(Last Updated on : 17/08/2012)
In the great trio of modern poets in Malayalam literature, it was Vallathol Narayana Menon who was the expert lyrical stylist. He was a traditional classicist poet who had transformed himself into a popular Romantic bard. Vallathol outlived the other two members of the Great Trio and went on to become one of the most recognized poets of modern India. Vallathol's first major work, Badhira Vilapam (A Deaf Man's Lament), was published in 1910 and it), dealt with the poet's loss of hearing, his sense of deprivation of the world. The poet seeks to rise above the world of frightening silence in the same manner Milton resigned himself to the reality of darkness in his sonnet "On His Blindness."
Popularly known as Mahakavi, Vallathol Narayana Menon wrote the very famous 'Sahithya Manjari'. For his work 'Chitrayogam', he was given the title 'Mahakavi'. Vallathol Narayana Menon played a significant role in setting up of Kerala Kalamandalam at Cheruthuruthy. This place was later renamed as Vallathol Nagar. Vallathol Narayana Menon was born in Chennara in Malappuram District of Kerala
In 1916, when the first of his eight-volume masterpiece Sahitya Manjari (A Bouquet of Literature), appeared, he was immediately recognized as a significant voice, particularly because of his use of both the Sanskrit and Dravidian meters in his lyrical poetry. Even though his earlier poetry, like much of the poetry of Asan and Ullur, was rooted primarily in the Sanskrit tradition and in religious themes, Vallathol changed with the times, and became an integral part of the nationalist consciousness sweeping the land. He wanted to go beyond the regionalism of the traditional Kerala style and the orthodox outlook of Sanskrit legacy. The Gandhian movement transformed him into a modernist with broader nationalist aspirations. His poem "Ente Gurunathan" is an expressive tribute of the trust of a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi
in his teacher. This poem pointed at the direction in which his future poetry was to be moulded. His celebrated works such as Bandanasthanaya Animdhan, Vimsrinkala, Divaswapnam, Achanum Makalum and Magdalana Mariam have re-inforced the poet's commitment to larger issues of life and society. His khandakavya on the life of Mary Magdalene continues to be popular. It also paved the way for a new tradition of Christian symbolism in Malayalam. A literary tradition which was trying to move away from the mythological theme found an easier transition in the figures of the gospel and in Gandhi and Lord Buddha
. Though Vallathol did not have the benefit of the English education that Asan and Ullur had, he did try to imbibe Western traditions. Through his efforts to bring Kathakali
out of feudal control, Vallathol also modernized a theatre that had dominated the literary scene for at least four centuries.
Vallathol was not only a poet of one province or one language only, but was interested in what is happening elsewhere. He travelled widely in India and abroad. He got his recognition after a long period of struggle and vicissitudes in his life. Like Tagore, he did not have any formal University training or academic grind. The evocation of the story of Kubja from the Bhagavatam shows how Vallathol has caught the spirit of the story. His other poems about fallen women are also full of that tenderness and strength which make great poetry so haunting and lasting for long. Vallathol's sympathies were not confined to the classical characters of the Puranas and the historical personages only. He was pained at the uneven distribution of wealth in the country and at the exploitation of man by man. He was anti-colonialist as well as anti-capitalist. His humanist sympathies drew him nearer to the 'Progressive' school of writers. Causes which emancipated man from all kinds of oppression and slavery were the main subjects of his poetry. So the great experiment of socialism in Soviet Russia was for him as important as the struggle of the African against race-discrimination and colour bar. This great poet is considered as the second Tagore or Tagore of Kerala.
Vallathol had a variety of themes in his poetry. He did not only handle patriotic or semi-religious themes, but his love-lyrics and particularly the descriptions of nature are picturesque and unforgettable. His poems about rains in Malabar, his description of the feelings of frail farmers and tenacious tillers, his echoing the ocean and thunder dialogue, his poems about children of the workers and fighters are all intrinsically interwoven and charged with an exceptional insight and scintillating sincerity. Vallathol's works were motivated by serving the language and the people at the same time and they were steeped in classics.
Vallathol Narayana Menon, in addition to his poems, also translated the Rig Veda
into Malayalam language
. Government of India
honoured this renowned poet with the prestigious Padma Bhushan Award
in the year 1955. Vallathol Narayana Menon died in the year 1958.