Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai

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Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai
Thakazhi 1.jpg
Born(1912-04-17)17 April 1912
Thakazhi, Alleppey, Travancore (present-day Kerala, India)
Died10 April 1999(1999-04-10) (aged 86)
Thakazhi, Alleppey, Kerala, India
Pen nameThakazhi
Periodno periods
GenreNovel, short story
SubjectSocial aspects
Literary movementRealism
Notable awards
SpouseKamalakshy Amma
ParentsPoypallikalathil Sankara Kurup
Aripurathuveettil Parvathy Amma
RelativesGuru Kunchu Kurup (Uncle)
Raj Nair (Grandson)

Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (17 April 1912 – 10 April 1999), popularly known as Thakazhi after his place of birth, was an Indian novelist and short story writer of Malayalam literature. He wrote over 30 novels and novellas and over 7 short stories focusing on the lives of the oppressed classes. Known for his works such as Kayar (Coir, 1978) and Chemmeen (Prawns, 1956), Pillai was a recipient of the Padma Bhushan, the third highest Indian civilian award. He was also a recipient of the Jnanpith, India's highest literary award, awarded in 1984 for the novel Kayar.


Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai was born on 17 April 1912 in Thakazhy,[1] a small village in Kuttanad in present-day Alappuzha district of Kerala to Poypallikalathil Sankara Kurup, who was the brother of Guru Kunchu Kurup, a doyen of Kathakali and Aripurathuveettil Parvathy Amma.[2] After early tutoring by his father and Chakkampurathu Kittu Asan, a local teacher, Pillai had his primary education at a local school in Thakazhi and passed 7th standard examination from the English School in Ambalappuzha. Subsequently, he did his high school education, first at a high school in Vaikom and later at a school in Karuvatta, where he had the opportunity to study under Kainikkara Kumara Pillai, who was the headmaster of the school during that period. After passing 10th standard, he moved to Trivandrum and passed the pleader examination from the Government Law College, Thiruvananthapuram.[2] He started his career as a reporter at Kerala Kesari daily but moved to legal career by practising under a lawyer named P. Parameshwaran Pillai at the munsif court of Ambalappuzha. It was during this time, he was attracted by the communist movement and he participated in the functioning of the Sahitya Pravarthaka Sahakarana Sangham (Writers' Cooperative Society). He presided Kerala Sahitya Akademi and was also associated with Sahitya Akademi as a member of its general council.[2]

Pillai married Thekkemuri Chembakasseril Chirakkal Kamalakshy Ammai, affectionately called by him as Katha, in 1934 and the couple had one son and four daughters.[3] He died on 10 April 1999, at the age of 86 (A week before his 87th birthday), survived by his wife, who died on 1 June 2011, and their five children.[4]

Literary career[edit]

Pillai, whose works would later earn him the moniker, Kerala Maupassant,[5][6] started writing at an early age and his associations with Kainikkara Kumara Pillai during his school days and with Kesari Balakrishna Pillai during his Thiruvananthapuram days are known to have helped the aspiring writer in his career, it was the latter who introduced him to European literature.[7] His first short story was Daridran (The Poor) which was published in 1929.[8] After many short stories, he wrote Thyagathinu Prathiphalam (Fruits of sacrifice) in 1934 which primarily dealt with the social injustices prevalent during that time.[3] This was the first of his 39 novels; he also published 21 anthologies composed of over 600 short stories, two plays and four memoirs.[4][9]

Pillai's literary works are known to portray the society in Kerala in the mid-20th century. Thottiyude Makan (Scavenger's Son), a story about a scavenger who strives unsuccessfully to keep his son from continuing the family profession was published in 1947 and is known to be the first realistic novel in Malayalam literature.[3] His political novel, Randidangazhi (Two Measures, 1948), projected the evils of the feudal system that prevailed in Kerala then, especially in Kuttanad. The film adaptation, directed and produced by P. Subramaniam from a screenplay by Thakazhi himself, received a certificate of merit at the National Film Awards in 1958.[10]

In 1956, Pillai published his love epic Chemmeen (Prawns), which was a departure from his earlier line of realism and the novel received critical acclaim, becoming the first post-colonial Indian novel to be translated into English; the English translation was accepted into the Indian Series of UNESCO Collection of Representative Works.[11] It told a tragic love story against the backdrop of a fishing village in Alappuzha. The novel and its film adaptation, also titled Chemmeen (1965), earned him national and international fame. Chemmeen was translated into 19 world languages and adapted into film in 15 countries. The film adaptation, directed by Ramu Kariat, won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in 1965.[12] His next notable work was Enippadikal (Rungs of the Ladder), published in 1964, which traces the careerism of an ambitious bureaucrat whose lust for power and position becomes his own undoing. The novel was adapted into a movie in 1973 by Thoppil Bhasi.[13] Anubhavangal Paalichakal, another novel he published in 1966, was also made into a feature film by K. S. Sethumadhavan, in 1971, with Sathyan, Prem Nazir and Sheela in the lead roles.[14]

