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Nandanar was the pseudoyum of P. C. Gopalan (1926–1974), who was one of the three famous Malayalam writers whose novels and stories depicted the life in the army camps and battlefields during the 1940s and 1950s, the other two being Kovilan (P. V. Ayyappan) and Parappurath (K. E. Mathai). He took his pseudonym from the name of a famous devotee of Lord Shiva, and one of the 63 Nayanars in Shaivism.
Anubhavangal, Ira, Thokkukalkkidayile Jeevitham, Athmavinte Novukal, Ariyappedatha Manushyajeevikal, Anubhoothikalude Lokam etc. are some of his better-known works. Adept in depicting the nostalgic sentiments of army men who leave their families back home, he was also successful in portraying the rustic glory of the villages of Kerala and the longing of youth of his time in matters of love.
Nandanar belonged to a poor family from Angadipuram near Perinthalmanna in the present-day Malappuram district and was suffering even penury during his childhood. Unable to continue his education due to abject poverty he somehow managed to get himself recruited into the army. The miseries of his life during his childhood has been narrated in the novel Anubhavangal in a style that is most touching and penetrating.
He took up writing seriously during his days in the army and has written more than a dozen books including novels, short stories and stories for children. After retiring from the army he continued his writing while staying at his house in Angadippuram.
Nandanar committed suicide at a lodge in Palakkad in the year 1974. He was just 48 when he died. Nandanar is remembered for his humility and simplicity. Nandanar's concept of ideal childhood which he never had was depicted in his series about Unnikkuttan, a little boy who enjoys life and everything that happens around him.
He remains known as one of the most endearing authors of children's fiction in Malayalam. His book Anubhavangal has been made a Malayam movie.
A film Adayalangal has been made about his life.