Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala

Manipravala Style

If you string together ruby and red coral stones into a necklace, it may not be easy to distinguish one stone from the other. Similarly, the blending of two similar but different objects will endow the product a unique type of beauty. Such a fusion in a literary background can be seen in the manipravala poems which are a mixture of Sanskrit and Malayalam.

Most of the early manipravala poems were descriptions of courtesans. One of the early ‘manipravala’ poets were Tholan, who is believed to have lived between the 9th and 10th centuries. He wrote single slokas or two line verses which were designed for the vidooshakan of Kuttiyattam to recite. (A vidooshakan is the equivalent of a court jester or harlequin. In the dramatic artform named Kutiyattam, the vidooshakan has a special role of explaining the meaning of Sanskrit verses.)

Other poems of repute of the early manipravala times are Vaisika Tantram which is a poem in praise of temple dancers called devadasis, a ‘chambu’ poem named Unniyichee-charitham written in the 13th century by Thevan Chirikumaran (also spelt Devan Srikumaran), another chambu named Unnichiruthevi Charitham of the 13th century, and Unniyatee Charitham chambu of the 14th century. Messenger poems Unnuneeli Sandesam and Koka Sandesam of the 14th century, Ananthapura Varnanam of the 14th century which is a description of the city of Thiruvananthapuram, and Chandrotsavam of the early 14th century can be added to this group.

Coming to the 15th century, there were works, mainly stotras or hymns to Gods. Some of these are Vasudeva Stavam, Avatharana Dasakam, Dasavathara Charitham, Chelloor Nadha Stavam, Ramayana Keerthanam, and Bhadrakali Stavam.

Ramayanam chambu, supposed to have been authored by Punam Namboothiri in the 16th century, Naishadham chambu authored by Mazhamangalam Narayanan Namboothiri in the 16th century, Rajaratnavaleeyam, Kodiya Viraham, and Kamadahanam chambu of the 16th century written by anonymous authors, Neelakantan Namboodiri’s Chelloor Nadhodayam, Thenkaila Nadhodayam, and Narayaneeyam of the 17th century are some of the outstanding works of the later manipravala era.

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