Akkitham Achuthan: The Man Who Spoke Through Poetry

In the words of Akkitham Achuthan,

“ഒരു കണ്ണീര്‍കണം മറ്റുള്ളവര്‍ക്കായ് ഞാന്‍ പൊഴിക്കവെ

 ഉദിക്കയാണെന്നാത്മാവില്‍ ആയിരം സൂര്യമണ്ഡലം

 ഒരു പുന്ചിരി ഞാന്‍ മറ്റുള്ളവര്‍ക്കായ് ചിലവാക്കവെ

 ഹൃദയത്തിലുലാവുന്നു നിത്യ നിര്‍മ്മല പൗ‍ര്‍ണ്ണമി.”

These words that spur of selflessness and empathy still resounds in the hearts of every Malayali. 

Social reformation and renaissance movements that swept in the West had repercussions in the social, cultural and political life of Kerala, thanks to the sagacious life of a few people.

Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiripad, the Mahakavi of “Kairali’ was one such person. He was a poet, a social reformer, and a modernist who has invoked great admirations in the hearts of every Malayali. It is almost impossible to include the par- excellency of this great soul in a 1000 word article. Akkitham, born on 18th March 1926, was one of the pioneers of modernist poetry in Malayalam literature. He is said to have had an epiphany at a temple – his scribblings on the temple walls, an act of childish innocence, seeded the thought of becoming a poet.

Also Read: 9 GREATEST MALAYALI POETS OF ALL TIMES

Akkitham penned down some of his best known poetry during the Renaissance period in Kerala, a time when social reformation was at its peak.

It was a period well noted for the emergence of modern thoughts, influenced by western ideals, and when the waves of progress were slowly extending to the social, cultural and political horizons of Kerala. His poems speak of the feud between emerging social reforms and the impact of it on traditional values. The chains of the caste system and the liberated breaking through the norms under the influence of the waves of reformation is seen in his poetry, often expressed with adamant clarity and concern.

By the end of the 1950s, the flame of social reformation was losing its fuel. Visible hopelessness and grief, a notable aspect of modernist poetry became the muse for the poet. Disheartened by the decay of the Revolution, Akkitham Achuthan penned down ‘The epic of 20th century’ (Irupatham Nootandinte Ithihaasam). It is an ode to mankind; to imbibe the innocence and simplicity of childhood, where one isn’t corrupted by immorality or hypocrisy. The four lines (mentioned at the beginning of the article) translates to 

“ When I shed one teardrop for others,

 a thousand galaxies burst forth in my heart.

 When I offer a smile for others,

 the eternal pure light of the full moon strolls in my heart.”

The poetic brilliance of hiding deeper ideologies in a few verses provides the readers and admirers of poetry with a revelation. Such revelations are things that we can hold on to during difficult times like these.

Akkitham was influenced by Marxist and Romantic ideals. It is also said that he would also talk passionately about Humanism. He wrote extensively about love, how love can liberate us from the boundaries set by traditions and religion; how love is the only connection that can set us free.

His ideas and creativity weren’t just bound to poetry. He wrote plays, short stories, critical essays, and worked as a scriptwriter for Aakash Vani (Kozhikode) in the 1950s. As the editor for Aakash Vani (Thrissur), he was introduced to a wider audience, and that’s where his journey to becoming the epic poet that we know him as began.

Surrealism and his play with metaphors to portray socially relevant themes appealed to the masses.

“വെളിച്ചംദു:ഖമാണുണ്ണീ,

തമസല്ലോസുഖപ്രദം

I don’t think there is any Malayali who hasn’t heard these lines at least once in their life. These lines, that are accidentally attributed to Kunjunni Mash, were penned down by Akkitham. The irony and the depth that is embedded in these two lines lead one to a dark place filled with conflicting notions.

One cannot stop wondering about how Akkitham links past with the present, and blacks with whites. Balidarshanam, his epic poem is an example of how a basic plot from history, the story of Mahabali, can be retold in a way that questions the morality and degeneration of society. He was awarded the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award for this epic poem in 1972.

Kendra Sahitya Akademi award, Odakkuzhal award, Sanjayan Puraskaram, Ezhuthachan award, Wayalar award, Padmasree award are some of the other accolades that he was presented with. He was also awarded the Jnanpith award for his contributions to Malayalam literature on September 24th, 2019.

Keeping his readers engaged in that black hole of conflicting thoughts, Akkitham bid farewell to us today at 7.55 AM. Indeed a great loss to Indian literature.

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