From “Nalapat Gurukulam”
Preface to Memory of an era.
Dr Suvarna Nalapat
Yajurveda says,only when one visualize the entire universe as oneself,ones desires and sorrows end.This perception is the advaitha experience of the vedanthin,the Samadhi vision of the yoginsGnaana shows the oneness of existence,and its opposite ignorance shows everything as different from one another.This one and many feeling has to be tackled by all yogins and all scientists.
Science is nothing but reduction of all multiplicities into oneness .Science and spirituality are not different.
A person who wants to achieve the wisdom of oneness accepts one of the many methods prescribed in scriptures.According to Kanaada Vaiseshika ,when one acquires the six different types of knowledge of a object,and then applies it in ones own life,he/she has become one with the object.The six different types of knowledge of an object are dravya(matter)guna(quality)karma(action or influence)saadharmyavaidharmya(similarities and differences)samavaaya(causal connection and oneness).A student studying chemistry first study the elements physical character ,structure and then its properties and reactions ,its differences from other elements ,its character in complexes when it is in union with other elements etc.For example in carbohydrates the characters of carbon,hydrogen and oxygen together in combination.This is a scientific method.And it is this very same method that vaiseshika employs for study of brahma .A student enquiring self,has to first know the character of ATHMA,its qualities,actions or lack of actions,and its differences from other elements in nature,etc.For this he has to approach an expert Guru.The ability of a guru and the ability of a disciple has to be determined before one accepts each other.The wisdom acquired at the feet of a compassionate guru,a great yogin ,is the esoteric wisdom of the Upanishads,which is part of Prasthaanathraya,the greatest knowledge system of India.
In spiritual quest,the Guru has to be a qualified practitioner of spirituality ,and a mere scholar cannot fulfil that role.He gives the Brahma experience depending upon the guna and ability of each disciple and the method adopted may vary according to the ability and temperament of the disciple.The prescribed curriculum changes with the ability of disciple and the manodharma of Guru.A very flexible ,yet a very defined educational system made to meet the needs of all the enquirers.Under a guru the disciples learn the secret of creation,the formation of indivisible paramaanu and the large universes,the repeating cycles of universes and spacetimes,the place of him as well as the guru and the entire organic inorganic life in it.The universes bloom as a large lotus flower within the inner eye of the disciple through the yogic eye of the Guru.And ,the disciple becomes the next Guru for the next generation.This process continues.
The first feeling in disciple’s mind is
The path of the revolving universe
Is anantha,unknown ,and indescribable
A human being,
Sitting in a far off corner
How can he ever find its secret?
Then that wonder slowly give place to another higher feeling.With humility he says in a selfconfident note
If my weak hands also do karma
This great wheel of time
Now he has understood his limitations and his abilities as well and is ready to carry on the work further.
What is learnt sitting near the Guru ,is upanishada,from the point of view of disciple.But from the point of view of the Guru,it is recreation of the entire universe and making the disciple closer to that secret.Nalapat Narayanamenon gave such a meaning to the word Upanishada in his work Arshagnaana and this view is expressed in Gargyaayana’s pranavavaada also.
Once everything become one with you and with God,ahimsa or nonviolence naturally starts.How can one kill or exploit another if one knows that everything is part of him and of God.Jina.Budha and Brahmana are only different terms applied to such human beings who realized this truth.
I,the creator of You ,
Is the rishi of dos and donts
And the devatha too.
When one reaches an absolute bliss stage of wisdom he/she is free from all bondages and can live ethically without anyone imposing ethics.That heart opens as a lotus of nirvana in front of sorrows and wisdom as pollen and love as honey fills its center.Belonging to Nalapat Gurukulam,as adisciple,I have been lucky enough to enjoy the honey and pollen of this great lotus of creativity and this book I offer for my predecessors ,Nalapat Narayanamenon and Balamani Amma.
1.The era when Nalapat Narayanamenon lived
2.Kavithraya and Nalapat
Part 2.Balamani Amma
2.Sweetness of offerings
4.An old Radha from Punnayurkulam
5.The modern theories and Nalapatan poets
6.Balamani Amma’s letters to Suvarna,her niece
7 Balamani amma ,the mother of Malayalam literature
1.Horoscope of Nalapat and of Balamani amma
2.geneology of Nalapat family
3.The life of Nalapat in a pyramidal pattern .
A human being is born.He/she dies.The interval is life.What did we think,do and how did we live in that short span?What did the society get out of that life?what did the next generation learn from that life?These gives us an idea of a persons greatness.To have an overall awareness of the spacetime in his/her lifetime,we may have to know something about the world affairs and national and regional affairs in that particular field of contribution by the individual to have a gestalt view of life.The individual is not only the creation of the field in which hwe live,but also the creator of that field,in gestalt.The history of Nlapat Narayanamenon ,I intend to see through a gestalt view.
He was born on 7th of October 1887.The star was Mrigasira.(Horoscope given as appendix 1)
He left his physical body on 31st of October 1954,on a Mrigasira star.What this soul achieved in the 67year sojourn in earth is our concern here.Let us first look at some important events and their dates in his lifespan.
2.First published poem.Kaithapoo
6.Secrets of London palace(translation abandoned)
15 marriage-Madhavi amma
16 death of wife
18 translation –Les miserables starts
22 refuses inner esoteric circle entry
25 second marriage
26.Death of mother
27 sixtieth birthday
28 begins writing arshagnaanam
30.death (October 31 ) 1887 oct 7th
The first half(1887-1921)and second half(1921-1954)shows a definite pattern of life and development and works.
The time when Nalapat lived was a time of renaissance in Indian literature.The Indians who received English education were writing prose and poetry in English,the new language.The Indian literary arena from 1857 to 1920(sepoy rebellion to death of Bal Ganghadhar Thilak and beginning of Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement) is called the period of winds of change.After these 63 years of strong winds of change came the shorter 27 year period of Gandhian whirlwind.In the first phase the middle class people though few in number came forward with new ideas and sowed seeds of a new literary trend in India.Nalapat was a writer representing this new soul of India.Before 1857 ,in the mandala of India’s thoughts there was only one star,the star of Raja Ram Mohan Roy.But after the 1857 revolt,Bengal saw a series of thinkers-among them Dwarakanath Tagore,Kesab chandrasen,Swami Vivekananda,Raveendranath Tagore.On the other end ,on the western side came up swami Dayanandasaraswathy,swami sradhanand and Lala Lajpath Rai.Both the east and west of Indian subcontinent were reverberating with these thought processes.Then ,in the south,in Adyar,came up the center of theosophical society (1878)where voices of Madame Blavatsky,Annie Besant,Colonel Olkott and Leadbeatre ,and of J.Krishnamurthy were heard.In 1876 Surendranath Banerji formed Indian association and in 1885,Indian national congress was formed.
Under these circumstances literature of a new kind developed in India.In 1870,the English poems of the Dutt family were noticed.But they were more like imitations of Keats and Wordsworth and had no originality.The first noticeable and original voice of a poet was that of Aurobindo ,who was born 15 years before Nalapat,and died 4 years before him.The voice of this genius incorporated the cultures of east and west in a integrated style.And was sweet as well as great.That voice enlivened the Indian literary horizon more than that of Ramesh Chandra Duth (1848-1909)and Man Mohan Ghosh(1869-1924).Aurobindo returned from England in 1893,when Nalapat was a six year old.He was a member of Baroda state service for 13 years (1893-1906).From 1906 to 1910 India saw a different face of this genius ,the rebel .In 1910,he had a vision of Narayana from Alipore jail.Then,we see a total transformation.He is sri Aurobindo ,the yogi par excellance in Pondicherry from 1910 onwards.And from 1926 November 24 he entered a life of solitary meditation.
