Category Archives: Arts,Culture & Entertainment

How Gundert saved Malayalam

Herman Gundert


Some of the rare books in Malayalam language would have been lost if Herman Gundert, the German missionary, had not taken the trouble to transport them to his home town Calw. The documents preserved by Gundert, who was also a scholar credited with the first Malayalam-English dictionary, included nearly 80 manuscripts and 150 printed works. Some of the available palm leaf manuscripts run into 42,000 pages. These books have been archived in the Gundert archive of Tubingen University which has also taken steps to digitise the documents. The Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University, Tirur, established in 2012 to promote Malayalam language, has received access to the documents through an MoU signed with the Tubingen University.

Mr M. Sreenathan, professor of language at the university, told Deccan Chronicle that it all started with Dr Scaria Zacharia, a Malayalam professor who visited Germany in connection with the meeting of the World Malayali Council, visiting the archives of the university in 1986. He published books like Pazhassi Rekhakal, Payyanoor Pattu and Thalasserry Rekhakal from the university. Some of the other books that were discovered from Tubingen included Nalacharitham Manipravalam and Sheelavathy written by Mannan. The first version of the Mahabharatham Killipattu, Krishnagatha, Thulalkadha, Panchathantram and Ekadeshi were brought to the state from the archives. The copy of Meenakshi written by Chathu Nair and published in 1890 was also discovered from Tubingen, Mr Sreenathan said.

Another finding was Keralopakari, an illustrated weekly published in 1870. There has not been much reference about this weekly earlier. A copy of Krishi Pattu was also preserved at Tubingen. The specialty of the copy of Krishi Pattu, an agriculture verse popularly known as Krishi Geetha in the state, is that it was published from Kozhikode before the advent of Chandrakala in Malayalam. Another significant discovery was Kerala Natakam. This book republished by the university was released recently. Many people, including historian M.G.S. Narayanan, have said that they have seen the book. However, the book was not available anywhere in the state. It was also received from the archives of Gundert. Many literary historians, including Ulloor Parameswara Iyer, have mentioned about this work. There are differences among the historians about who wrote the book.

Some believed that this was written by Thunchath Ezhuthachan. However, Ezhuthachan had not written anything other than poetry. The book was published by Basel Mission. Ulloor had disagreed with the theory that it was written by Ezhuthachan. The book was in the handwriting of Gundert himself. The language of the book proved that it was not written by Ezhuthachan. However, it has many similarities with another work of the period named Keralolpathi. But there is one major change. This is in the chapter Kulakrama Vivaranam which in Keralolpathi was based on Sankaracharya’s Kulakrama Vivaranam. However, the Kulakrama Vivaranam chapter in Kerala Nadakam dealing with the origin of caste was more in the nature of folklore, Mr Sreenathan said.

The documents in the collection of Gundert can be classified into three: printed books; books that had been transcript by Gundert himself or using the service of a scribe; and books in Thaliyola. Many books related to subjects like Manthravatham and on Christianity, including Puthiyaniyamathile Lekhanangal and Sathyaveda Ethihasam, are at the archives. The university is the only one in Europe that teaches Malayalam as an optional. It has also set up a Gundert chair. “I visit Tubingen as a faculty of the university and Mr Scaria Zacharia goes there as an outside academic. The Malayalam and Tubingen universities also have student exchange programmes,” Mr Sreenathan said. He will visit Tubingen soon to identify the original version of the works of Ezhuthachan, including Adhyadhama Ramayanam. Mr Scaria Zacharia said that the access to Gundert archives had begun in 1986. Many books like Pazhassi Rekhakal, Payyanoor Pattu, Thacholli Pattu and Thalassery Rekhakal were published from the archives. However, it was only recently the efforts were noticed in the state, Mr Zacharia said.

Christian missionary turned linguist

Herman Gundert, who left Germany at the age of 23 for missionary work, had planned to go to Calcutta and gained working knowledge in Bengali, Hindustani and Telugu even while travelling by sea. However, he landed in Madras in 1836 instead of in Calcutta. Gundert learnt Tamil while working in Chittoor, Andhra, and Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. During his work in Mangalore, he had a chance trip to Thiruvananthapuram where he had an audience with Swathi Thirunal, the ruler of Travancore who himself was a scholar. Gundert was attracted to Malayalam and became a scholar in the language in a short span of time.

