Champu poems
Most of the Manipravaalam works extolled the beauty of the woman. This trait can be observed in the champu poems of which the first appeared in the 14th century. Unniyachi Charitam the first Champu poem is the first kaavya or narrative composition in the language. Following this model, similar works like Unnichirutevi Charitam, and Unniyaati Charitam appeared. Unnichirutevi Charitam, cannot be called a champu, because its narration is wholly in prose. Generally, the prose in Malayalam Champus is poetical. It has got a definite meter. All these works as reffered to earlier have a predominating sensuous import.
In the beginning of the 14th century, there appeared a work called Anantapura Varnanam (Description of Trivandrum). It takes us right into the markets of Trivandrum, describing vividly the sights normally seen there.
The message poems following Kalidasa's Cloud Messenger, that appeared in Kerala are Unnuneeli Sandesam, and Kooka sandesam. They depict the agonies of a lover separated from his beloved. Another important work which is a great contribution to literature is Chandrotsavam (Festival of the Moon) that appeared around 1500A.D. This work is exceptionally brilliant in composition and texture.
Most of the earlier Champus dealt with eroticism. The later Champus switched over to puranic themes. Of these, the Raamayana Champu, the Champu written in Malayalam, deserves mention. It consists of two thousand stanzas dealing with the story of Rama and Sita. The work has in it the main theme, interspersed with humorous descriptions. The Bhaarata Champu, is another puranic composition. Another exquiste Champu, of the sixteenth century depicts the story of Nala and Damayanti in a moving manner. Kaama-Dahanam is yet another work which deals with a puranic theme.
A variety of poetry, called Paattu (song) belonging to a totally different genre grew simultaneously. In this group which can be called song-mould, the most prominent work was Raamacharitam belonging to the late twelfth or early thirteenth century. The author of this work is named as Cheeraman (Sri Rama), who has been identified by some historians as the ruler of Venad. The work is a blend of Tamil and Malayalam. Raamacharitham has been created on the model of Valmiki's Raamaayanam.
Niranam poets
The poets who helped to stabilize the classical import of Ramacharitam were the three Niranam poets whose period was between 1350 and 1450. They were members belonging to a family called Niranam. Their names were Madhava Panikar, Sankara Panikar and Rama Panikar. Their diction was also in the mould of Raamacharitam. Madhava Panikkar's most important contribution was his transilation of 'The Gita'. Sankara Panikkar's work Bharata Mala and Rama Panikkar's Ramaayana Bharata and the Bhagavata also were based on Puranic themes.
In the 15th century, one of the important works in Malayalam, which served as a landmark in the development of its literature, emerged. It was Krishna Gatha, written by Cherusseri Namboodiri. It is said that the author was inspired by a lullaby sung by a mother to put her child to sleep. He followed the same metrical pattern for his composition. It is in Krishna Gatha, that we see a diction, which is similar to that of the present day. The theme deals with the story of Lord Krishna. The sweet and tender aspects of maternal love are wonderfully portrayed in this work.
It is said that it was in the sixteenth century that Malayalam Literature attained its own individuality as a full-fledged independent language. Thunchat Ramanujan Ezhuthachan the author of the famous Adhyaathma Raamaayanam is considered to be the father of Modern Malayalam Literature. Ezhuthachan was from Trikkandiyur in Malabar. He was a teacher who had attained spiritual heights. The Malayalam, that he used was one that had a classical style. The grammar, was not a mixture of Sanskrit and Malayalam. It was a grammar that was purely a fully developed Malayalam. The metre that he employed was Kilippaattu metre. In his works, the narrator is a bird who presents to the reader the whole epic. Hence it is called Kilippaattu which means 'bird song'. The Adhyaatma Raamayana, appealed to the common man, and had such strong influence over him, that still it is sung in houses, especially in the month of scarcity, the month of Karkitaka. In addition to Ramayana, he has written Mahabhaarata too in Kilippaattu style.
Ezhuthachan through his extraordinary narrative capacity and excellent diction, brought about a revolution in poetry. He through his works served as a medium to transmit the literary and spiritual interests in the common man.