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History of Malayalam language  



One of the four major Dravidian languages of South India is Malayalam, today. One of the twenty two scheduled languages of India is the Malayalam language. This language is spoken by 35.9 million people.  The Malayalam language has an official language status in Kerala State and the union territories of Lakshadweep. 

The word “Malai” means mountain and the word “ Malau-alam” refers to the people or the language of the mountainous area. The spoken language of present day Kerala state was Tamil about thousand years ago.  In the 14th century, Rama-charitam was composed. This inaugurated Malayalam literature

The father of modern Malayalam language was Thunchathu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan. Ramayana and Mahabharata, the ancient Indian epics were translated into Malayalam language by Ezhuthachan. Malayalam speaking Hindu community still read his Adhyatma Ramayana and Mahabharata with religious reverence.  

Malayalam has songs namely pattu in its early literature. The songs are used for various occasions like harvest, gods, heroes etc. A prose commentary on Chanakya’s Arthasastra is the earliest literary work available in Malayalam now. Under Manipravalam, Arthasastra and another poetical work namely Vaisikatantram is there. Arthasastra is believed to belong to the 13th century while Vaisikatantram is of 14thcentury.  

It is important to note the contribution of Ezhuthachan. From Sanskrit, he translated Ramayanam to Malayalam. The vedantic thoughts blended in his works. Bhakti Yuga, followed immediately after the Ezhuthachan’s period. Bhakti Yuga is devotional literature’s age in Malayalam. The contemporary scholar of Ezhuthachan was Melpathur Bhattathirippad. Poonthanam Nambudiri, another prominent writer who followed Ezhuthachan’s footsteps. The author of Jnanappana is Poonthanam. 

Have you heard of “Attakkatha Age” in Malayalam literature? Attam in Malayalam means the ‘dance or drama’. Katha is a Sanskrit term means ‘story’. For a type of dance drama known as Kathakali, Ezhuthachan written stories. In the 16th century, the Raja of Kottarakkara, wrote the story of Ramayana. It was styled as Ramanattam. 

Among the classical poets of Kerala, Unnayi Varyar was popular. Do you known, who is known as the Kalidasa of Kerala? It is Unnayi Varyar. Irayimman Tampi, Ashvati Raja etc also contributed many plays to the Malayalam literature. This was in the 17th century. By compiling dictionaries in the language, translating the Bible, the Christian missionaries made their contribution, during this period.   

In this century, the people’s poet of Kerala namely Kunjan Nambiar lived. In the cultural and religious outlook of the Kerala people, he brought a revolution. To bring down the art and literature to the common man, he played an important role.   

During the period of Swathi Thirunal (Maharaja of Travancore), many talented people visited his court to display their talents. The Raja, himself was a scholar in different Indian languages namely Hindi, Malayalam, Sanskrit, Telengu etc.  

The Kerala Official Language (Legislation) Act, 1969, declares Malayalam as the official language of Kerala. Some of the authors of modern Malayalam literature are namely Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (1914 -1999), Uroob (1915-1979), O. V. Vijayan (1930-2005), S. K. Pottekkatt, (1913–1982), Vaikom Muhammad Basheer (1908-1994), M. Mukundan, Kamala Suraiyya, M T Vasudevan Nair, P. Kesava Pillai etc. 




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