From 1890 to 1900 he wrote poems on love,sorrow,death and freedom.Then his poetry reached the path of mysticism and symbolism/.In 1899 his poem “Love and death”came out.Aurobindo thought the ultimate aim of man to know God,and to distinguish death from eternal life.His master piece “Savithri”came out only in 1954,four years after his death.(The same year as Nalapat released his book Aarshagnaanam ,and died).The life of Aurobindo who could handle both poetry and prose had several common ideals as in the case of Nalapat.Nalapat who was actively involved in congress and its work before 1920,went back from politics to philosophy and yoga.
In 1924,in his Kannuneerthulli we find the lines:
When shall you reveal eternity
In 1933(in his chakravaalam)we gets the answer too.Chakravaalam was published several years before Savithri ,before Aurobindo gave us an answer to the same problem.Nalapat had never been a follower of violence,and had always followed apath of nonviolence and was a follower of Gandhi because of that.he had direct contat with Dayanandasaraswathy’s satyarthaprakaasa,and Vivekanandasahitya(see his book Gurusannidhi) and was a member of theosophical society right from 1917.That means he was in contact with the east,west and south of renaissance ideas of modern India of his times.If we look at the other thinkers /poets of Kerala of that time we will find that this was a very rare occurrence .No other person had been so versatile and felt the pulse of renaissance literature of India in such a comprehensive way.
In 1908 the painful Bengaal division of Lord Curzon happened.The language of renaissance in India became stronger after this incident.In 1908,Nalapat wrote his poems Mathrubhoomi(Motherland) madi(idleness)and asooya(jealousy)
.He was only 21 years old.
“My people,be alert,
Throw away the jealousy
Think good for all
We are not separate
We are one”..
Only if jealousy is discarded the unity will give us growth(asooya)
When other nations
Smartly get high positions
My people,we are not growing
Because we are idle.(idleness)
It is surprising that only after these poems came out,in the very next year(1909)the writings of Curzon proclaims that since Indians are idle and jealous of each other,his duty is just to enhance a speedy death of the Indian national congress and they will themselves destroy them by these two vices.Mathrubhoomi (mother land)came in the same year,with optimistic thoughts of a nation that will never succumb to failure.he mentions LalaLajpath Rai,Baalaganghadhar Thilak and Madan Mohan Malavya in that poem.This was before Gandhi’s Hindswaraj(1909) called the spiritual classic of India by Middleton ,came out in Gujarathi language.This book was translated only in 1910 to English.In it Gandhi had said that in his dream India,freedom is not merely political freedom,but liberation from the western culture,and for that he had prescribed the swadeshi movement.He said,I am not against the British language or people ,but to a culture which is not suitable for the Indian environment.The ideals of soulpower,noncooperation,nonviolence,purity of methods to achieve a goal etc were discussed by Gandhi in that book.
In 1908 itself ,Nalapt had written :
You are the land of Upanishad,
The land of the true path
The world cannot stop that journey.
Who thinks about others opinion
When you help
Your sons to get
Whom should we fear?
That is why Nalapat when he read Gandhian ideals became a Gandhian.Not just for any political freedom.It is the land of ideals of Upanishads and greatest philosophies that attracted him to swadeshi prasthaana.When Gandhi had a dream of sarvodaya(awakening for all) saying that a economics divorced from ethics is not needed for any country,and as a means the swadeshi came,with rashtrabhasha (Hindi)Nalapat had been part and parcel of these ideas and movements,But we see by 1920,his role in such activities lessening,just like that of Aurobindo,the apparent reason attributed as the death of his first wife.It was at the same year as his marriage that he had started the translation of Hugo’s classic Les Miserables.His concentration was totally drawn to this great work.He had seen his life mission and had grown as as eparate and unique personality by that work and the great loss he had in life(wife’s death)both contributing its share in that growth.Though he was not an active congressman after that,he continued to be a Gandhian admirer throughout life.When a book that asks the readers”Have you got a group of rulers who understands politics ,administration,and ethics as one and the same,he had a vision of India of great lawgivers like Bheeshma and of Gandhi who had been a preacher of that ancient culture.The Daridranaaraayana Gandhi,with scantily clad attire,conquering the richest and luxurious empires was a symbol of the poor ,of the Les Miserables of Hugo for him.
1861-1941.The era of the singing koil,Raveendranath Tagore.Poet,dramatist,novelist,storywriter,composer,painter,thinker,educationist,nationalist,and internationally famed nobel prize winner.In 1882,in his 21st year,Tagore,seeing a sunrise had his first mystical experience.All his poems at that period are a journey and a quest for finding out the relationship between the eternal and the non-eternal’The village life of his childhood gave Tagore an opportunity to start the quest from simple objects of nature and to go beyond nature.
All the poets of those times probably had the same opportunity.Nalapat had his first mystical experience on his 20th year while stargazing.In a blissful beautiful moment he had a ecstatic thought never before experienced.The words then flow out as if from nowhere.The first copy of Geethanjali appeared only in 1912,eventhough Tagore had his first mystical experience as early as1882.In that book ,in the poem “A lover’s gift”we find the words:”Rebelliously I put out the lights in my house and your sky surprised me with its stars”.From the time of origin of humanity,the stars have surprised man with the light of God.From the first poem to the last word he wrote,we find Nalapat under a mystic spell of the Stars ,and in his internal quest for eternity,the outward quest of starry wisdom of astronomy was never separated.Even the simplest grassblade was embraced by his soul ,just as the energy from the stars.For that thinking mind,the nature in the village of Punnayurkulam opened up a whole book of wisdom through its starry skies.That was the hermitage of this rishi where the saraswathy danced in ecstacy of wisdom of art and science.
We may not see the early beauty in the last poems of Tagore.Fugitives(1921)Fireflies(1928)the poems published after the poets death(1942)have been compared to show this peculiarity.In the last poems the pain and sorrows of a patient is more than that of a mystic.The mystical positive mind slowly changed over to despair and doubt.That is why W.B.Yeats ,who was an ardent admirer of Tagore and Geethanjali ,criticized these poems.The subtle visionary of Geethanjali was not seen in the “Child”written in 1930 ,for a German film company.
But ,there is a difference in Nalapat in this case.In his early poems we don’t find much beauty of structure.And also of ideas.Towards the end the poems become more beautiful both in structural beauty and ideology.The despair,sorrows and pains of life are taken away and the soul rise above the mundane with a positive strength and hope and fly to eternity in peace .This we can see from Kannuneerthulli to Chakravaalam.In his last poems the poet is a selfcritic evaluating ones own soul.In that analysis we find hope and selfconfidence .He was very particular that a poet should write only with ones own lifeblood.He never wrote for satisfying others.Whatever he wrote ,he wrote only if he felt like writing it and enjoyed it.
Sarojini Naidu(1879-1949) wrote Golden threshold(1905)Bird of time(1912),Broken wing(1917)The sceptered flute(1946)Feather of the dawn(1927).In 1946 she wrote life is a prism through which God’s light pass through and death is only the shadow of his face.This romanticism has reached its zenith in Nalapat in 1933 with his Chakravaalam.
In the period called Gandhian whirlwind ,English poetry was less in Indian horizon.The first poem of J.Krishnamurthy(At the feet of thy master)and his subsequent poems the search(1927)and the immortal friend(1928)were versified philosophy .Nalapat had read and translated At the feet of my master in his early life,but never published it,because he thought the translation was not good.(Later on he asked his niece to translate it and she did it.Published by Theosophical society)From versified poetry of Krishnamurthy,to philosophical poetry Indian poetry grew in the second stage with Quest eternal of Brajendranath Seal.(1936).But this growth had happened in mlayalam literature,in Nalapt,in 1933 itself with Chakravaalam.That means Nalapat had always been ahead of the times in its literary trends.Then why was he not given proper recognition?
1.This villager wrote only in Malayalam ,his mother toungue
2.He was ,as he himself mentions in his poem Mathrubhumi,the poet was a typical Indian rishikavi who didn’t have any desire to get famous.(With no desire to have his name spoken about).Just like a vedic Rishi ,who never mentions his/her name with the creations.
