Vallathol Narayana Menon

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Vallathol Narayana menon
Vallathol Narayana Menon 1978 stamp of India.jpg
Born(1878-10-16)16 October 1878
Died13 March 1958(1958-03-13) (aged 79)
OccupationMalayalam Poet, translator
Known forPoetry, Indian independence activism, social reform, revival of Kathakali
AwardsPadma Bhushan (1954)

Vallathol Narayana Menon (Malayalam: വള്ളത്തോൾ നാരായണ മേനോൻ) (16 October 1878 – 13 March 1958) was a Malayalam poet and one of the triumvirate of modern Malayalam poetry, along with Asan and Ulloor. The honorific Mahākavi (great poet) was applied to him in 1913 after the publication of his Mahakavya Chitrayogam.[1] He was a nationalist poet and wrote a series of poems on various aspects of the Indian freedom movement. He also wrote against the caste system, the tyranny of the British and Brahmanas and other social orthodoxies. He founded the Kerala Kalamandalam and is credited with revitalising the traditional Keralite dance form known as Kathakali.

Early life[edit]

Vallathol was born in Chennara, Mangalam, Tirur, in Malappuram District, Kerala, as the son of Kadungotte Mallisseri Damodaran Elayathu and Kuttipparu Amma.[2] He did not receive any formal education but was trained in Sanskrit language, first under the Sanskrit scholar Variyam Parambil Kunjan Nair and then under his own uncle Ramunni Menon, who introduced him into the world of Sanskrit poetry. Ramunni Menon also taught him Ashtanga Hridayam, a medical treatise, and young Narayana Menon soon began helping his uncle in medical practice and teaching.[2] He also trained for a year under Parakkulam Subrahmanya Sastri and Kaikkulangara Rama Variar in Philosophy and Logic.[2] He married Vanneri Chittazhiveettil Madhavi Amma in November 1901 and shifted to Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala. He worked as manager in the Kalpadrumam Press in Thrissur from 1905 to 1910.[2] During this period, his hearing began to deteriorate. From 1915, he started working in Keralodayam newspaper and later joined Amrit Ritesh, a journal published from Thrissur.[2]


He started writing poems from the age of twelve. Kiratha Satakam and Vyasavataram were his earliest published works.[2] He won Bhashaposhini magazine's poetry award in 1894.[2] His poems began appearing in Bhashaposhini, Kerala Sanchari and Vijnana Chintamani magazines.[2] His first major literary ventures was a rendition of Valmiki's Ramayana into Malayalam, the work of which started in 1905 and took two years to complete.[3] Unlike some of his contemporaries, Vallathol did not have any acquaintance with English language.[4] He earned the title Mahakavi after the publication of the Mahakavya Chitrayogam in 1913. Chitrayogam conformed to all the principles of a traditional Mahakavya and was divided into 18 Sargas. The story of Chandrasena and Taravali, taken from Kathasaritsagara, was the theme of this poetry work.[5] Vallathol portrayed the protest of Parvati against Siva in the work Gangapati (1913) and of Usha defying her father for the sake of her love in Bandhanasthanaya Anirudhan (1914).[4] In 1917, the first of his eleven-volume work Sahitya Manjari (A Bouquet of Literature) was published. These volumes, published from 1917 to 1970,[4] contain his collected short romantic poems dealing with a variety of themes.[6] Many of these poems earlier appeared in P. V. Krishna Variar's Kavanakaumudi magazine. His khanda kavya on Mary Magdalene titled Magdalana Mariam paved the way for a new tradition in of Christian symbolism in Malayalam.[6] The poet's own struggle with deafness from his early twenties features in the work Badhiravilapam.[3] Other celebrated short poems of Vallathol include Sishyanum Makanum, Virasinkala, Achanum Makalum, Divaswapnam, and Ente Gurukulam.[3]

In addition to subjects from nature and the lives of ordinary people, Vallathol's opposition to the indignities of the caste system and the injustices suffered by the poor form the themes of many of his poems.[7] He is also regarded as the greatest nationalist poet of the language.[8] He was one of the triumvirate poets of modern Malayalam, along with Kumaran Asan and Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer. Literary critic K. M. George has noted that, together with Kumaran Asan, Vallathol was "responsible for bringing about a revolutionary change in Malayalam poetry in the [nineteen]-twenties. Asan concentrated on social themes and Vallathol championed the national movement; yet both made very significant contributions to the khandkavya, ie: the short poem of the lyrical type."[9]

The title "Kavisarvabhowman" was conferred upon him by the Maharaja of Cochin.[10] He was awarded Padma Bhushan title, India's third highest civilian award, in 1954.[11]


