Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala

The Combat Arena in Kodungallur

From the middle of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, a group of poets functioned with the Kodungallur Kovilakam as their centre. Their actions were instrumental in bringing about a lot of positive changes in the world of Malayalam poetry. The leaders who led the movement were Venmani Achan Namboothiri (1817-1891), Venmani Mahan Namboothiri (1844-1893), Kunhikkuttan Thampuran (1865-1913), and Kochunni Thampuran (1858-1926). Poets like Naduvathu Achan Namboothiri (1841-1913), Oravankara Neelakantan Namboothiri (1857-1916), Seevolli Narayanan Namboothiri (1869-1906), Kathullil Achutha Menon (1851-1910), Kundoor Narayana Menon (1862-1936), and Kottarathil Sankunni (1855-1937) lent active support to the movement. Among these committed poets, the pride of place is held by Kunhikkuttan Thampuran who translated Vyasa’s Mahabharatha in 872 days.

The Kodungallur Kovilakam poets in essence unshackled Malayalam poetry from its strong dependence on Sanskrit. They wrote poetry in simple Malayalam instead of using high-flown language mixed with Sanskrit. They wrote about their everyday experiences, instead of writing about mythology. While this change had many positive effects, complaints arose from certain quarters that these poets did not give creativity its due importance and turned poetry-writing into a leisure-time activity.

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