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Niranam is a small village in southern Kerala, India, near to the town of Thiruvalla. In the 14th century, it was the birthplace of three generations of poets from the same family who became known as the Niranam or Kannassan poets, being Madhava Panikkar, Sankara Panikkar and Rama Panikkar. They were influenced by the Bhakti movement. As Panikkars, they were probably akin to members of the Nayar caste, which makes their claim to mastery of Sanskrit a significant feature because they would have been classed as Shudra in the Brahmanical system of ritual ranking known as varna. Shudras were not supposed to be familiar with that priestly language. The lived between AD 1350 and 1450.
Before their period the poetry of Kerala was a mix of Malayalam and Sanskrit, known as manipravala. Niranam poets were instrumental in freeing the literature from the influence of this mix. The appearance of the modern Malayalam language starts with the works of the Niranam poets.
Their success led to the gradual replacement of the manipravala cult of worldliness and sensual revelry by an indigenous poetics of high seriousness. Their works are collectively known as Niranam Works. Madhava Panikkar wrote a condensed Malayalam translation of Bhagavad Gita, perhaps the first ever translation of that classic into any modern Indian language. Sankara Panikkar’s main work is Bharatamala, a condensation of Mahabharatam, is also the first major work of its kind in Malayalam. Rama Panikkar was the author of Ramayanam, Bhartam, Bhagavatam and Sivarathri Mahatmyam.
Kannassa Ramayanam and Kannassa Bharatam are the most important of Niranam works. Ulloor, a literary historian of Kerala, has said that Rama Panikkar holds the same position in Malayalam literature that Spenser does in English literature.
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