Kunjunni (10 May 1927 – 26 March 2006), popularly known as Kunjunni Mash (Mash is the Malayalam equivalent of teacher), was an Indian poet of Malayalam literature. Known for his short poems with a philosophical overtone, his works were popular among the children as well as the grown-ups. He received several honours including three awards from the Kerala Sahitya Akademi viz. Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for Children’s Literature, Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for Poetry and Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for Overall Contributions.
Early life and career
Kunjunni was born on May 10, 1927 at Valapad, a village in Thrissur district in the south Indian state of Kerala to Njayapilly Illathu Neelakantan Moosath and Athiyarathu Narayani Amma. Kunjunni started his career as a teacher at the Chelari school. He joined Ramakrishna Mission Sevashrama High School in Kozhikode in 1953. He was an inmate of the Ashrama and taught, looked after and interacted with the hostel boys there. He retired from teaching in 1982 but continued to live in the Ashrama, which he had found to be most suitable for his unpretentious life and writings known for their simplicity, till he retired to his district for health reasons. Kunjunni died in his ancestral house at Valapad on 26 March 2006.
He was known and admired for living a humble life with minimal needs, and few comforts or luxuries.
He was known for writing short poems which appeared to be childlike in form, but conveyed a message. Kunjunni handled the column for children in the Mathrubhumi weekly under the pseudonym “Kuttettan”. He initiated three or four generations of aspiring writers into writing. Kunjunni returned to his native village in 1987 and became involved in social and cultural activities in the Thrissur area. He appeared in Bhoomi Geetham, a 1993 film directed by Kamal. His autobiography, Enniloode, is noted for its candour, humour and simplicity. Oridathu Oridathu Oru Kunjunni Mash is a biography of the poet, written by Sippy Pallippuram.
N. Kumaran Ashan (12 April 1873 – 16 January 1924), also known as Mahakavi Kumaran Ashan (the prefix Mahakavi, awarded by Madras University in 1922, means “great poet” and the suffix Ashan means “scholar” or “teacher”), was one of the triumvirate poets of Kerala, South India. He was also a philosopher, a social reformer and a disciple of Sree Narayana Guru.
Kumaran Ashan initiated a revolution in Malayalam poetry in the first quarter of the 20th century, transforming it from the metaphysical to the lyrical. Deep moral and spiritual commitment is evident in Ashan’s poetry. His works are an eloquent testimony of poetic concentration and dramatic contextualisation.
Some of the earlier works of the poet were Subramanya Sathakam and Sankara Sathakam, wherein Asan voiced his devotional aspirations. His short poem Veena Poovu (fallen flower) is a literary classic. It paved the way for a new movement in Malayalam literature.
He died aged 51 as a result of a boat accident in January 1924 while travelling to Kollam from a function in Alappuzha. The boat capsized at Pallana and all on board drowned, except Ouseph Kurian Mappila Thannikuzhiyil Kanjirathanam . Kumaranasan was the only poet in Malayalam who became mahakavi without writing a mahakavyam.
The Kumaran Asan National Institute of Culture at Thonnakkal was founded in 1958 in his memory, and includes a small house which he had built on his land.
GSankara Kurup (3 June 1901 – 2 February 1978) was the first winner of the Jnanpith Award, India’s highest literary award. He won the prize in 1965 for his collection of poems in Malayalam Odakkuzhal (The Bamboo Flute, 1950). With part of the prize money he established the literary award Odakkuzhal in 1968.
Kurup published his first poem, called Salutation to Nature in 1918, while still a student. Apart from 25 collections of poetry, Kurup also wrote verse dramas and collections of literary essays—in all about 40 works in Malayalam. He also translated the Rubáiyát(1932) of Omar Khayyám, the Sanskrit poem Meghaduta (1944) of Kalidas, and the collection of poems Gitanjali (1959) of Rabindranath Tagore into Malayalam. Indeed, one often speaks of the influence of Tagore and Gandhi on the humanism and nationalism of Kurup. He has also been described as a “bard of science” who explored the role of science in achieving the human potential.
He was also the recipient of the Soviet Land Nehru Award, in 1967, and the Padma Bhushan in 1968. His poetry collection Viswadarshanam won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 1961 and Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award in 1963.
Ottaplakkal Neelakandan Velu Kurup (27 May 1931 – 13 February 2016), popularly known as O. N. V. Kurup or simply and endearingly O. N. V., was a renowned Malayalam poet and lyricist from Kerala, India, who won the Jnanpith Award, the highest literary award in India for the year 2007. He received the awards Padma Shri in 1998 and Padma Vibhushan in 2011, the fourth and second highest civilian honours from the Government of India. In 2007 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by University of Kerala, Trivandrum.
O. N. V.’s first published poem was ‘Munnottu’ (Forward) which appeared in a local weekly in 1946. His first poetry collection,Porutunna Soundaryam, came out in 1949. He published a book named Dahikunna Panapatram (The Thirsty Chalice) which was a collection of his early poems during 1946–1956.
In addition to the valuable contributions he had given to the Malayalam literature, he was one of the leading lyricists in Malayalam film/drama/album industry. He was the part of many dramas by Kerala People’s Arts Club (KPAC) which has a major remark in the revolutionary movements of Kerala. Kalam Marunnu (1956) was his first film which was also the first film by the famous Malayalam composer G. Devarajan. Since then he has been active in film until date and was honoured with one national award and thirteen state awards (the most by a Malayalee). He has penned about 900 songs in about 232 films and numerous songs for plays and albums.