THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Until the Kannassa poets enriched Malayalam with the vocabulary borrowed from the epics, the language had relied on the clinically scrupulous Maniparavala for its literary outings. Despite their seminal importance in the lexical history of Malayalam, the translations done by the thirteenth century Kannassa poets - of the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata, the Gita and other scriptures - have more or less faded into oblivion. The lecture series on the contribution of the poets by author and academician Puthusseri Ramachandran is an attempt to revive academic interest in the works. The last of the district-wise lecture series, organised by the Kannassa Chair of Mahatma Gandhi University, will be held in the city on January 12.
The lecture will throw light on the works of poets Madhava Panikkar, Sankara Panikkar and Rama Panikkar, believed to have been born in the Kannassa family in Niranam, a small village near Mannar. The poets are alternatively known as Niranam poets, after their place of birth. Madhava Panikkar wrote a condensed Malayalam translation of Bhagavad Gita, arguably the first ever translation of the classic into a modern Indian language. Sankara Panikkar authored Bharatamala, a condensation of Mahabharatam, also considered a first in Malayalam. Rama Panikkar, believed to be the nephew of the elder poets, is generally considered the greatest among the three. He authored Ramayanam, Bhartam, Bhagavatam and Sivarathri Mahatmyam. The works of the three poets are collectively known as Niranam works.
The texts were instrumental in freeing Malayalam literature from Maniparavala, the mix of Malayalam and Sanskrit that flavoured the Bhakti movement of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The works thus inaugurated modern Malayalam literature and revived the Bhakti poetry, infused with an overt sensuality characteristic of Manipravala. The Kannassa poems were also precursors to such works as Thunchathu Ezhuthachan’s Adhyatma Ramayanam and Cherusseri’s Krishnagatha.
The lecture series is being organised with larger goals in sight including a resurgence of academic interest in the works, construction of memorial in honour of the poets and institution of literary awards in their names. The Kannassa Chair was constituted at the MG University in 2011 and Puthusseri Ramachandran is visiting professor in charge of its activities.
The valedictory session of the lecture series will be inaugurated by Culture Minister K C Joseph at the University Senate Chamber on Thursday at 5 pm.