Early Life of Lalithambika Antharjanam
Lalithambika Antharjanam was born on March 30, 1909 in Punalur, Kollam, India. The term "Antharjanam" is a Namboodiri caste name which means, "one who lives in the interiors". She belonged to the most powerful landholding Brahmin caste of Kerala. Her family was very conservative and she was not even allowed to go to school. She had little formal education. However, her father appointed a private tutor who taught her but this was also very unusual at that time.
She managed to get some news about the then current affairs from her male relatives and had little knowledge about the ongoing Indian freedom movement. She was also interested to participate but was married in 1926, to Narayanan Nambooduri, a farmer. Her husband was very supportive who encouraged her in pursuing her writing activities particularly related to the discrimination of women and condition of the marginalized people.
Works of Lalithambika Antharjanam
The hypocrisy and injustice to which women were subjected to within the Nambudiri caste, as well as the violence endured by the women provoked Lalithambika Antharjanam to write books. She wrote her novel "Agnisakshi” in 1976 which is a very popular novel in Indian Literature. This novel was originally serialized in “Mathrubhumi Illustrated Weekly" and got published as a book by "Current Books" in 1976. In this book, Lalithambika depicted the story of a Namboodiri woman who struggles for her social and political emancipation but cannot easily break away from the chains of tradition that bind her. She has described the sexual and moral choices witnessed by Namboodiri womenfolk in her tale "Revenge Herself", especially through the character "Tatri" or the "fallen woman" in the story. She wrote about herself in "Balyasmriti" by referring herself in third person.
In "Ormayile Nidhikal" (The Treasures of Memory) she expressed her views on people disapproving her socialization and the way she was brought up. In her words, "They thought that a growing girl had no right to so much freedom". In her autobiography, "Aathmakadhakkoru Aamukham", Lalithambika mentioned that the rise of nationalism in India and struggle for Independence movements shaped new ideas in her young mind confined to protected isolation. Her autobiography is also considered as a significant work in Malayam Literature.
She has spoken about the role of women as the main tenacious force in Indian society and her support of artificial birth control techniques in her book "Mulappalinte Manam". As a child, Lalithambika was attracted to the ideas of Gandhi, Vivekananda and Tagore. She was impressed with the way Tagore portrayed women in his writings. In the early 1930s, when she started writing, Kerala was cauldron of social reform movements that confronted several social inequalities, particularly related to the oppression of lower castes, non-Hindu religions and women.
Her writings were greatly influenced by social reformist movements within Namboodiri community by pioneering writer-activists such as V.T Bhattathiripad and M.R Bhattathiripad. Her husband encouraged her in social activism about ending the social inequalities particularly on the part of women and marginalized people. In "Marakkuda Neengunnu" she again referred to herself in third person and recalls the event that controlled her ethical stance as a woman.
A few stories such as "Prathikaradevatha" (The Goddess of Revenge) and "Kuttasammatham" (Admission of Guilt) are milestones in the progressive changes she brought to Namboodiri women’s social and cultural life as the stories directly exposed the patriarchal nature of Namboodiri men and their rituals that ostracize women engaged in sexual relations with the men of their choice.
Novels written by Lalihambika Antharjanam are as follows:
Achievements of Lalithambika Antharjanam
Awards and honours received by Lalithambika are as follows
• In 1977 she won the "Sahitya Akademi Award".
• In 1977 she was also awarded the "Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for Novel"
• She was also honoured with the "Kerala Sahitya Akademi Fellowship"
Personal Life of Lalithambika Antharjanam
Lalithambika Antharjanam was married to Narayanan Naboothiri in 1926. From her marriage she had four sons, Bhaskara Kumar, N. Mohanan, Mani and Rajendra and three daughters, Leela, Shantha and Rajam. N. Mohanan was also a noted author and recipient of “Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award.” She breathed her last on February 6, 1987 in Nijaliyakuzhi which is in the Kottayam district of Kerala.