Born in 1814, Gundert is the grandfather of 20th century Nobel prize winning novelist Hermann Hesse. Gundert had studied theology and Sanskrit in Tübingen University before completing his doctorate in theology in 1835 and joining the Bassel Mission in which he worked in Thalassery from 1938. Apart from authoring the first Malayalam-English dictionary, he translated the New Testament into Malayalam. He left India in 1859 due to illness. Most of his Malayalam books, including his Malayalam-English dictionary and hymn book, were written when he was in the south western German town of Calw.

He worked primarily from Thalassery where he compiled a Malayalam grammar book, ‘Malayalabhaasha Vyakaranam,’ published in 1859. He lived at Illikkunnu near Thalassery for 20 years spreading the gospel among the natives and writing 13 books and a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew and New Testament from Greek. He attempted a systematic grammar of the language based on non-Sanskrit-based approaches to Indic grammar as he considered Malayalam as a branch of Proto-Tamil-Malayalam, or Proto-Dravidian. It was Gundert who used punctuation marks like full stop, comma, colon and semicolon for the first time in Malayalam. In recognition of his contribution to Malayalam, a statue of Gundert has been erected at Thalassery.

source: / Deccan Chronicle / Home> Nation, In other news / by Sabloo Thomas, Deccan Chronicle / July 05th, 2017

It’s jubilee bells for Ponnurunni library

The Ponnurunni Grameena Vayanasala will launch programmes for children and the elderly soon, says its president.

Grameena Vayanasala looks for ways to expand

At 70, the Ponnurunni Grameena Vayanasala is looking for more space. It is a measure of its success that the office-bearers of the library are trying hard to find more space in the two-storied structure that has stood as a tower of light and entry into the world of letters for hundreds of people in the locality.

President of the library and a former government official M.K. Saseendran says the library has a stock of 17,000 books and more than 250 steady members, who turn up at the library regularly. More books mean more space, he says, a little perplexed about finding a way to add some more space.

The number of activities is being expanded. Not only does the library now offer books, newspapers and periodicals. It will soon launch programmes for children and the elderly, says Mr. Saseendran.

A visit to the library on Sunday showed how involved the library is in the lives of the local people. A group of students, who came out in flying colours during the last public examinations, are being felicitated. Hardly 40 people can sit in the hall, says library secretary K.K. Gopi Nair to highlight the need to find more space for future activities.

Mr. Saseendran says the Ponnurunni library is more than 85 years old, given the oral tradition related to it. It started with a table and a few chairs and operated out of rented one-room facilities. It is possible that registers and other records could have been lost during frequent shifting of the library until a permanent building was acquired. It was later registered in 1946, and it received 1.5 cents of land against a payment of ₹50 in 1967. The year also saw people making contributions to have a tile-roofed building for the library. Since then the library has steadily grown in popularity and stature.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by Special Correspondent /  Kochi – June 11th, 2017

Environmental activist P.S. Panicker dead

A former professor, he was part of many human rights movements

Environmental activist P.S. Panicker, who took up the cause of victims of groundwater exploitation in Plachimada by Coca Cola and campaigned relentlessly for the protection of Bharathapuzha, died late on Tuesday. He was 75.

A former college professor, Mr. Panicker hailed from Arookkutti near Cherthala and had worked in the Political Science departments of NSS colleges at Pandalam, Changanassery, Ottappalam, Mattannur, and Cherthala. He retired from NSS College, Nenmara.

He then settled at Sekharipuram in Palakkad to actively engage with various civil society movements. A long-time associate of the late environmentalist Indyanur Gopi, Mr. Panicker was the coordinator of National Green Corps and president of Bharathapuzha Samrakshana Samithy.

He was also president of the human rights organisation Janajagratha and chairperson of Plachimada Struggle Solidarity Committee.

He is survived by wife B. Saraswathi, daughter Sudha, and son Rajkamal. Cremation was held on Wednesday evening.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Kerala / by Special Correspondent / Palakkad – June 07th, 2017

A royal procession to Sasthamangalam

Sree Chithira Tirunal Balarama Varma starting from the Fort for the Sasthamangalam procession | Photo Credit: Sharat Sunder Rajeev

In the days of the monarchy, a royal procession used to make its way to a Siva temple in Sasthamangalam

‘Radhapura Kunnu Lane’, a nondescript signage near Sasthamangalam junction may have caught your attention as you travel along Vellayambalam-Sasthamangalam road. However, if you are planning to explore the lane hoping to find the ‘Radhapura’ or at least the remains of an old chariot house, you will be disappointed. The lane now leads to a well-laid out residential area with no trace of any built structure to substantiate the name of the lane.

