(Last Updated on : 30/10/2010)
History of Malayalam literature is generally classified and separated into three phases. The first phase is counted as the phase of retreating Tamil ascendancy and forward-moving Sanskrit influence. Elitist poets of the age were hugely inquisitive to introduce Sanskrit literary forms like Champu and Sandesa Kavya and Sanskrit oriented linguistic and stylistic introductions and initiations. On one hand, an uncanny recoiling within erotic themes and on the other, a magnification of the resources of language and style could be witnessed. The succeeding period witnessed the birth of sage-poets, for whom poetry was an exceedingly solemn enterprise with a high-ceilinged moral rationale. These men had amalgamated and integrated the formal accomplishments of the former age of Malayalam literature and veered towards the Indian Puranas
for dignified and righteous themes. Malayalam poetry reached its zenith of grandeur during this phase, manifestly influenced by Bhakti renaissance and united with the mainstream of national literature.
The third phase of the Malayalam literature is marked by the incredible bang of liberal-democratic spirit. It arrived in the consequence of the first encounter with the west and distribution and propagation of modern education. It can also be observed that modern and innovative radical ideologies started to wield influence upon writers in this phase. The origin and development of the art of prose, circularisation of journalism, birth of radically new forms such as fiction, drama, lyric and literary criticism, could be witnessed gradually. In the present decades of unmatched curiosity, the visualisation broadens and creativity seeks novel pastures. Prose takes preference over verse and becomes the medium for both imaginative creation and intellectual exploration.
The early period of Malayalam literature
(precisely, prior to the 15th century) consisted of - Pacha-Malayalam stream, by which the literary expression in Malayalam language without any admixture is intended (Bhadrakali Pattu and Pulluvan Pattu), Tamil stream (Malayalam with liberated utilisation of Tamil words (Kannassa Ramayanam and Bharatamala) and, Sanskrit stream (Sanskritised Malayalam). The first stream consists of ballads and folk songs, which are knotty and complicated to date. Songs associated with religious customs and rituals such as Bhadrakali Pattu, Thiyattupattu, Sastrakali, Thottampattu and in the later point of time, Margamkalipattu are substantial varieties. Then there also existed the umpteen assorted festive songs like Onappattu and Krishipattu and ballads of North Malabar and South Malabar. In the Tamil stream, the most outstanding work is considered as Ramacharitham (12th century A.D.) composed in a language, which is an admixture of Tamil and Malayalam. This poem is followed by the works of Niranam poets, Kannasa Ramayanam, Bhagavad Gita
and Bharatamala. The Niranam poets (Kannassan group) within Malayalam literature were nifty and grand scholars and represented literary luminescence.
Due to the incredible endeavours of the Namboodiris, the powerful feudal aristocrats of Kerala, Aryan Sanskrit had almost replaced Malayalam in its own land. The Mani-pravalam or 'ruby and coral style' was the child of such a pile-up, a style which meant employing as many Sanskrit words as was possible. The linguistic result of the two dominions, however, had been a well-chosen one; the orchestral resources of Malayalam literature have been immeasurably enriched. But while Tamil and Sanskrit took turns in destroying their authority, a third kind of Malayalam had evolved and survived - the 'pure Malayalam'. This was the folk stream of lullabies, wedding songs and requiems, which flowed through the centuries and became a crucial source of Malayalam literature later.