3.What he internalized was not internalized or grasped by his own language ,literature and the people of those times.(being ahead of times)
4.He didn’t know how to write poetry for popularity or for money.An old world philosophy ,we may say,but which we need badly in the present times.
When the winds of change blew the most important prose literature that came out was Vivekananda’s writings.Life divine (Sri Aurobindo)and Geetharahasya(Thilak)also came up.Gandhi and Dr Radhakrishnan followed suit.(Ethics of vedantha in 1908 to the principal Upanishads in 1953 a series of books of Dr Radhakrishnan deserves mention).The publications of Theosophical society,of Asiatic society etc also deserves special mention.A Malayalam book which can be quoted along with such indepth studies were not there.Therefore the two books(Rathisamrajyam and Arshagnaanam)of Nalapt deserves special mention.They mark the beginning of intellectual books in our literature.
Aurobindo wrote in Shakespearean style .There were five complete poetic dramas(1957-60)and six incomplete poetic dramas by him.From chithra to red oleanders(1913-1927)Tagore also wrote drama.They were more concerned with Indian nationalism and womens psychology.They are psychological analyses in dramatic form.Madras dramatic society(1875)Sarasaviinodini sabha of Krishnamachary in Bellary(1890)nourished the drama literature.In 1921 the dramas of Sreenivasa Iyengar were published.In 1952 his Ramarajya came out.
In 1952 (2 before prior to death of Nalapat )came out Bhartthy Sarabhai’s Two womwn.This was aromantic drama imitating Meterlink.The two women are Anuradha(wife)and Urvasi(unmarried lover).It contained poetical conversations also.This drama of Meterlink was translated by Nalapt in his early career,as Saapathnyam ,several years before Bharathy Sarabhai.(which represents only the third stage of Indian literature in free India.) Here also Nalapat took Malayalam literature ahead of his times.
When the Lake of palms of Ramesh Chandra Duth was published(1902)Nalapat is only 15.The story of this novel was widow remarriage.This is important because in Kerala the widow remarriage ,especially among Namboothiri women started with V.T.Bhattathiripad and Nalapat was behind this idea,as V.T.himself has mentioned in his autobiography.From 1857-1920 the new life of poetry and prose did not happen in Indian novels.The number of novels based on social problems were very few.The ones that appeared were very orthodox in style and language usage.These were,
1.Satyananda by Madhavayya(1909)in Chennai
2.Thillai Govindan of Madhavayya(1916)
Politically,Thilak came out of jail in 1914 and Annie Besant’s home rule started in 1917.The same year Gandhi experimented his nonviolence against the land laws in Kaira struggle.And Nalapat joined as a member of Theosophical society,influenced by Annie Besant’s speech at Palghat.He had already done his translation of Light of Asia as Pourastyadeepam (1914)and even the women of Nalapat were strong proponents of nonviolence,even before Gandhi came on the arena.In 1917,the Marxist ideologies from Russia had started to infiltrate into India.In 1918 Gandhi again experimentd nonviolence in labour problems of Ahmedabad.That year there had been a famine there.In 1919 the Rowlett act and Jhalian walabagh and Khilaphat was witnessed by India.Hunger,violence,deaths,hatred ,sorrows –The poor people of India were subject to all these.In 1920 in such circumstances the Trade union congress was established.In 1920 August 1st,The star of Thilak set and the sun of Gandhi arose in Indian politics.In all the adverse conditions the les miserables of India were ready to fight for freedom under the leadership of Gandhi.This situation was the background of the translation of Les miserables by Nalapat.He started his translation in 1920.It was a need and a inner voice’ calling for him at that hour.The reason for his separation from active politics and his total devotion to this work ,we saw then.The Les miserables of Hugo,though written in the background of French revolution is not entiorely a story of revolution.Hugo picturised a solitary human being ,and his evolution into a compassionate being from a poor hungry thief.A solitary figure among the many.The sacrifice and love of that human being towers over the rebellion of the entire France in the novel.We naturally develop a sort of respect and love for such individuals.We must again remember that it was the year of Gandhi’s ascend after Tilak’s death that the translation started.The translated Les miserables changed the view point of all the keralites who could read and write in that period.The long list of people influenced by that book bears testimony to this.
When in 1923 and 24,Madhavayya’s Nanda and Leutnt Panchu came out Nalapat was still in his translation.The social novel of sardar Jogeender singh(kamala)came out the same year as Nalapat’s translation.The same year we find the formation of the Indian communist party.In 1930 Gandhi launched civil disobedience movement and salt satyagraha.In 1929-33 were years of famine in India.By this time Aurobindo had finished his message and withdrawn into rishihood at Pondicherry.Nalapat ,after proclaiming through Les miserables that ethics and political administration should be born out of humanity,had already written his master piece (chakravaalam)poetry and transformed into a yogic existence in Punnayurkulam.Both the national and international ideologies and philosophies of the era were integrated in his thoughts and surprisingly ,all the international journals and publications reached him in the remote village of Punnayurkulam.
We were dealing with a comparative study of Indian English literature of the era.Now let us turn to the international literary scene of the time.
From 1837 -1910 was the Victorian era of English literature.The social changes and intellectual improvement gave a renaissance to English language and literature.Victorian era in English literature ended when Nalapat was 14 yr old.It was during this era ,the first rays of democracy entered Britain’s literary field,empowering the labour and middle class.Education became approachable to all.The number of readers increased.The writers of Victorian era used pen to stimulate and influence masses.Changes occurred in arts,sciences,in ways of living and in ideologies.Victorian writers voiced against the materialistic changes and the changing values.Science questioned the ideas of Biblical creation.This created tension in the theological sections of the church.At the end of this Victorian era,in Kerala ,Nalapt was born.Man is part of the entire universe he lives in according to the gestalt.The responsibility to society ,the sense of goaloriented literature,and the ability to toil to achieve that end was in India from the days of the yogic knowledge.But,in Victorian era there was an awakening to it.The writers of Victorian era were in Britain,founders of new theories,prophets of wars af cross,and as healers of all problems of man,according to their personal subjective likings.Replacing the light thoughts of Elizebethan poets ,and the rebellious romanticism of Wordsworth,Coleridge,Shelley and Byron the Victorian writers concentrated on day to day problems and their solutions.But romanticism still persisted.The thirst for truth and beauty survived.By bringing these to day to day activities the poets tried to create wonders among the old systems.But ,through the other door,the dangerously thisworldly realism also entered the circles .By end of 19th century realism conquered both novels and drama .And slowly penetrated to poetry.British people were attracted by the poem French revolution by Carlyle in 1837.Do your duty and have a government made by the best individuals of the society were the ideals of Carlyle in that book.He was rebelling against anything that is weak,dishonest and mechanical.Against the valueless ideas he wrote his Sartor Resartus.Also ,a book on strong bold and honest leaders (Heroes and hero worship).We can see humour,compassion,oratory /pedagogy and highest romantic feelings in his works and also both creative and destructive ideas.Sartor resartus means to stitch a tailor.It is called a cloth philosophy.The story is that of an eccentric German thinker and his solitary life.He wrote his ideas in leaves and put it in 15 bags,without order.In these 12 bags the signs of zodiac are engraved.The poet appears as an editor who tries to keep them in order.There is a smile of satire against the ways of society on his face.A criticism against society which doesn’t let go the old torn clothes.Mechanical religion,mechanical education,and mechanical life-everything becoming mechanical.The poet brings another mystic world as an integrated vision .He says time and space has covered the soul of universe in their old clothes and without tearing and removing them no one can entirely visualize truth.Every movable/immovable object is a cloth covering God.Goethe had said that I am a weaver weaving the live cloth of God on the noisy machine of time.(Faust).Carlyle was not considered as representative of the Victorian times .That was given to Alfred Tennyson (born 1809),the son of a priest.Being a landlord and son of priest he was with the orthodox thinkers of the time.In 1836 he became aquainted with Carlyle.And was influenced by Carlyle.For ten years he thought of the new ideas and tried to come to terms with them.In 1847 he wrote a book on womens education and in 1850 his elegy on Arthur Hallam who died in 1833 (In memorium)made him famous.This was actually 131 lyrics written over an era of 17 years.It was for the first time in Rnglish literature such a thing as an elige which enquires the eternity of soul was being written.Immoprtality of soul and its enquiry was not a new thing for India.But was a novel feature for English poetry.That is why Tennison became famous-because of the novelty of his subject in the language of his expression.In 1850 when Wordsworth died Tennyson became the poet laureate of England.
