Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala

Information Literature

Yet another significant branch of literature is Information Literature. It includes all branches of knowledge under the sun. Every day, changes take place in the field of knowledge. All the changes are keenly observed and analyzed with a research bend of mind. Diverse subjects like history of literature, linguistics, grammar, figures of speech, art, and lexicography. History, culture, proverbs, legends, education, science, films, psychology, religion, philosophy, political science, Sociology, Law, Comparative literature, Cultural studies, bhakti literature, Dalit literature, feminist literature, translation etc., are handled.

Information literature is very active in Malayalam too. The changes taking place in the universe are reflected in the literary works. As in the case of other languages, in Malayalam too there are readers and learners of this branch of knowledge. Many scholars have written literary history. The first Malayalam literary history was written by P. Govinda Pillai (Sarvadi Karyakar), Malayala Bhasha Charithram (1881). Eminent persons like R. Narayana Panikker, P. K. Parameswaran Nair, T.N. Chummar, N. Krishna Pillai were the first order literary historians. They were followed by Dr. K. M. George, Prof. K. M. Tharakan, Dr. M. Leelavati, G. Sankara Pillai, Aatoor, Dr. P. V. Veleyudhan Pillai and many others. There have been many scientific works dealing with the evolution of language, tribal languages, phonetics, pronunciation, sounds, forms, meaning, mutual relationships between languages and so on.

There are only a few books in Malayalam on linguistics. The first work in this field is that of Edamarathu Sebastian’s Bhashasastra published in 1922. Fr. Claus Pianius’s Alphabetham Granthaniko Malabaricum was published in Latin in 1772. Its Malayalam version Pracheena Malayala lipimala: Paadavum Padanavum was published by Fr. Immanuel Atel. Elamkulan Kunjan Pillai, I. C. Chacko and Dr. K. Kunjunni Raja have made scholarly contributions in linguistics. Foreigners paved the way for us to understand grammar and figures of speech. The first scientific work in Malayalam is Leelathilakam. Much before that there have been books on linguistics in Malayalam. The contributions made by Angelos Francis, Caldwell, Hermann Gundert, Arnos Pathiri and Clement Pathiri are immense. Rev. George Mathan, Vaikkom Pachu Moothattu, Kovunni Nedungadi, A. R. Rajaraja Varma, A Seshagiri Prabhu, P. K. Narayana Pillai, I.C. Chacko, Kuttikrishna Marar – all focused their attention on linguistics. It was A. R. Rajaraja Varma who laid the foundation of Malayalam grammar. We have also concentrated on the compilation of dictionary – encyclopedia. The first dictionary in Malayalam that has been recognized was published by Rev. Benjamin Bailey, A Dictionary of High and Colloquial Malayalam, in 1846. In this book the meanings of Malayalam words are given in English. The first Malayalam – Malayalam dictionary was that of Richard Collin’s Malayala Nikhandu (1856). Gundert, Sreekanteswaram Padmanabhapillai, Anandarama Sastri, Mannoor Padmanabha Pillai, T. Ramalingam Pillai and some organizations were in the forefront in compiling dictionaries.

Malayalam has also progressed much in bringing out encyclopedias, which describe topics in an orderly and precise manner. The first known encyclopedia in Malayalam is  Samastha Vijnana Granthavali (1936-37) by R. Easwara Pillai, Individuals like Mathew M. Kuzhiveli, Sreekanteswaran  G. Padmanabha Pillai, Vettam Mani and institutions like the Sahitya Pravarthaka Sahakarana Sangam (SPSS), Vidyarthi Mitram, Prabhat Book House, D. C. Books and  Kerala Government Encyclopedia  Institute and other book publishing companies have been active in the field.

There are books on visual arts like drama, Kathakali, painting, dance and music in Malayalam. The books depict the philosophical, theoretical, practical and aesthetic values of the art forms. The contributions of A. D. Hari Sarma, R. Narayana Paniker, N. N. Pillai, K. P. S. Menon, Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma, Atoor Krishna Pisharady and A. K. Raveendranath are noteworthy. The first book dealing with themes related with history and culture in Malayalam is Keralolppathy. It is assumed that this work was published in 18th century. In 1868, Dr. Hermann Gundert wrote Kerala Pazhama. It describes Kerala history from 1498 to 1587. Vaikkom Pachu Moothathu’s Thiruvithamcore Charitram (1868), K. P. Padmanabha Menon’s Kochi Rajya Charitram (1912) were some of the books that came out in the initial period. Kesari A. Balakrishna Pillai, Attoor Krishna Pisharady, Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai, K. V. Gopala Menon, Sardar K. M. Panikkar, P. A. Zaidu Mohammed, Dr. A. Ayyappan, Prof. A. Sreedhara Menon, Sooranad Kunjan Pillai, Kannippayoor Sankaran Namboothiripad, K. V. M., P. K. Gopalakrishnan, Dr. K. N. Ezhuthachan, Dr. M. G. S. Narayanan and many other scholar have contributed much in the field of history and culture.

Malayalam is rich with proverbs and legends. People who lived in the past used proverbs (also known as ‘saying’) to convey meaningful thoughts in a few words. It was Paulinius Pathiri who first compiled proverbs and published it as Malyala chollukal and was printed in Rome in 1791. This was followed by Gundert’s Pazhanchol Mala in 1896 and Pailopaul’s Pazhanchollukal in 1902. Several others have also compiled and brought our proverb collections. Kottarathil Sankunni, K. S. Neelakantanunni and Mali was some of them involved in actively in legend-writing.

Education has also made its presence felt in Malayalam literature. The first work in this direction is the description on education printed in the Government Press in 1864. Most of the works published in Malayalam have been used in imparting training in education. Stalwarts like K. Chidambara Warrier, V. Pappu Pillai, K. Ramakrishna Pillai and Mundasserri have pruned their mettle in their field. Yet another important field in Malayalam literature is science writing. The first article on science appeared in Paschimodayam a magazine published by Gundert. Govasuri prayogam or Vasuri niyanthranam published in 1864 is considered the first book on science. Dr. Krishnan Pandala, T. K. Krishna Menon, M. Raja Raja Varma Thampuran belonged to the first generation of science – writers in Malayalam. Dr. K. Bhaskaran Nair commands a leadership position in this field. P.T. Bhaskara Paniker, Induchoodan, M. C. Namboothiripad,  Dr. K. G. Adiyodi and other scholars have contributed much to science – writing, which has a strong presence in Malayalam literature.

Film literature, however did not flourish with the growth of the film industry. But, today, the field is very active. The first book on film is Moorkkothu Kurjapps’s ‘Cinema’ published in 1951. Another book on the subject is Nagavally R. S. Kurup’s Chalachitrakala. Vijayakrishnan and Thottam Rajasekharan have enriched this genre.

Many books on science, religion, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology have appeared in Malayalam. Comparative literature and Sanskrit - teaching are also developing. So, also is Dalit- writing and feminist writing and gender- writing.  Works in other languages have their impact on our writings.

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