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Among the four Dravidian languages, Malayalam, the language of Kerala, was the last to form and acquire a character of it's own. One school of thought traces it's origins to Sanskrit and another to Tamil.

Ezhuthachan's work is a fine expression in Malayalam, of the Bhakti tradition. Known as the father of Malayalam literature,  his version of the Ramayana, is read aloud in hundreds of hindu homes in Kerala. The influence of the west began with the arrival of the Portugese. In the second half of the 18th century, Clement Patiri published the Samkshepa Vedartham, the first printed book in Malayalam. Herman Gundert, the renowned German missionary and Malayalam scholar par excellence, is best remembered for his Malayalam-English dictionary, published in 1872.


The 19th century saw the flowering of Malayalam poetry, in the courts of Swati Thirunal.The period also produced the grammar works of 'Kerala Panini' A.R.Raja Raja varma. His popular poem , Malayala Vilasam, marks the beginning of the modern era of Malayalam poetry , according to scholars. But the Golden Age undoubtedly, revolves around the the famous trinity of Kumaran Asan, Ulloor S.Parameshwar Iyer and Vallathol Narayana Menon.Several other poets followed - Nalappat Narayana Menon, Pallath Raman, Sardar K.M.panikkar and Balamani Amma, to name a few.

Contemporary malayalam poetry is diverse and prolific, though critics say, it has lost the vibrancy and eclectic passion of the 70's, when progressive radicalism swept in influences from Soviet socialist realism to Latin American voices.But Malayalam poetry is alive and kicking. Contemporary poets include O.N.V.Kurup, Ayyappa Panikkar, Kadamanitta Ramakrishnan, Madhavikutty, Sugatha Kumari, Kavalam Narayana Panikkar and Sachidananthan.


The earliest Malayalam novel was Kundalata, by T.M. Appu Nedungadi, published in 1887.The historical novels of C.V.Raman Pillai, Chengalathu Kunhirama Menon and Sardar K.M. Panikkar chronicle events in Kerala's growth as a state. Malayalam literature did not take long to address the issues of the masses.Thakazhi Sivasankaran Pillai, P.Keshavdev, Vaikom Mohammed Basheer, S.K.Pottekkat and P.C.KuttiKrishnan spear headed the break with traditionalism. The current generation of Malayalam writers contain brilliant talents like O.V.Vijayan, M.T.Vasudevan Nair, M.Mukundan, C.V.Shriraman and Zachariah, to name a few. In addition to this, Arundhati Roy, a budding writer from Kerala, has carved a niche for herself in the english literary scene.

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