Browning was a contemporary and just the opposite of Tennyson.In the words of Keats ,Browning thought world isa valley of soulmaking.Every thought,deed and word is important because it either enhance or block the movement of soul upwards.The chaining of individual willpower is not liberation.But leading them through a correct pathfreely and effectively.Art for Browning is the symbol of such free experiences of invaluable moments.He does not have any connection with the modern sciences that destroy such beautiful moments just for the sake of some common laws.The most important experience and duty of soul is love.To test and evaluate a soul one has to evaluate its ability to love.Not only in this world but even in other worlds the only support for soul is love ,according to Browning.The love and the beautiful experiences they bring are the sign of Gods love and of the joy of the promised land of God.This boldness,hope for love and positive thinking and faith in a good life and bliss derived from them are features of Browning’s poetry.
Why I elaborate on these points is,the Malayalam critics(at least one of them)who had tried to see Tennisons imitation in Nalapat’s elegy has not noticed how different are his ideas from Tennyson and how close are those to Browning.In Nalapat’s poems in search of truth and love and beauty one finds the affinity to Upanishadic literature .
In 1901 Queen Victoria was no more.By the end of 19th century voices like that of Carlyle increased.H.G.Wells and Bernard Shaw criticized society but did not give a solution to the problems of society.By the end of first world war British people and English literature had set a stage for a new type of literature and thought fields.
Nalapat born towards the fag end of Victorian era and actively writing upto the first two decades of 20th century has to be viewed in this environment.The books he wrote were all very much indicative of his personality and ideology.His Pourastyadeepam(Light of Asia)in his early career shows how much he was attachen to principles of love and nonviolence.The poems “Kurukshethra I saw”and “Sulochana “depict the sights of a battlefield .Pukayilamahatmyam is a satire to the orthodox way of writing greatness of everything and anything,to make it popular.Daivagathi is a satire against the managers of temple devaswams who take money from the temple resources.Mathrubhoomi shows his love for his motherland and stars shows the mystic awareness.All these were written in his early life.We can look at a seed and predict to what tree it would grow .some critics called him a “second class poet”.There is a history behind that name.The name was first used by M.R.Nair (Sanjayan).He said about Kannuneerthulli ,that it was the first class poem of a second class poet.This was based on two facts.From 1907 to 1914(Stars to Light of Asia translation)Nalapat had created only second class poems.The creation of Kannuneerthulli marked the end of that early career and his second class poems.The second fact is that Sanjayan got the phrase from Nalapat’s translation of Les miserables of Victor Hugo in which Hugo says that Waterloo is a first class victory of a second class soldier.Hence indirectly the use of the phrase ,taken by the critic from the poet himself is a award of recognition of his first class style .By the death of his first wife,translation of Les miserables and creation of Kanuneerthuli the poet had entered the second phase of his evolution as apoet as well as a mature human being and Sanjayan actually was recognizing that development.
Before we proceed two words on Oscar Wilde (1856-1900).His Lady Windermayer’s fan was not a major drama but was portraying the hypocrisy of society in a very humourous style.Nalapt with his sense of humour had translated this for the men of the village to stage a show.Bernard Shaw(born 1856)received ideas from Wagner,Neitche,Marx and Ibson.Shaw who lived the life of a loner thought the healthy nation is formed only by the wedlock between good and able men and women.This was an idea prevalent in India from ancient times .Rishi can view the union of man and woman with a dispassionate attitude .Such observations even lead to Kaamasasthra by a great rishi.But in 18th and 19th century this was misused and was becoming just a playful pastime of some .To look at union of men and women scientifically and dispassionately and talk about the happiness it can create in human life ,no one dared at that time.But Nalapat dared .His Rathisamrajya was a scientific treatise on sexology but with a scientific turn of mind.The orthodox were not happy with that.Critics had said of Shaw that “For the expected he is quite willing to substitute surprise,and for surprise,disappointment”With his Rathisamrajya Nalapat created such a feeling among the readers of the time.
William Butler Yeats(1865-1939)was apoet who was a dramatist .His musical poems and his love for ideology and philosophy are exceptional.And he was a theosophist too.The comparison of Nalapat with this great poet is therefore not unwarranted.
Thomas Hardy made the first two decades of 20th century rich with his novels.He started his career as a poet and ended as aprose writer like Nalapat.His background was Wessex,his birthplace.The only eligee in English till his times ,on the death of a girlfriend(not wife)was the one by Hardy. This is comparable to Nalapat .Yeats was a mystic and an intellectual.His friend William W.Russel was amystic.Ireland being a land of mythology and of celtic culture it had several common features with Indian mysticism and mythology culture.Annie Besant also was an irish who was attracted by Indian mysticism.In the end of 19th and beginning of 20th century livedW.H.Hudson(1841-1922)and Havlock Ellis(1859-1939)Hudson was aromantic wholoved all nature with animals and plants.But this love for nature did not help to face realities.He was a man who escaped from reality .Havlock ellis was also a nature lover.He had a scientific training and educative background so that the love and observation of nature became very objective in him.His “The new spirit”(1890)and “Affirmations”(1897)were indicative of his free and scientific views on literature and literary people.From 1896-1906 Ellis published a series of scientific studies on sex and union of manand woman.He asked people to view it honestly and truthfully without hypocrisy.Ellis through a scientific training ,came to look upon aesthetic values as the most important in man’s life ,and upon the beautiful as the necessary synthesis of hate and the good.The work of Nalapt (Rathisamrajya)did the same thing in Malayalam literary scene and marked a new era of scientific and honest and psychological enquiry into the most important and the primitive instinct of all races,not only human for propagation of species .The married life of Nalapt bears testimony to what type of a man he was in real life.The first marriage did not last long due to untimely death of the wife.Both his marriages were happy and contended and can be called ideal .The ideology did not end with a book,but was practiced in real life.
Life is a civilized art and culture.Not to be enquired in books and on lips alone.One has to live it as a model.One has to be like a great tree which gives shadow and fruits to all who come under it .One has to be a guru who gives new ideas to each one and allows them to develop according his/her capacity.The number of creative personalities who took initiation from him(from the same family as well as from other families)show how successful a Guru he had been.
20th century literature
Between 1914 -1939,the years between the two great wars show a awakening of literature.The 19th century writers who extended their tenure to this period also may be included here.Galsworthy,H.G.Wells,Somerset Maughm,Forster,D.H.Lawrence,Aldous Huxley,James Joyce, among men and Dorothy Richardson,Katherine Mansfield,Virginia woolfamong women made their marks.William Golding born in 1911 also may be included in this group.(Just like Balamani Amma ,disciple of Nalapat, born in 1909 who lived to see the end of 20th century).D.H.Lawrense fought against tendencies of realism in literature and wanted union with nature.He didn’t think that woman is a symbol of sin in man’s life.Nalapat also believed in this.For him,woman was a partner in life,to understand the joy of sharing everything and performing all duties together .When one see even a grass as God’s symbol,he/she naturally cease to consider man/or woman as a symbol of sin.In 1928 Lady Chatterlies lover came out.Lawrence tells us that one should know ones subconscious mental tendencies to lead a happy life.The verses in Kannuneerthulli bear testimony to Nalapat’s opinion about a healthy man/woman relationship.In 1929 ,he did not accept the membership of the inner esoteric circle of Theosophical society because ,he said he need not take an oath or prove before anyone else that he is good and has controlled his senses.It is a strictly personal and free choice one has to exert.Not something to be imposed by any group,whether religious or secular.It is interesting to note that Nalapat cut his relationship with theosophy in later life ,and behaved just like another free thinker,J.Krishnamurthy who also broke free from its boundaries.
