Malayalam poet, Jnanpith award winner Akkitham dies at 94

Thrissur: Renowned Malayalam poet and Jnanpith award winner Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri, who is said to have heralded modernism in Malayalam poetry, died at a private hospital here on Thursday.

He was 94.

A widower, the Mahakavi (great poet), as he was known, leaves two sons and four daughters.

Hospital sources said he was admitted for age related ailments a couple of days ago and the end came at 8.10 am.

Popularly known as Akkitham, his 'Irupatham Noottandinte Ithihasam' (Epic of the 20th Century) is considered as one of the first truly modernist poems in Malayalam literature.

A popular verse- 'Velicham dukhamanunni, thamasallo sukhapradam', which is roughly translated as "light brings sorrow, my child, darkness is bliss" is like a proverb for Keralites.

It is also interpreted as "worldly knowledge is pain my child, ignorance is bliss."

He penned around 45 books, comprising poetry anthologies, plays and short stories including 'Balidarsanam' (The Vision of Bali), 'Arangettam', 'Nimisha Kshetram', 'Idinju Polinja Lokam', 'Amrita Ghatika', and 'Kalikkottilil' and many more.

Akkitham had bagged the Jnanpith award, the highest literary award, in 2019 and is the sixth writer to bring the honour for Malayalam literature.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the award was presented to him last month at a function at his home in Kumaranalloor in Palakkad district.

Among the numerous awards which came his way are Padma Shri, Ezhuthachan Award, Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award, Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for Poetry, Odakkuzhal Award, Vallathol Award and Vayalar Award.

Born on March 18, 1926 in a traditional Namboothiri family, Akkitham, was a true Gandhian , social reformer and journalist, and had worked as an editor in various magazines before joining the All India Radio (AIR) in 1956 at Kozhikode.

Akkitham's wife, Sreedevi Antharjanam, had passed away last year, aged 85.

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed grief over the death.

Condoling the death, Khan said the poet's demise was a loss for India literature and Malayalam poetry.

"...With roots firm on Indian thought,he played a role in bringing modern sensibility to Malayalam poetry... He represented the loftiest ideals of poetic tradition, with utmost respect for Indian values & tradition deeply reflecting in his poems," Khan tweeted.

Vijayan said Akkitham was a great poet who stood for sublime human love.

"He was a poet who wished for unconditional love to be the foundation for the universe and translated that wish into his poetry.

Considered synonymous with an era in Malayalam literary history, Akkitham ushered in modernity into Malayalam poetry through his works, 'Irupatham Noottandinte Ithihasam and 'Idinju Polinja Lokam'," Vijayan said in his condolence message.

Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala condoled the demise of the poet and said his literary works were filled with the beauty of humanity.

"The demise of Akkitham marks the end of an era in Malayalam literature," Chennithala said in a statement.

The body was kept for some time at the Sahitya Academy hall here for the public to pay their respects, after which it was taken to Kumaranalloor in Palakkad for the funeral later this evening.

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