. M. Leelavathy has written mostly on poetry, and her history of Malayalam poetry is one of her worthier contributions.

In the last fifty years Malayalam literature has been expanded considerably by translations from Indian and foreign languages. The translations are mostly novels and dramas. A few Malayalam works have also found their way into alien tongues through translations. Our literature has also been enriched by original, adapted and translated works on various scientific subjects. Another noteworthy development is the growth of literature for children. The achievement of Kerala in all branches of literature is something about which every Malayali can justifiably be proud of. q


1. A.L. Basham (ed.), A Cultural History of India, P. 36.

2. A.L. Basham, The Wonder that was India, p. 472.

3. Quoted by Dr. K.M. George, A Survey of Malayalam Literature, p. 43.

4. Ibid, p. 54.

5. A Cultural History of India, p. 308.

6. Shri. Kunjan Pillai, Introduction to the Kerala Sahitya Academy Edition of the Bhasha Bhagavad Geetha, pp. 16-17.

7. Dr. K.M. George (ed.) Sahithyacharitram Prasthanangaliloote, p. 40.

8. Dr. K. Raghavan Pillai, Ezhuthassan, p.81

9. K.P. Narayana Pisharodi, Kalalokam, 1960.

10. Dr. P. Narayana Pillai, Kerala Varma, 1988, p.97.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Dumergue (Tr.), Indulekha, Mathrubhumi, 1965, p.xv.

14. Quoted by Dr. P.K. Narayana Pillai, Kerala Varma, p.76.

15. F. W.J. Hemmings, (nd): The Age of Realism, Penguin Books.

16. Ibid, p. 13.

17. Poetry and Renaissance, Asan Commemoration Volume, p. 253.

18. Dr. K.M. George (ed.), Comparative Indian Literature, Vol.I, 1984, p. 390.

19. George Watson, The Literary Critics, Penguin, 1964, 28

20. Prof.Thomas Mathew (ed.), Works of Mundassery, Vol.II, p.149.

21. Seshagiri Prabhu, Vyakaranamitram, 1919.