Radhapura Lane was in olden times known as Radhapura Kunnu, a hill that gradually descends to the banks of the Killi River. Senior citizens from Vellayambalam and Sasthamangalam regions still remember vivid images of a state procession that linked the region with a royal past. When the city cherishes the Arattu procession and related rituals, of the area recall the state processions that once came to Sasthamangalam.

Sasthamangalam Ezhunnalathu, a regal procession to Sasthamangalam, culminated at the ancient Sasthamangalam Mahadeva temple, where the sovereigns offered prayers and rested in the ‘palace’, a double-storied structure located near the western gateway of the temple. According to popular history, it was customary of the Travancore rulers to visit Sasthamangalathu Madhom’, the abode of Koopakkara Pottis, and the Siva temple soon after the Tirunal (royal birthday) celebrations. Even though the origin of this practice remains unknown to this day, some historians are of the opinion that the practice could be dated to the eighteenth century, to the turbulent days of Anizham Tirunal Marthanda Varma.

It is said that the Koopakkara Potti had helped the King on one occasion and in gratitude the King and, later his successors, made it a custom to pay their respect, once in a year, to the Koopakkara family at their residence.

V Narasimhan Thampi presents a vivid portrayal of the procession to Sasthamangalam: “… the Maharaja rides to Sasthamangalam in his golden chariot, drawn by six white horses and behind him follow a train of horse drawn carriages of the royals and the various officials. The Elayarajas, Koil Thampurans, and the Chief Justice can be seen riding in carriages drawn by two horses, whereas the other officers ride in simple carriages. The state procession starts from the Fort at four in the evening and proceeds to Sasthamangalam via Pazhavangadi, Puttenchandai, Palayam, and Vazhuthacaud. At Sasthamangalam, the King worships at the temple and visits the Potti at his residence and returns to the Fort by six O’clock.”

On the way to Sasthamangalam, the procession first halted at Vellayambalam, from where the King went to the temple with a few select attendants and high officials. The royal chariot was stationed at Radhapura Kunnu and the royal party walked down to Pipinmoodu to the temple premises.

The temple, located between Sasthamangalam hill and the nearby elevated Oolampara region, claims antique origins. Old records mention ‘Thiru-chatta-mangalam’ (later Sasthamangalam) and the temple there. Old timers believe that the temple has its origins from a small sacred grove on the banks of the Killi River. A small fragment of the grove can still be seen right in front of the eastern gateway to the temple.

With the end of monarchy, the age-old custom of the Sasthamangalam procession passed into the annals of history, but the temple remains popular among the city dwellers.

(The writer is a conservation architect and history buff)

source: / The Hindu / Home> Society> History & Culture / by Sharat Sunder Rajeev  / Thiruvananthapuram – May 05th, 2017

Noted cinematographer C Ramachandra Menon passes away

Kozhikode :

Noted cinematographer C Ramachandra Menon  who had worked in several Malayalam and Tamil films passed away here on Tuesday. He was 88.

Family members said that he had been under treatment at a private hospital for last several days following old- age related ailments.

Ramachandra Menon had worked in more than 150 Malayalam films including hits like Ummachu, the film adaptation of Uroob’s novel directed by P Bhaskaran, Muthassi, Othenente Makan directed and produced by Kunchacko, Thoppil Bhasi’s Ningalenne Communistakki, IV Sasi’s films like Eetta, Akale Aakaasham, among many others.

He had also associated with noted directors like Hariharan, Sasikumar and Sreekumaran Thambi for several of their films in the 70’s and 80’s.

Born in 1929 as son of P K M Raja of Tiruvannur Kovilakam and Chengalath Janaki Amma in Kozhikode, Ramachandra Menon began his career as assistant cameraman at Vauhini Studios under noted director of photography Marcus Bartley. He went to Singapore in 1956 and joined the Shaw Brothers studios where he worked for six years and later joined the Cathy Studios is Singapore.