Lawrnce could not see the ideal relation among his people and had to imagine that such a society might have existed among the Etruscans or Mexicans.Nalapat was lucky ,since he could live and show that it is a possibility (with his second wife)still in India.English literature thought Lawrence as the liberator of the era.The dream of Lawrence was life for Nalapat.But,the Critics of the time and probably of the present time,did not understand the greatness of such an individual amongst us.In Nalapat there was aIndianness which was able to integrate new ideas of the west and remain as pristine and perfect as the original Indian idea.The Chakravaalam shows the mystic in him and his translations show his entire personality and his likes and dislikes .But the development of each individual who had the good fortune to come in close contact with him shows the real Guru /teacher in him who could develop new generation of thinkers.That fountain of new disciples still continues.Nalapt could feel life in its totality and could view the universe as a whole .
The” poets survivors of the war”in English literature include Georgian poets.They are poets who became established in 1914 itself,according to definition.If we take this definition,a poet in India who translated Light of Asia,and established himself as poet and went to Almorah for taking up sanyasa also has to be asurvivor.Nalapat had undergone severe poverty,death of a much loved consort in early years of marriage itself,and problems in his home front due to the lack of administrative ability when he took up as chief of the house at the age of 16 .He survived all trials with a rare ability and positive thinking.But,the journey he made to horizons was impossible for the language and literature of those times and hence he was not properly assessed or understood except by a very few.But now Malayalam has become grown enough to assess and reassess his contributions to it and be proud of that contribution .
Among the “survivors”Robert Bridjews’best work “The testament of beauty(published in his 85th year)considered as an integration of modern science and platonic ideas came out.This intellectual integration came out only after Kannuneerthulli and Pulakaankuram of Nalapat.And The use of words and phrases of common vocal language of a commoner employed in The testament of beauty ,is seen in Pulakankuram of Nalapat,published as a book form one year prior to that book.Both Kannuneerthulli and Pulakankuram has used such styles and phrases and had shocked the orthodox poets of the time.Kannuneerthulli came 5 years before the The testament of beauty .And Les miserables translation,four years before it,and in that book Nalapat had specialized in the vocal language of South Malabar.This style later became highly specialized and popular in books of M.T.Vasudevan nair and Madhavikutty ,two of the modern writers.
The life of Nalapat is a lesson to us that the writers who travel ahead of their times will not get proper recognition by contemporary readers and critics. Yeats had said” we should write out our thoughts in as nearly as possible ,the language we thought them in as though in a letter to an intimate friend.We should not disguise them in any way”For our lives give themforce as the lives of people in plays give force to their words”.The language of Kannuneerthulli(Teardrops)Nalapat uses when his wife dies,is that and the reader immeadiately feels the pulse.And it goes deep into the heart of any human being.That is why Sanjayan said that it was first class poetry.The power of a writers words come from his/her life experiences.They flow without any artificial covers ,as he thought them out.The same style we see in Pulakaankuram also.Both were published prior to Yeats The towers(1928(and The winding stairs(1929)The maturity which Yeats achived in these works is seen in Nalapat prior to yeats,so that no critic can say that he copied it from Yeats.But there are definitely several parallels between these two great poets.When Yeats Last poems and plays(1940)came out he is 75 year old.English literature is proud of Yeats’ wisdom,honesty and intellect which had bloomed to its full maturity from his 63rd to 75th year.But,these very qualities as early as 1925 had been seen in Nalapat ,and was criticized by the contemporary critics of his time.But is recognized by the later critics and writers.Yeats became the most respected poet after the Victorian age,while Malayalam literature denied him a place among the three other great poets of Nalapat’s times.But Nalapat was not sad over that fate.He was happy and contented for the life and work and the intellect God had bestowed on him.He wrote that a model life for an Indian Rishikavi is not fame .
To live for this nation,
To live for the protection of
With no desire for fame,
Such Royal and poetic lineage
With destruction of
That is the strength of India,he had seen from a very young age.
The beauty of the landscapes,the way of finding happiness even in the day to day things,and the beauty of infant’s viewpoints of the villages-These made the Georgian poets and their poetry beautiful in a world of mechanized urban life.Edward Thomas (1878-1917)wrote lyrics with a silent nameless happiness.W.H.David (1871-1940)gave us simple poetry.Walter Delamair(1873-1956)was an integration of both these.The babylike innocence with which Delamair looked at every small object ,we can see in Nalapat’s Horizon where he looks at asand particle or a white stone or grassblade to see God in them.
Nalapat”s poetry never ran away from the world around him.But he makes a new world of honesty and beauty and transcendental wisdom in this very world of mundane existence.Fills that world with innocent beauty of blissful smiles and laughter.Every object ,every mind that is looked at by the poetic vision transforms it into gold.An alchemy of rare vision unfolds.
Just like William Blake or Delamair he too has a fantasy world.In that world also is there are silent and eternal bliss and pain.The pearls of wisdom and laughter .Imagism in English literature came up with experiments of Esra Pound ,Amy Lowel and Hilda Dolittle.The style of imagism is to describe a perception with minimumwords.They do not restrict the writings to rhythm(praasm in Malayalam poetry)In small lines,without adjectives burden ,Hilda Dolittle has described a garden .
The last verse of Pourastyadeepam says
Let my petals be awakened
And make one with the waves.
Om Manipadme hum
The style of avoiding unnecessary words ,and thereby genarlisations and dishonesty is the result.Such imagist style was used by D.H.Lawrence also,though temporarily.Poetry was to Lawrence the most appropriate to the expression of sudden intuitions ,momentary glimpses of natural beauty ,starting identifications with psychology and emotions of birds and animals,moments of bitterness and exasperation with human stupidity and both the high and low-points in his own emotional and physical experience.The beautiful moments in life,the pains,a rare beauty in a birds feather or grass,the advaithic thoughts when one touches a grain of sand,the expression of rare moments of such experiences –Nalapat wrote on these and for him his poetry was his own lifeblood and day to day life.His prose was the scientifically analysed,and teaching notes for the coming generations to learn and follow a path of wisdom.They are the guides to show through which path the poets mind and intellect traveled in the sojourn .
To complete the world literature review of Nalapat era,one has to speak about T.S.Eliot’s Wastelands (written 2 years prior to Kannuneerthulli).By 1944(when he wrote Four quartets)Eliot had become the philosophic poet of his era.Time and timelessness,time and eternity,the moments of their merging and in it the personal experiences of the poet creating a style of thought best suited for it.These are seen in Eliot of 1922-44 and Nalapat of 1924-33.The style is sometimes in innocent village spoken language.Sometimes in meditative philosophy.Sometimes in the experience of ecstacy.When Vallathol Narayanamenon (friend and contemporary of Nalapat)involved in social and political themes for his poetry,Nlapat used poetry for eternal experience and prose for sociopolitical teaching.He did not want his poetry to be used for anything that is bound to timespace.It was ameditation and a selfdialogue for him into which he invited the readers,if they have the same wavelength.Therefore we see that the number of poetry of Nalapat is less,and the number of people who could appreciate it also was less.It is not easy to be a yogin,a philosopher-poet.Neither is it easy to understand such a personality.
Dylan Thomas who lived from 1914-1953 is the symbol of20th century.He believed like Freud that the greatest power that resides in every life and that unites every life is sexual energu.But for Indian mind and psychology sex and Rathi are not equal though related.Nalapt begins his Rathisamrajyam with a prayer to Goddess Parvathy
Yaa Devi sarvabhootheshu
Which salutes the Goddess in every element as the form of Rathi(eros)..The collected poems of Dylan Thomas came out only in 1952(2 years before death of Nalapat).Dylan Thomas had written:
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my age green.
That blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer
And I am ,
Dumb to tell the crooked rose,
My youth is sent
By the same wintry fever.
