The Contribution of Muslims to Early Malayalam Literature
The Muslims of the past used to study only the Quran. They knew how to write only Arabic just for the purpose of reciting the Quran. But creativity needed self expression. It was this self expression that created the special 'language form' known as Arabi Malayalam. It followed the grammar and syntax of Malayalam. But its vocabulary included words from Arabic, Urdu and Tamil. It was written in Arabic script, with some new symbols to denote unfamiliar Malayalam consonants.
Arabi-Malayalam works are mainly in verse form. There are narrative poems, war poems and romantic stories in this group. There is a rich collection of wedding songs which are beautiful when sung.
The Contributions of Christians to Early Malayalam Literature
The work of the Christian missionaries to aid conversion, was instrumental to bring about a surge of prose works. Of the foreign missionaries who came to Kerala, the name of Arnos Padri deserves special mention. He reached Kerala in 1699 and was here till his death in 1732. He was the first European to have written a Sanskrit grammar. Another great contribution of Arnos is his poems and hymns. The story of Virgin Mary and the life and death of Christ are his important works. The other missionaries who left indelible marks in the history of kerala are Paulino and Hermann Gundert (1814-1893). Paulino wrote two poetical works. Gundert has two very important works to his credit. These are a Malayalam Grammar (1851) and a Malayalam English Dictionary (1872). The dictionary is still popular, and reveals the sincere and laborious field work that he undertook to collect the words. As a result, the dictionary has a unique place among the lexicographical works in Malayalam.
Kattakkayam's (1859-1936), work was the first full fledged literary attempt made by native Christians. His early poems were published in a journal called Satyananda Kahalam. He has written plays on the temptation of Christ on the story of Oliver and Charlemagne and St. Thomas, the Apostle. His greatest work was the epic Yesu Vijayam (Triumph of Jesus). Succeeding Kattakkayam's epic, came K.V. Simon's Veda Vihaaram. Kandattil Verghese Mappila, the editor of Manorama has written poems and hymns also.
Regarding, contributions to prose the name of Joseph Kariyatti is worth mentioning. His main work is a critique of the ecclesiastic controversy of his time. The book is entitled Veda Tarkam. Kariyatti's friend Thoma wrote a book called Vartamana- Pustakam which is a record of their travel to Europe.
George Mathan (1820-70) a Jacobite priest was another person who contributed a lot in the form of articles and books. He has also written a grammar.