There are so many interesting languages and dialects throughout the world, it seems impossible to ever know even a little about each one. Yet, each and every one of those languages and dialects has some fascinating lessons to teach us. For instance, on the continent of India, there are a multitude of languages, and one of those is Malayalam. This language, which is the official language of the Kerala region, was just recently named as a classical language by the government of India. That’s really a special denotation for a language, as it speaks both of its history as well as of its value to the people and of the culture of that region. While many of us have never heard of this language before, it is spoken by over thirty three million people. It’s roots go back to at least the 6th century, although its actual origins are uncertain. The oldest written literature that has been discovered goes back to between the 9th and 11th centuries. It’s interesting to note that the very first travel diary written in the various Indian languages and dialects was done so using Malayalam.
Regarding contemporary Malayalam poetry, one of the first names that comes to mind is Kumaran Asan. During the first part of the 20th century, Asan stirred up the traditional forms of Malayalam poetry by focusing much more on lyrical forms of poetry and much less on the more metaphysical themes. Throughout his work, the reader will find a strong spiritual commitment as well as deep moral convictions. His writings demonstrate an eloquent account of highly contextualized drama and an amazing concentration on poetic form and literary devices. His poem, Vina Poovu, which means A Fallen Flower, uses symbolism to depict the way in which so much of human life is filled with tragedy, doing so in a very thought provoking and moving manner. In another of his poems, Asan show great ability and power of thoughtfulness and creativity to depict the story of Usha and Aniruddha. This classic love story is displayed with deep emotional sensitivity. Although the poetic beauty gets lost when translating to English, the story is still a rather intriguing tale of how two people can struggle and through perseverance and pure self determination arrive at a truly happy ending. I’d encourage anyone who has a liking for romantic stories to find the entire tale and give it a read. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
Usha and Aniruddha (an excerpt)
by Kumaran Asan
Another contemporary Malayalam poet is Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer. He has done much to help enrich the Malayalam modern poetry. Ulloor’s writings tend to reflect a very deep admiration and devotion for the great spiritual and moral values, which he contends are the strongest assets of the ancient cultural and social life of India of old.
The Traveler’s Song
by G. Sankara Kurup
As with all of the languages common to India, each region has its own dialect and cultural subsets, which have a great influence on the writings of their people.
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