Vallathol is credited with revitalising Kathakali. He played a prominent role in setting up the Kerala Kalamandalam at Cheruthuruthy, near the banks of Bharathapuzha River. The revival of the art of Kathakali in modern Kerala was mainly due to the efforts of Vallathol and the Kerala Kalamandalam.[3] He stimulated the world's interest in this art during his tours abroad between 1950 and 1953.[12]

Involvement in Nationalist movement[edit]

Vallathol was a nationalist poet writing in the Malayalam language.[8] He actively participated in the Nationalist movement. He attended the all India Conferences of the Indian Congress in 1922 and 1927 and rejected a royal honour bestowed upon him by the Prince of Wales during his India visit in 1922.[13][14] Vallathol remained a great admirer of Mahatma Gandhi and wrote the poem "Ente Gurunathan" ("My Great Teacher") in his praise. At the same time, he felt attracted by the Communist ideology and wrote poems praising the achievements of the Soviet Union.[3] He wrote several patriotic poems hailing India's nationalist movement.[7]


  • Abhivadyam
  • Achanum Makalum
  • Allah
  • Badhiravilapam
  • Bandhanasthanaya Anirudhan
  • Bapuji
  • Bhaval Sthotramala
  • Chitrayogam
  • Dandakaranyam
  • Divaswapnam
  • Ente Gurunathan
  • Indiayude Karachil
  • Kavya Manjusha
  • Kochu Seetha
  • Magdalana Mariyam[15]
  • Naagila
  • Oru Kunju Athava Rugminiyude Pashchathapam
  • Onapputava
  • Oushadhaharanam (Kathakali attakadha)
  • Patmadalam
  • Paralokam
  • Randaksharam
  • Rakshasakrithyam Kilippattu
  • Ritu Vilasam
  • Russiayil
  • Saranamayyappa
  • Sishyanum Makanum
  • Sahitya Manjari – 11 Volumes
  • Sthree
  • Vallathol Sudha — Two Volumes
  • Vallatholinte Khandakavyangal
  • Vallatholinte Padyakrithikal
  • Vilasa Lathika
  • Vishukkani
  • Veera Sringala
  • Arogya Chinthamani (Health)
  • Garbha Chikitsakramam (Health)
  • Granthaviharam (Study)
  • Prasanga Vediyil (Speech)
  • Vallatholinte Granthaniroopanangalum Prasangalum (Study)
  • Vallathol Kathukal (Letters)
  • Vallathol Samagrapatanam (Study)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Zarrilli, Phillip (2004). Kathakali Dance-Drama: Where Gods and Demons Come to Play. Routledge. pp. 30–31. ISBN 9780203197660.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Vallathol Narayana Menon". Kerala Sahitya Akademi. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e A. Sreedhara Menon (1982). The Legacy of Kerala. DC Books. p. 77. ISBN 9788126437986.
  4. ^ a b c Sisir Kumar Das (1 January 1995). History of Indian Literature: 1911–1956, struggle for freedom : triumph and tragedy. Sahitya Akademi. p. 206. ISBN 9788172017989.
  5. ^ Amaresh Datta (1988). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: devraj to jyoti, Volume 2. Sahitya Akademi. p. 1185. ISBN 9788126011940.
  6. ^ a b Nalini Natarajan, Emmanuel Sampath Nelson (1996). Handbook of Twentieth-century Literatures of India. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 185–186. ISBN 9780313287787.
  7. ^ a b Cir̲pi (1991). A Comparative Study of Bharati and Vallathol. Kolam Veliyeedu.
  8. ^ a b Raman Varadara, Raman Varadara Staff (1993). Glimpses of Indian Heritage. Popular Prakashan. p. 138. ISBN 9788171547586.
  9. ^ George, K. M. (1972). Western Influence On Malayalam Language And Literature. Sahitya Akademi. p. 75. ISBN 9788126004133.
  10. ^ "Indian Who's Who 1937-38".
  11. ^ "Padma Awards Directory (1954–2013)" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  12. ^ Sayed Jafar Mahmud (1994). Pillars of Modern India, 1757–1947. APH Publishing. p. 129. ISBN 9788170245865.
  13. ^ Malayalam Literary Survey, Volume 13. Kerala Sahitya Akademi. 1991. p. 26.
  14. ^ K. M. Pr̲abhākaravāriyar (1978). Poetry and National Awakening. Mahakavi Vallathol Birth Centenary Celebrations Committee. pp. 1–58.
  15. ^ Magdalana mariyam: adhavā pasthāpam prāyaschitham (2006, 2011). ISBN 9788126412495, OCLC 9788126412495

External links[edit]