‘Mahakavi’ Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri, who brought last year’s covetous Jnanpith Award to Malayalam literature, died at a private hospital in Thrissur on Thursday morning. He was 94.
The last Malayalam poet to be called ‘Mahakavi’ (great poet), Akkitham was in hospital for the last two days after his health failed.
Born in 1926 at Kumaranallur in Palakkad district, Akkitham grew up to become the tallest poet in contemporary Malayalam literature, enjoying an indisputable position as the last Mahakavi of Kerala. He introduced “meaningful modernism” in Malayalam poetry several decades ago.
He worked for nearly three decades with Akashvani as scriptwriter and editor. Akkitham had close associations with Communist ideologue E.M.S. Namboodiripad when they both were part of the social reform movement.
He began dabbling in poetry very early in life by scribbling on temple walls. He made notable contributions to Malayalam literature through his poems, stories, plays and essays. He has nearly four dozen works to his credit.
Some of his seminar works include Pathalathinte Muzhakkam, Irupatham Noottandinte Ithihasam, and Balidarshanam . Among his widely read works were Bhagavatham, Nimisha Kshetram, Vennakkallinte Katha, Manassakshiyude Pookkal, Panchavarnakkili, Arangettam, Madhuvidhu, Oru Kula Munthiringa, Idinju Polinja Lokam, Amritagathika, Samathwathinte Akasham, Prathikara Devata and Manasapooja .
Akkitham was known for leading a life of great personal virtue. According to poet Manamboor Rajanbabu, he deserved to be called Mahakavi not only because of the greatness of his works, but also because of his virtuous life.
“He was a man of inimitable virtue who displayed great positivity and optimism. The modernism he heralded was quite meaningful. People could easily understand his poetry, which abounded in imageries that they could very well associate with. That’s his greatness,” said Mr. Rajanbabu.
Akkitham’s widely quoted lines “ Velicham dukhamanunnee, thamassallo sughapradam ” still have few parallels in modern Malayalam poetry not only in popularity but in depth as well.
The following lines of Akkitham have travelled deep down the minds of Malayalees:
"Theruvil kakka kothunnu,
Mula chappi valikkunnu,
He was widely praised for his powerful imagery that ordinary people could easily associate themselves with.
His work Balidarshanam won the State and Central Sahitya Akademi Awards in 1972-73. He was the co-editor of Mangalodayam and Yogakshemam journals. He was awarded Padma Sri in 2017. Apart from the Ezhuthachan Award he won in 2008, he was bestowed with Odakkuzhal Award, Asan Award, Sanjayan Award, Lalithambika Antharjanam Award and several other honours.
Akkitham was honoured last month when the 55th edition of the country’s most prestigious Jnanpith Award was bestowed on him at a special function held at his house at Kumaranallur. He did Malayalam literature proud by becoming the sixth Keralite to receive the Jnanpith laurel. Although the award was announced in November 2019, the Covid-19 lockdown delayed the award ceremony till September this year.
People from different walks of life offered condolences. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that Akkitham’s compositions reflected his compassion for fellow humans.
A great loss for Indian literature: Kerala Governor
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan has said the passing of Mahakavi Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri is a great loss for Indian literature and Malayalam poetry.
"With roots firm on Indian thought, he played a role in bringing modern sensibility to Malayalam poetry", the Governor said in a condolence message.
Funeral with State honours
The funeral of Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri will take place with State honour at his house at Kumaranellur near Thrithala in the district at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
Education Minister C. Ravindranath will lay a wreath on the poet’s body on behalf of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. District Collector D. Balamurali will lay a wreath on behalf of Minister for Culture A.K. Balan.
Minister for Agriculture V.S. Sunilkumar will lay a wreath at Sahitya Akademi Hall at Thrissur.
( With inputs from S. Anil Radhakrishnan )