Legendary Malayalam poet and Jnanpith winner Akkitham dies at 94
Akkitham was conferred with the highest literary award of the country Jnanpith at a special function held at his house at Kumaranellur in Palakkad district of Kerala on September 24.Updated: Oct 15, 2020, 17:27 IST
Malayalam poet and Jnanpith winner Akkitham Achuthan Namboodiri died of age-related ailments at a private hospital in Thrissur on Thursday, his family members said. He was 94.
A freedom fighter, Vedic scholar, journalist, social reformer, poet and writer all rolled into one, he authored 40 books and remained a colossus in the literary and social world for more than eight decades.
Akkitham was conferred with the highest literary award of the country Jnanpith at a special function held at his house at Kumaranellur in Palakkad district of Kerala on September 24.
He was honoured with Padma Shri in 2017 and was also the recipient of many other awards.
His masterpiece ‘Irupatham Noottandinte Ithihasam’ (Epic of the 20th Century) is considered as one of the best literary works in Malayalam. One of the couplets in the book “Velicham dukkam annu Unni, thamas allo sukhapradam” (Worldly Knowledge Is Pain, My Child, Ignorance Is Bliss In This World”) is on the lips of even youngsters in the state. He was one of the writers who brought modernism in Malayalam literature. His literary works sparkled with values of humanity and brotherhood.
Born in a conservative family in Kumaranellur village in Palakkad in 1926, Akkitham he was attracted to the freedom movement at a young age. He wrote his first poem at the age of eight on the walls of a temple in his village. He once said that one of the biggest regrets of life was that he could not meet his idol Mahatma Gandhi. But he remained a true Gandhian throughout his life.
In the company of V T Bhattathiripad, a social reformer and writer and EMS Namboodripad, Marxist legend and former CM, he fought against social evils in upper caste societies like child marriage, promoted wedding of widows, community feasting and women’s education.
Closely associated with the Communist movement he later distanced from the ideology after ‘Calcutta Thesis’ that called for a popular uprising and revolution. Later some of the liberal writers and a section of the party also dubbed him a camp follower of Sangh Parivar. But in one of the interviews he had said he was neither a Communist nor a RSS supporter, but a follower of humanity and brotherhood.
When playback singer K J Yesudas was denied entry into Guruvayur Sreekrishna temple because he is a Christian, Akkitham was on the forefront to criticise it. “His song is waking up the God every day, why can’t he be allowed,” he had said. Akkitham also worked with All India Radio from where he retired in 1985.
Both Akkitham and M T Vasudevan Nair, master storyteller and another Jnanpith laureate, belong to the same village and were thick friends. “He was an epitome of virtues. I lost my elder brother who guided me well,” Nair condoled the writer’s death. “A writer of rare integrity, he was a bridge between tradition and modernity in literature,” said writer and social activist Prof M N Karassery.
Governor Arif Mohammad Khan and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also paid tributes to the poet.