He returned to Kerala in 1970 and got associated with Udaya Studios where he did cinematography for four of their films. Later he moved to Chennai where he worked with several famous directors.

Ramachandra Menon has been leading a retired life in Kozhikode since 2000. He is survived by daughter Maya Harigovind and son Dr. Goutham Menon. Ramachandra Menon’s wife Malathi Ramachandran  had died some years back.

The funeral would be held at the Mavoor Road  crematorium on Wednesday.

source: / The Times of India / News> City News> Kozhikode News / by K R Rajeev / TNN / May 09th, 2017

Cartoonist B.G. Varma dead

B. G. Varma, noted cartoonist, died at his residence in Thripunitura on Tuesday. He was 75.

Mr. Varma had worked with renowned cartoonist Shankar in the famed Shankar’s Weekly as a cartoonist-caricaturist.

Brought up in Karachi where his father worked as an engineer, Mr. Varma secured a job at the ST Reddiar Press in Ernakulam after studying art in Mavelikkara and Hyderabad. A cartoon strip he did for Manorama earned him the job at Shankar’s Weekly.

From political cartooning, he went on to be the choicest caricaturist drawing “The Man of The Week” caricature for the weekly. After the closure of the weekly, he worked for the Children’s Book Trust (CBT). Mr. Varma has also designed commemorative stamps for the Central government, on blood donation and on the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by Special Correspondent / Kochi – May 09th, 2017

On the right moves

Veteran players pens book on chess

Chess is the most intellectual of all sports. But, Kerala, which has always prided on its intellect, hadn’t produced any major chess talent for decades.

Except for N.R. Anil Kumar, who played for India at the Chess Olympiad in 1982, Kerala’s presence in India’s chess scene was minimal for decades. There was also A. Sasidharan, an immensely gifted young man — capable of playing brilliantly spectacular games — who committed suicide, reportedly because he was unable to get a job.

But, times have changed. Many players in Kerala have found employment on the basis of their achievements on the chessboard. The State has now two Grandmasters, several international players as well as a little world champion in Nihal Sarin.

So the release of veteran chess-player-turned-author P.V.N. Namboothiripad’s book, Chessinoru Patapusthakam, could not have been timed better.

Running into more than 800 pages, it could well be the most exhaustive book on chess ever written in Malayalam. “The book is the result of my work over the last 10 years,” Mr. Namboothiripad told The Hindu on Saturday. “I always felt that there was a need for such a book in Malayalam. We haven’t too many books that look deeply into chess.”

The book, published by Kerala Bhasha Institute, discusses various technical aspects of chess and features an exhaustive collection of games with diagrams. This is the third book on chess by the Kochi-based author, who turned 80 this year.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Kerala / by P.K.  Ajith / Kozhikode – May 06th, 2017

Sugathakumari bags first ONV Literary Award

Thiruvananthapuram :

Poet B Sugathakumari  has bagged the first ONV Literary Award instituted by ONV Cultural Academy. The award carries a cash prize of Rs 3 lakh, statuette and citation. The award will be given on May 27 on the occasion of the birth anniversary of ONV Kurup .

According to the panel of judges comprising M Leelavathy, C Radhakrishnan and Prabhavarma, Sugathakumari was selected for her poem “Kanneerinte Vishuddhi”.

“The award distribution and similar activities from the academy will help in preserving and handing over the ideas that ONV has put forward through his poems to the coming generations,” said film director Adoor Gopalakrishnan, chairman of the academy.

ONV Youth Literary Awards will be given to Arya Gopi and Sumesh Krishna for their poems “Avasaanathe manushyan” and “Rudraaksham”, respectively.

source: / The Times of India / News> City News> Thiruvananthapuram News / TNN /May 03rd, 2017

Bungalows on the beach

Summer Ville, the western façade facing sea. | Photo Credit: Sharat Sunder Rajeev

In 1927, V Krishnan Thampi, an erudite Sanskrit scholar and writer, made a statement by constructing his house near the beach

The historic fort area of Thiruvananthapuram was initially concentrated around the fort walls that enclosed Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple, the agraharams and the royal abodes within. During the early nineteenth century, the town stretched from the banks of Karamana river to the east, Thiruvallam to the south, Kannammoola towards the north and Shanghumughom in the west. Distribution of settlements strictly followed a sectorial pattern based on caste system.