Several years before this both in Pulakankuram and in teardrops Nalapat had expressed such a mystical oneness of all .We have thus seen a combination of all the good features of all the English poets and writers in Nalapat ,independent of all of them and prior to all of their writings.This is not just a mixture,but an integrated whole ,in the advaitha format of India and not as an imitation of any other land.In this great man’s eyes had been the power of love and compassion and humanitarian approach and wonder akin to that of a mother and an infant.The softness in him was more like a mother than a father to me.He loved all of us-children and women of the family and was a respected member not only of the family but of the entire village and of all his literary and scientific friends.I have experienced the merging of man and God,of knowledge and love in that presence.And the fact that I was born only when he turned 60 ,and had the good fortune to live under his love and protection only for 8 years makes me wonder how I could imbibe his nature in that infancy.Here we have overviewed the era of English literature during Nalapat’s time.Now we have to consider the Mlayalam literary field of his times.Now we find several attempts by the sahityaacademy to translate Indian regional languages to English.Probably of interest to students of history of translations would be the fact that one of the first poetry books translated to English and published in London was that of Nalapat (translated by V.M.Nair,Kamala Das’ father).
Malayalam literary field
From 1845-1914 period observing the Malayalam poetry shows the Keralites were very proficient in Poetry but poetry had a imitation style .Same types of chambu,kilippattu,aattaktha,mahatmya,mukthaka,satires,and erotic verses ,and also translations of several Sanskrit drama and mahakavya.The central figure of this stage was Kodungallur kalari and its poet laureate Kunhikuttan thamburan.In the south existed a parallel of Keralavarma valiya koyithamburan.These were actually the extended and contemporary versions of royal courts that existed in India from time immemorial.The poesy of Venmani poets was erotic ans sexoriented .An unhealthy jaundice of imitation of the same type of style and poetry had made the scene very boring and stagnant.Poets recited pooraprabandha,Ambopadesha,chandrotsava ,Leelathilaka and Kunjan Nambiar along with the divine verses of bhakthi indiscriminately.Noone can deny the fact that the Chandrotsava had a sweet language.A combination of sweet Sanskrit and sweet Malayalam had made it beautiful.But the content was sexoriented .It was enjoyed by men of such tendencies and they recited it in the hearing of beautiful women to lure them ,whether in temple or in street or bathghats.The poets had even created a kuchasathaka(100 verses in praise of breasts)and the literary field was turning into the most downhill course.It is surprising that Lady Chatterlies lover was banned in India at that time,but these regional erotica was not banned.
Another tendency was to show of scholarship.style,rhythm,prosody,and imagery –everywhere and in every verse the poetry was under the imitation influence of scholars of Sanskrit.Noone showed any original ability to create a new original thought process.In the erotic poems there had been a sweet language and style,But in these imitations even that was lacking.No poetry in them,just versification in artificial imitating styles.
It was in the endstage of such a time we find the early poems of Nalapat being born.(From the first poem to Pourastyadeepam translation)We will just look at his poem (kaithapoo)on a flower which was published in 1907.How different it is from the old style.
The flower is seen as the ankle of Godess of nature.It is enjoying the dewy golden new sunlight and spreading a smell that attract every passerby.The morning breeze showers icy dew as white flowers,and the flower looks like a golden lamp in temple of God.The smile of a new day is picturised through that flower.This isrefreshingly different from the erotic and imitational style of the times.The first of his poems itself has been a mark of difference in Malayalam poetic style.There is a romantic renaissance of poetry even in that first poem.We have to remember here that the romantic classic of Kumaran aasaan (a great Malayalam poet)was also published in 1907-1908.
Nalapt could write in the Sanskrit style as the old poets which is seen in his Sulochana.The romanticism and neoclassicism as well as the old classical style were seen in his early poems .(Before Kannuneerthulli).The differences of his poetry from others is more marked than recognized by the contemporary critics.
Another tendency was satire.This was seen in Unnuneelisandesha,in Kunchan Nambiar poetry,in Tholan and Ramapaanivaadan,sevolli and Munshi Ramakurup.Sometimes the satirical pen goes beyond the limits and showers hatred .Nalapat wrote two satires,(Daivagathi and Pukayilamahatmya)with a sweet smile and laughter but never with hatred in any of his verses.His style was different even in this from the other satires.It never hurt the person to whom it was directed but brought a smile and a selfanalyses aand transformation in them.
In royal courts of India it was common to create poetry as samasyapoorana,chayasloka ,aksharasloka and as combined poem(kootukavitha)by several poets.It was in Kunjukuttan Thamburan’s court such a poem(Ambopadesham)was born which cross all boundaries of ethics .Combined poems created in panthalam Keralavarma’s court came up as publications in Kavanakoumudi.In that kootukavitha Nalapat and Kundoor Narayanamenon had participated.A book (Koman)was written by this method extempore by Nalapat and Nandyelath Padmanabhamenon(P.Bhaskaran’s father).I could not collect this and read it.Thisis the only book of Nalapat I could not locate and read in my research on him.
Another trend of the times was to name poets as old poets,or historical personnel,or of fruits,flowers etc.This naming sometimes was humourous but sometimes amounting to hatred,jealousy and character assassination .In short creation of poetry was a method of acquiring fame,or just a timepass,or egocentric activity and was restricted to royal courts.The originality of poetry as a life experience and a life mission of poet and as a serious thought process had ceased .Hence ,Nalapat’s early poems (idleness,jealousy and Mathrubhoomi)were directed to such tendencies.And at the end of this period,his teardrops as a life experience came out with the freshness and originality which was hitherto unknown in Malayalam literary fields.No wonder Sanjayan the critic noticed this and said that it is first class poetry from a hitherto second class poet.
The prose of Malayalam also has to be thought about.The prose of Malayalam included the following till that time:
Kundalatha(Appunedunghadi)1887(Imitation of ShakespearesSymbol.
Durgesanandini(translation) 1911 and Anandamatha.
Bhotharayar,keraleswaran,Cheraman perumal and keralasimha were imitations of novels of C.V.Raman Pillai.
It was in this background the translation of Les miserables of Victor Hugo ,a world classic came to the Malayalam reader through Nalapat(1924-25)This treasure of diamonds was carried by Nalapt and his friend vallathol(who took part in its marketing)in every door of Malayali reader asking “Do you want this diamond”?
Did not other translations from foreign languages happen before Les Miserables?And after?Then what is so peculiar to this big book ?Is it its bigness in pages?These questions can be naturally raised.To understand this difference we have to note the difference in the nature of previous translations .
The translations from Sanskrit to Malayalam existed for showing the scholarship of the writer and to increase the number of his publications.With the same spirit started a series of translations from English .Almost all the drama of Shakespeare were translated to Malayalam.The translations were just introducing a new poet to Malayalam and none of them were touching the hearts of the reader.Without being remembered by anyone,without producing any experience of bliss in anyone,without stimulating any ones intellect to a new wave of creativity,they came and went.The translation changed from Sanskrit to English .No other renaissance happened in the old trend.Just like many people are born and dead,several translations came and went .
In 1866 there was a need for Malayalam translations to assist in publizising English education .A book committee was constituted just for this purpose.Most of the translations were under this committee.The first of this series was comedy of errors translated by Kallur Ummen Philippose.In 1906 the same was translated again .Hmlet and Othello was heard with its meanings by Kunjukuttan Thamburan with A.Ramachna Nedungadi as guide and within 2 months he translated them “without smelling the bad smell of English”in his own words.Why should one translate a work from a language without smelling it,and without loving and enjoying it?Just to be the first to do it?To become a scholar?The fragrance of tragedies of Shakespeare to be called bad smell by a translator of them proves what type of translations they were.Othello was later translated several times by several authors(M.R.Nair,Parameswaran pillai,Kainikkara Padmanabhapillai,M.R.Velupillasasthry,Paattathil Radhakrishnamenon,and K.Paramu pillai)and Hamlet by Venkitesan,Abraham Hormis,and A.J.Varkey.In 1888 merchant of Venice came out as an aattakatha.In 1902,1928 and in 1955 the same drama was translated into Malayalam.Four translations for Midsummer nights dream and two for Macbeth came out.In 1910 a Malayalam version of King Lear came out followed in 1959 by translation of K.M.Panicker.In 1959 and 1975 there were Romeo and Juliet in Malayalam dresses.