Pillai wrote Kayar (Coir) in 1978, a long novel extending to over 1000 pages, covering the history of several generations in Kuttanad for over 200 years and is considered by many as his masterpiece, n spite of the popularity of Chemmeen.[15] The novel deals with hundreds of characters over four generations, bringing back to life an axial period (1885–1971) during which feudalism, matriliny, and bonded labour gave way to conjugal life and to universal access to land ownership, and later, to decolonisation and the industrial revolution of the 1960s.[8]

Pillai wrote his only play in 1946 titled Thottilla, which was a social drama; it was performed on many stages by Kerala People's Arts Club.[16] He published four autobiographical books and two other works.[17] Four of his short stories were the base of a film, Naalu Pennungal, made by Adoor Gopalakrishnan in 2007, which he termed as his homage to the writer.[18]

Awards and honours[edit]

Pillai on a 2003 stamp of India

Pillai received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1957 for the love epic, Chemmeen.[19] Kerala Sahitya Akademi selected Enippadikal for their annual award for novels in 1965.[20] His Novel, Kayar was selected for the Vayalar Award in 1984,[21] and he received the highest Indian literary award, Njanapeedam in 1984[22][23] and a year later, the Government of India awarded him the third highest civilian honour of the Padma Bhushan.[24] Sahitya Akademi elected him as a distinguished fellow in 1989;[25] he had already been a distinguished fellow of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi by then.[26] In 1994, the Government of Kerala awarded him Ezhuthachan Puraskaram, their highest literary honour.[27] In 1996 he was conferred with an honorary doctorate (D.Litt) by Mahatma Gandhi University.[28] India Post issued a commemorative postage stamp depicting his image in 2003, under the Jnanapith Award Winners series.[29] Sahitya Akademi commissioned a documentary film on the life of Pillai to be made[30] and M. T. Vasudevan Nair made Thakazhi, a documentary film of 57 minutes length, which was released a year before Pillai's death in 1998.[31] The Government of Kerala acquired Sankaramanagala, the ancestral home of Pillai, in 2000[32] and a museum, Thakazhi Memorial Museum was set up in 2001, honoring the writer's memory.[33]



  • Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (1934). Thyagathinu Prathiphalam. Poorna Publications. ISBN 8171805302. ASIN 8171805302.
  • Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (1956). Chemmeen. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313212139. OCLC 4194651.
  • Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (1963). Avante Smaranakal: Novel. Sahitya Pravarthaka.
  • Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (1948). Randidangazhi. DC Books. ISBN 817130673X.
  • Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (1996). Thottiyude Makan (1st ed.). Kottayam: DC Books. ISBN 8171306373. OCLC 37694031.
  • Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (1950). Thendivargam. Poorna Publications. ISBN 9788130000244.
  • Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (2006). Enippadikal. DC Books. ISBN 978-81-7130-722-7.
  • Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (1967). Anubhavangal Palichakal. Current Books. ASIN B007E4VG0I.
  • Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (1978). Kayar. DC Books. ISBN 978-81-7130-071-6.
  • Sivasankara Pilla, Thakazhi (1975). Punnapra Vayalaarinu Sesham. DCB.
  • Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (1977). Azhiyakkurukku.
  • Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (2007). Baloonukal. Poorna Publications. ISBN 9798171805234.
  • Sivasankara Pilla, Thakazhi (1991). Nellum thengayum. Thrissur: Current Books.
  • Sivasankara Pilla, Thakazhi (1990). Oru Erinjadangal. Kottayam: S.P.C.S.
  • Sivasankara Pilla, Thakazhi (1996). Paramaarthangal. Kozhikode: Poorna Publications. ISBN 9788171805280.
  • Sivasankara Pilla, Thakazhi (2004). Irupathonnaam noottaandu. Thrissur: Kerala Sahitya Academy. ISBN 9788176900690.
  • Sivasankara Pilla, Thakazhi (1996). Pathithapankajam. Kozhikode: Poorna Publications. ISBN 9788171805259.
  • Sivasankara Pilla, Thakazhi (2007). Nellum thengayum. Kozhikode: Poorna Publications. ISBN 9788130007038.
  • Sivasankara Pilla, Thakazhi (2007). Kure manushyarute katha. Kozhikode: Poorna Publications. ISBN 9788130006185.
  • Sivasankarapilla, Thakazhi (3 February 2019). Thakazhiyude novalukal. Kottayam: DC Books. ISBN 9788126431786.
  • Thakazhi (1968). Pappiammayum makkalum. Current books, Thrissur: Current Books.
  • Thakazhi (1969). Ouseppinde Makkal. Current books, Thrissur: Current Books.
  • Thakazhi (1969). Anjupennungal. Current books, Thrissur: Current Books.
  • Sivasankarapilla Thakazhi (1967). Chukku. Kottayam: N.B.S.
  • Sivasankarapillai, Thakazhi (1972). Kodipoya mukhangal. Sahithya pravarthakasahakaranasangam: Sahithya pravarthakasahakaranasangam.
  • Sivasankara Pillai, Thakazhi (1977). Thakazhiyude Adhyakala Novelukal. Sahithya Pravarthaka Co: Sahithya Pravarthaka Co.
  • Thakazhi (1974). Akathalam. Sahithya Pra. Co. s: Sahithya Pra. Co. s.
  • Thakazhi sivasankarapillai (1967). Vilpanakkari. Mangalodayam: Mangalodayam.
  • Sivasankara Pillai, Thakazhi (1996). Jeevitham Sundaramaanu, Pakshe. Kozhikode, Poorna.
  • Sivasankara Pillai, Thakazhi (1948). Thalayodu. Kottayam, NBS.
  • Sivasankara Pillai, Thakazhi; Author (2004). Aakaasam. Kottayam, D C Books. ISBN 9788126407972. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  • Sivasankarapilla Thakazhi (1965). Dharmaneethiyo Alla Jeevitham. THRISSUR: THE MANGALODAYAM.
  • Sivasankarapilla Thakazhi (1984). Perillaakatha. KOTTAYAM: S P C S.
  • Sivasankara Pillai Thakazhi. Pennu. Kozhikode.
  • Sivasankara Pillai Thakazhi (1971). Pennaayi Pirannaal. Kottayam: Author.
  • Sivasankara Pillai Thakazhi. Nurayum Pathayum. Poorna Publications. ISBN 9788130000152.
  • Sivasankara Pillai Thakazhi. Oru Premathinte Bakki. Poorna Publications. ISBN 9788130003740.
  • Shivashankarapilla,Thakazhi. (1983). Oru Manushyante Mukham. DC Books.
  • Shivashankarapilla,Thakazhi (1966). Maamsathinte Vili. Champakkulam: B K M BOOK DEPOT.
  • Susheelan
  • Thakazhiyude Lakhunovelukal