While families connected to the royal family and the temple resided in the Fort and its immediate precincts, less-privileged communities resided in places away from the religious core.

The coastline was chiefly inhabited by fishermen, whose hamlets were segregated from the Fort area by a vast strip of farmlands and coconut groves and further to the west, by sand dunes. The ancient Devi temple at Shanghumughom and the Arattu ceremony were the major attractions in the otherwise uninhabited Shanghumughom coast.

It was only in the later half of the nineteenth century that some families and persons constructed their houses beyond Eenchakkal, towards Shanghumughom. Easwara Vilasam, a sprawling courtyard house at Vallakadavu, belonged to Punnakkal Easwara Pillai Vicharippukar, a Kathakali maestro and steward to Uthram Tirunal Marthanda Varma. Rohininal Thampuran, a member of Mavelikkara royal house, had constructed Rohini Vilasam, a multi-storied mansion along the Arattu way, west of Eenchakkal.

In 1927, V Krishnan Thampi, an erudite Sanskrit scholar and writer, set up his abode in Shanghumughom, close to the Shanghumughom Devi temple. The house, constructed in the colonial style, has traces of conventional design in the form of a courtyard. According to his biographer, Thampi was advised to settle on the beach by Dr K Raman Thampi. The sea breeze, according to the doctor, could offer relief to Thampi who suffered from arthritis. ‘Beach Bungalow’, the mansion on Shanghumughom beach, soon became a beehive of activities. Kathakali performers, writers, and scholars from across the State visited the house. “The hall was designed with huge louvered doors on east and west elevations, facilitating easy flow of cool sea breeze in the interiors,” says S Radhakrishnan, grandson of Krishnan Thampi. The southern façade of the house has two huge windows with a view of the nearby temple. “Grandfather, when he designed the house, had planned to erect a huge loft on the first floor, facing south. In olden days, one could clearly see the Arattu procession and the breathtaking sunset from the balcony,” recalls Radhakrishnan.

“I cherish my childhood days at Beach Bungalow,” recalls Uma Thampuran, granddaughter of Thampi. “Every morning we would race to the nearby Devi temple before leaving for school,” she adds. Uma also recalls the evening she and her cousins spent by the sea shore. “The sea shore was just an extension of our yard and often we had distinguished visitors like former president VV Giri and his family, who came to enjoy the sea breeze.”

The credit of developing Shanghumughom beach into a sought-after residential zone goes to Krishnan Thampi. N Balakrishnan Nair writes, ‘V. Krishnan Thampi was instrumental in developing Sangumugham into a respectable residential colony. Following Thampi’s footsteps, his friends and other members of the prominent families started to construct houses in the beach area’. Sanguchakram, Summer Ville and Sea Shell were some other houses located near Beach Bungalow. Dr KL Moudgil, a friend of Thampi, also set up his residence in Shanghumughom.

source: / The Hindu / Home> Society> Hidden Histories – History & Culture / by Sharat Sunder Rajeev / Thiruvananthapuram – April 21st, 2017

Curtain down on ninth edition of ITFoK

Cultural carnival People celebrating at the closing ceremony of the International Theatre Festival of Kerala in Thrissur on Tuesday. K.K. Najeeb

As many as 30 plays from 14 countries staged at the nine-day festival

The nine-day International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK), which witnessed many theatre experiments, formats, and debates, concluded here on Tuesday.

Theatre companies from 14 counties performed over 30 dramas in the festival. With focus on street performances, the ninth edition of the festival reached across the streets and stadia, captivating the onlookers along with theatre fans. The festival featured artistes from Spain, Germany, Israel, Chile, Georgia, France, Italy, Iran and Serbia alongside some of the finest street artistes from across India.

A Catalan-based theatre company, Kamchatka, conducted a theatre workshop, Migrar, at the festival. Theatre Colloquium and Dramaturgy and writing conclave also provided a different experience.

Organised by the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi under the aegis of the Department of Culture, ITFoK has grown into a globally recognised festival of contemporary theatre over the period.

Pentesilea by Teatro Dei Venti, Italy, which tells about love and hate, was performed at the Kavalam Arangu on Palace Ground on the concluding day. Sari Rosa, an India-Chile collaborative production, was the other play staged on the day.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by Staff Reporter / Thrissur – March 01st, 2017