In 1894 ,1929,1964,1970 there had been translations of the Tempest.Julius Caesar,Twelth night,all is well that ends well,As you like it,winter tales –Had two translations each.Antony and Cleopatra had one translation.In the background of the heat and renaissance of the freedom struggle these were just appearing as texts for class studies in popularizing English language study .
Alfred Tennison’s Loksley hall(as Lakshmisaala)was translated by Mavelikara Udayavarma(1890).T.H.Huxley’sIntroductory premiere came as pravesika in 1913.Heroes and hero worship of Carlyle came out in its Malayalam form in 1920.None of these created the free will and originality that Lesmiserables translation created.This was published in 1925 by Nalapat .What was the reasons for this difference?
1.First and formost ,Nalapat had a message to give and he was giving it through a work which he enjoyed reading and translating.Not a propaganda of any text book committee but the self undertaken message of life.
2.The prose style he used was hitherto not seen in Malayalam prose.This style was better than the old artificial style to tell a story and touch the readers hearts and this fact was understood by the coming generatons of writers.
3.The background of French revolution for Les miserables was almost ,if not the same,similar to the background of freedom struggle in India.The youth of Malayalam were stimulated by the ideas of it.
4.Even in the most evil sinner lies a ray of goodness and that can be stimulated by an act of compassion.This message is given by Hugo in his book.And this is the message of sages of yore as well as that of Christ and Gandhi.And this message had an impact on the contemporary society.
5.When the orthodox criticized Nalapat style as breakage of style(saileebhangham)the youth did notice the potential in it and followed it in their writings.
6.In every human heart is a poor soul crying for love and justice and it is this soul that Les miserables was trying to find out and awaken.The humanistic mysticism of Hugo and Nalapat merged here and awakend the literature of the coming generations of writers.And of social workers and political ideologists .
All these were reasons of the unprecedented success of the work of Nalapat.It was refreshingly fresh and lively than any other translation that appeared before and Malayali did notice that difference.
Nalapat had translated one more French author.Moris Meterlink’s Aglavani and Sellisiggi as Saapatnyam(1935)This was not as important as Les miserables ‘translation and just mentioned here for completion sake.Other works translated from Meterlink after Nalapat were The old man who does not want to die,and the child who does not want to die.Changapuzha ,a noted Malayalam poet in 1948 translated his police and Melisanda .In 1933 A Balakrishnapilla translated Bel Amy of Maupasant.
There is realism and romanticism in literature.In 1925 when Les miserables came out both these branches became awakened in Malayalam literature.Hugo was a realist and romanticist at the same time.A new political and social realism and a new literature touching the hearts of the reader –both came up through its translation by Nalapat and these two tendencies stayed back .It still continues.Thakazhi wrote his novel(odayil ninnu)taking the example of Jean val jean and Cosette and it was made into a film later.
Naturalism is seen in Hugo’s novel with romanticism.Emili Zola argued that a novelist should handle his subject dispassionately like a scientist and only realism is needed in his creation.But Hardy was against this view.If the novelist has nothing else to show to the reader except the day to day world of his observation ,that author is wasting the time of the reader,Thomas Hardy thought.Vallathol was attracted by the romanticism of Hugo through Nalapat.In Malayalam literary field to remove the old concepts and to awaken a renaissance translation of Les miserables took a great part.The old styles were removed and the new styles bloomed as a new spring of creativity.The style changed.The ideology also changed.The new generation of writers understood their duty is not just looking at the women and writing poems with double meanings ,nor is it the scholarship or getting just the remuneration but a new awakening of spirits.To speak on things which one does not consider as important and call the bad smell ,was hypocrisy .So literature has to be something serious and taken up as a life mission by those who really feel that they have something to say.For this change Language of Malayalam became indebted to Nalapat through Victor Hugo.
There is an English poem to the effect that “By joining three naada /sounds he made not a fourth sound ,but a star.”The star of Nalapat and its music of spheres was heard all over Kerala through his poems and prose alike.
Ch 2.Nalapat and Kavithraya
Vallathol and Nalapat Narayanamenon squared were dearest friends.There is no point in calling the one as the other’s Guru.When two friends of same wavelengths share their emotions experiences and knowledge there blooms a rare relationship in which one stimulates the other .This stimulus and initiation into newer frontiers of creativity and knowledge allows both to grow.The life and career of these two Narayanamenons can be assessed in that way.If this stimulus is the same as the stimulus given by a Guru,both had been teachers in their own rights to each other.But when we look at the lives closely,though Vallathol was labeled as one among the three great poets of the times,most of the times Vallathol had been at the receiving end of education .How do one assess that?
Let us start with the chronology of Vallathol.He was born nine years before Nalapat .(in 1878).He belonged to Ponnani Taluka ,Mangalam amsa ,and learnt Sanskrit and ayurveda in his formative years.He had poetic nature by birth.By teen age he had made several mukthaka in the orthodox style and his first work was Vyaasaavathaara in 1892.(age 14).The following list shows how prolific a writer Vallathol had been.
Year Event/work age
1917-1970 Sallapapuram koottukavitha
Thapathi samvarana vanchipattu
Bandhanasthnaya anirudhan,oru kathu,chithrayoga
Becomes editor of keralodayam and bhashaposhini
Strats the small poems of sahityamanjari.
South east asian tour
Sthree indiayude karachil
Asthanakavi of Madras
Warsaw world peace
Collected poems as Sahityamanjari 13
The timeline above speaks volumes.In 1909 ,Vallathol had been writing old style Malayalam poetry,till he became deaf.Only after that he comes in contact with Nalapat .Nalapat was young and Vallathol was chronologically very senior to him,and Nalapat had by 1909 only five poems,(kaithapoo,nakshathranghal,asooya,madi,mathrubhoomi)but each one of them free from orthodox poetry and with a new style and message.After Vallathol got Nalapat as his constant companion (after his deafness)we see ,five years later ,Vallathol discarding his old habit of orthodox ways and switching on to poems like sishyanum Makanum,Magdalanamarium ,kochuseetha and the like .It is from 1917 that he started his small poems which came out as his famous sahityamanjari ,later on.In 1914,Nalapat had written his Pukayilamahatmyam ,a satire on people who write unnecessary mahathmya on each and every thing, and also his sulochana and translation of Light of Asia.What prompted Vallathol to change his strategy and style and topics of poetry from 1917?How could he come to terms with the discarding of his old Kodungallur Kalari,southern kalari type writing and switch on to short poems like that we see in Sahityamanjari?How could he shift position to the kalari of romanticism and modernity?These questions deserve serious investigation and thought.If it had been English literature ,several university students would have done indepth studies into such topics.But ,Malayalam literature is still very infantile and does not have such studies conducted .Though Malayalam and English language evolved almost at the same time,same centuries into the present form,we find English language with unprecedented development and Malayalam still backward .There are poems and novels and short stories in Malayalam,but in depth studies are still lacking in our language on various sciences,arts,philosophy and other subjects which has made us backward.
