Development of Literature

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The earliest written record of Malayalam is the Vazhappalli inscription (ca. 830 AD). The early literature of Malayalam had a three fold development:

  1. Classical songs known as Pattuu of the Tamil tradition generally representing the Bhakti movement.

  2. Manipravalam of the Sanskrit tradition, which permitted a generous interspersing of Sanskrit with Malayalam and in general describing the sensuous aspects of life.

  3. The folk song rich in native elements

Malayalam poetry to the present day testifies to the fusion in varying degrees of the three different strands. The oldest examples of  Pattu and Maniprvalam respectively are Ramacharitam and Vaishikatantram, both of the twelveth century.

The earliest extant prose work in the language is a commentary in simple Malayalam, Bhashakautaliyam (12th century) on Chanakya's Arthasastra. Malayalam prose of different periods exhibit influence of different languages such as Tamil, Sanskrit, Prakrits, Pali, Hindi, Urdu, Arabi, Persian, Syriac, Portuguese, Dutch, French and English. Modern literature in Malayalam is rich especially in poetry and novel, including works of four winners of the Jnanapeedam award (G. Sankara Kurup, the poet; S.K. Pottakkadu, Takazhi Sivasankara Pillai and M. T. Vasudevan Nair, the novelists)  and those of many who have won national awards.

Oral literature in Malayalam is also quite considerable.  The hundreds of   folk songs collected and being published include lullabies, the peasants songs, songs of the hunter, the fisherman and the boatman, songs sung by the children and the adults during games and plays, devotional songs related to religious functions and rituals, songs restricted to specific religious groups and castes, songs narrating the chivalrous acts of the brave and also songs which retell the stories in the epics with adaptations or distortions that are of special appeal to the masses.  Such popular poems continue to assume the grab of contemporary language with all its local, communal and logical colourings.

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