In the demise of Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri (94), Kerala has lost a doyen of Malayalam literature whose writing effervesced with values of humanity and brotherhood. A great poet of unbridled human love – that’s how chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan described him in the latter’s condolence message.
Akkitham, the recipient of some of the biggest literature honours in India such as the Jnanpith (2019), Kendra Sahitya Akademi award (1973), Vayalar award (1972), Ezhuthachan award (2016) and Kerala Sahitya Akademi award (1972), passed away at 8:10 am Thursday at a private hospital in Thrissur where he was admitted for age-related illnesses.
Akkitham was born to Vasudevan Namboothiri and Parvathy Antharjanam on March 18, 1926 into the conservative Namboothiri community in Kumaranellur village in Palakkad district. As part of his early education, Akkitham learnt Sanskrit, music and astrology. He later became active in the community and worked as a journalist for a few years as the sub-editor of magazines like Mangalodayam and Yogakshemam.
The turning point in his career as a noted litterateur coincided around the time he joined the Akashvani in Kozhikode as a script-writer in 1956. By 1975, he was the editor of Akashvani Thrissur, a highly influential radio station in the state at the time and a magnet for musicians, lyricists and poets.
Akkitham’s works, that encompass a melange of poems, short stories, translations and plays, have been noted for their deep and profound reflection of love and compassion. His most popular work is Irupatham Nootantinte Ithihasam which won him the Sanjayan award in 1952.
His other works are Balidarshanam (for which he received the 1972 Kerala Sahitya Akademi award), Pandathe Melshanthi, Manasapuja, Manasakshiyude Pookkal and Nimisha Kshetram (for which he received the Odakuzhal award). Noted literary critic MN Karassery has once said that one of the great qualities of Akkitham’s writings is it’s lucidity which makes it more accessible to the layman reader.
Along with writing, Akkitham was also attracted by the Gandhian thought and immersed himself into the reformation of the society alongside the likes of VT Bhattathiripad. In fact, he is seen as one of the pillars of the modern renaissance movement of Kerala.
Akkitham became the sixth Malayali in history when he was conferred with the Jnanpith award, the country’s highest literary prize, last year. Due to the prevailing Covid-19 situation, the award was handed to him at his home in Kumaranellur in a small ceremony in September this year in which poet Prabha Varma and cultural affairs minister AK Balan took part. In fact, his native village Kumaranellur, which lies on the banks of the Bharathapuzha, has also produced another Jnanpith recipient – MT Vasudevan Nair in 1995.
“A poet of rare integrity, a creator of many works, all considered as classics, Akkitham’s poetry reflects unfathomable compassion, imprints of Indian philosophical and moral values and a bridge between tradition and modernity, delves deep into human emotions in a fast changing social space,” read a statement by the Jnanpith jury board last year.
Akkitham, who also received the Padma Shri – the country’s fourth-highest civilian honour in 2017, is survived by six children.
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