Short story anthologies[edit]



  • Thakazhi sivasankarapillai (1946). Thottilla. KPAC.

Other works[edit]

Translations into other languages[edit]


Critical studies on Thakazhi[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai – Indian writer". Encyclopedia Britannica. 3 February 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Biography on Kerala Sahitya Akademi portal". Kerala Sahitya Akademi. 3 February 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "Obituary: Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai". The Independent. 26 April 1999. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  4. ^ a b Staff Reporter (1 June 2011). "Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai's wife passes away". The Hindu. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  5. ^ BeAnInspirer, Team (17 April 2018). "Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai – The Great Indian Writer Who Brought International Recognition to Malayalam Literature". Be An Inspirer. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  6. ^ Sandy (24 April 2017). "Thakazhi – Also Known as Kerala's Maupassant". My Words & Thoughts. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  7. ^ "Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai – Veethi profile". 3 February 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  8. ^ a b "The end of historiography?". 9 March 2007. Archived from the original on 9 March 2007. Retrieved 3 February 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  9. ^ "List of works". Kerala Sahitya Akademi. 3 February 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  10. ^ "Randidangazhi 1958". The Hindu. 2 August 2008. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  11. ^ "India: yesterday's heritage, tomorrow's hopes". UNESCO Digital Library. 1989. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  12. ^ B. Vijayakumar (22 November 2010). "Chemmeen 1965". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 9 November 2012.
  13. ^ "Enippadikal". Malayalachalachithram. 2014. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  14. ^ Vijayakumar, B. (5 May 2013). "Anubhavangal Palichakal (1971)". The Hindu. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  15. ^ "Decolonising the land". The Hindu. 3 August 2008. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  16. ^ "History". Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  17. ^ "Bibliography" (PDF). Shodhganga. 4 February 2019. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  18. ^ "Adoor's homage to Thakazhi". The Hindu. 7 November 2007. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  19. ^ "Sahitya Akademi Award". Sahitya Akademi. 3 February 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  20. ^ "Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for Novel". Kerala Sahitya Akademi. 3 February 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  21. ^ "Award Page (Malayalam)". Kerala Sahitya Academy. 31 January 2019. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  22. ^ "Jnanpith Laureates Official listings". Jnanpith Website. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007.
  23. ^ Sreedhar Pillai (4 January 2014). "Novelist Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai gets coveted Jnanpith Award for 1984". India Today. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  24. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  25. ^ "Sahitya Akademi : Fellows and Honorary Fellows". 3 February 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  26. ^ "Kerala Sahitya Akademi Fellowship". Kerala Sahitya Akademi. 3 February 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  27. ^ "Ezhuthachan Award". Archived from the original on 18 June 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  28. ^ "Mahatma Gandhi University". Government of Kerala. 5 October 2014. Archived from the original on 5 October 2014. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  29. ^ "Commemorative and definitive stamps". 3 February 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  30. ^ "Thakazhi". University of Wisconsin Libraries. 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  31. ^ Staff Reporter (9 May 2012). "Akademi to celebrate Thakazhi centenary". The Hindu. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  32. ^ "Thakazhi Memorial Museum in Alappuzha". 3 February 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  33. ^ "Thakazhi museum house of Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai". 3 February 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]