Karpooracharitha of Valsaraja is a book with gambling and prostitution as its subjects.His Hasyachoodamani (translated as Kapatakeli by Vallathol)is also of the same subject.Gramasoubhagya(translation of Gathasapthasathi )of Vallathol is full of erotic subjects.These type of ideologies of the earlier Vallathol has not inflenced the younger contemporary ,Nalapat .He was more of the type who considered man/woman relationship as a perfect companionship and sex as a part of the companionship which gives bliss to both ,and something to be viewed scientifically ,not as a erotic pastime.Did Vallathol influence Nalapat in his Arshagnaana ?Not likely .Because Arshagnana came out in 1954 and Rgveda translation of Vallathol started only in 1955,after Nalapat’s death.Advaithic message of Veda is with Nalapat through worship of Surya,through Manthrasasthra and Sanskrit ,right from his childhood ,through his Guru and stepfather ,Kaattumadam Namboothiri (a learned scholar and practitioner of Manthrasasthra).And he had been a theosophist as well as a Gandhian. .So the influences had come from elsewhere.The masterpiece of MagdalanaMaria from the pen of Vallathol came out in 1921.That was the second year after Nalapat started translating Les Miserables.The habit of the two poets were,to read and discuss the translation chapterwise,because Vallathol was very much interested in reading and in publishing that work.So,the personality of Christ came to Vallathol,through les Miserables and its Monsieur Bienvenuwe as depicted in Nalapat’s translation.And ,that was the first time Vallathol moved out of Indian mythology to a Biblical story.There had been several criticisms against this ,but it was this book that won him the great fame which was due to him,and none of the older,orthodox,classical Sanskrit imitations had done it for him.
I see these two Narayanamenons as great friends,who had a beautiful relationship together.Because Nalapat was chronologically younger,he with all his humbleness called Vallathol his Guru,but ,in none of his writings we see the influence of Vallathol .In fact,Nalapat has more differences in life and ideals and style from Vallathol,than he has from another contemporary ,Mahakavi Kumaaran Aasaan.
Life and ideals of Aasan resembles Nalapat,but they were not friends and their ideas were due to their own experiences .We will consider the lifeline of Aasaan.(1873-1924)He was asanskrit scholar,and had English knowledge and was well versed in logic,vedantha and Boudhadarsana just like Nalapat.When Nalapat was imbibing ideas from Vivekananda,Budha,Dayanandasaraswathy ,and Blavatsky and developing them in the life experiences and in the light of Hugo and Gandhi,Aasan had a mentor in NarayanaGuru,the advaithic teacher/saint.Both these poets had gone for Sanyasa ,and returned from it,one due to advice of Narayanaguru,the other because of the loving objection and illness of his mother.Both married after this abandonment of sanyasa.Aasaan became the disciple of Narayanaguru in1891.He had studied English literature in 1901 from Mysore,Madras and Calcutta.And in that year he translated Sankara’s Soundaryalahari.In 1904 when Sreenarayanadharmaparipaalanayoga(S.N.D.P)was registered he was its first secretory.In 1904 he became member of the Sreemoolam prajasabha.In 1922 he started Thonnakkal Sarada book depot(just as Vannery book depot by Nalapat).In the same year he received award(pattum valayum)from Prince of Wales.In 1918,he married his disciple ,28 years younger to him.
Before Soundaryalahari(1901)and veenapoovu(1907)Aasaan was creating several sthothra on various deva and devi,and also several erotic (sringhaara)poems.The shringhaara sloka were before he became disciple of the Guru,and the sthrothra(prayers)after he became his disciple.The erotic poems were collected and published only in 1928.
Prayer songs,vichitravijayam,and Prabodhachandrodayam
Sreebudhacharitham(started writing in 1903)
The book Veenapoovu came in 1907,well ahead of MagdalanaMarium (1921)and Nalini and Leela were ahead of it and the sahityamanjari too.Aasaan ,might have influenced Vallathol from the sequence given above,and there is no chance for Vallathol to influence Aasaan.the romanticism of this great poet was cut short by his early accidental death.Malayalam literature was at a loss by that untimely death of a great soul.From my personal point of view ,I had been influenced by the ideology and the style of Aasaan right from childhood,and by the style of Vallathol too(but not particularly by his ideology of life).
The prose of Aasaan was not so famous.Raajayoga of Vivekananda,Maithreyakatha of Seethanath Thatwabhooshan,Thaara of Medos Tailor,As a man thinketh of James Allen are some of his translations.His mathaparivarthanarasavaadam(aesthetic logic of conversion)and his criticisms were also released.The criticism contains his views on some of Vallathol and Uloor’s books and his answers to criticisms on his work Prarodanam.With veena poovu(fallen flower)Aasan had entered a phase of romantic renaissance.He was 34 then.After 3 months we find Nalapat’s Kaithapoovu being published.(He was only 20)It is possible that Nalapat was attracted to the style of Aasan .If at all we have to see one poet as the Guru of another,one can see Aasaan as the Guru of Nalapat ,is my opinion.By his sense of humour,communication skills as a conversationist,logical arguments and by his translations of Hugo and his unorthodox ideology,the constant younger companion of Vallathol had influenced his elder contemporary and slowly changed his course of writing and made him a well renowned poet of his times.A change of course from orthodox poetry to the new styles and new tendencies of the era,made the diamond within Vallathol shine forth.And the credit goes to Nalapat.If his companionship and communication skills were not at work,Malayalam literature would have lost her best poet and best poetry forever.The genius would have been wasted under the yoke of orthodoxy and imitations.
The third member of the Kavithraya is Ulloor Parameswara Iyer.There is not much resemblance or friendship either for Nalapat with Ulloor.Except that he had been in his early period of life,a member of a poetry club which produced Koottukavitha,in which Ulloor also was a member.The comparison is not attempted since the only comparison possible will be the Sanskrit scholarship of the two men,which is beyond the scope of this work.
Ch 3 Hugo,Hardy,Nalapat
In 1887,while a famous novelist in England was reading a famous novel by a Frenchman,in the British colony of India,in asmall village was born a male infant,destined to read,influenced and translate the very same novel ,by a predestined harmony of nature.The French novelist was Victor Hugo and his book was Les Miserables.The famous novelist in England was Thomas Hardy.And ,the newborn infant in Punnayurkulam,a small village in Kerala was Nalapat Narayana Menon.
Thomas Hardy was an expert in understanding human nature.There was no novelist at that time who could match his intellect and genius.He was a scholar in Philosophy too.His quotations in many of his works are shown as the signs of his indepth and vast reading.His novels are always battles between heart and intellect.The novelist always occupy the central position of this combat.The pains of humans,who doesn’t know their fate,within the movement of this universe,as tiny insects falling into the fire of it,the weaknesses of their lives,the temporary lightenings of Godliness seen in such persons sacrifices and greatness,these had been the themes of Hardy’s novels.He is aromanticist ,who took pen for naturalism.He was creative in both poetry and in prose,just like Hugo and Nalapat.Tess of the Dubervilles was written by Hardy after reading Hugo.It is a novel visibly influenced by Hugo.
Hugo had been creating in his symbolic style with perfect imaginary skills a realistic story which he had in mind for a very long period.He gave his own experiences and historic reliability to his masterpiece.It depicts the mental struggles of individuals as that of society.As all the French romantic poets of his times Hugo believed that poet has a duty to fulfil to the society.The creation thus though a romantic imaginary fiction,seems like a realistic historical story .It is humanism that is seen in the novel.He is an educator of the people as well as an interpreter of the intentions of God in the narrative.Hugo had experimented with drama and poetry first and only after finding the inadequacy of these two media in fulfilling the duty of the creator he turned to Novel.His dramas were to rebel against the Greacolatin classicism of French theatre.From 1820-1845,for long 15 years he had been preparing mentally to write les Miserables.The writing started in 1845.By 1848,(3 yrs)a rough copy ,named Les Miseres was prepared.In 1848 due to French revolution and the political developments his writing was obstructed.By that time his manuscript had reached the portion when Jean Val Jean from the mirror image of the letter in the reflection of a mirror understands the love between Marius and Cosette.In 1860 April he resumed his writing .By May 19th 1862 he finished writing the manuscript.From the time of inception of the seed of the story in his mind to its final version ,he had carried it for 42 years in his mind,as Vinatha had done her star child Garuda.The novel was thus the divine child of a long tapasya.In all languages it had translations .During American civil war it was received with glorified emotions by the people of that country.In England also it received much glory and fame.All over the world where there are human beings who are thoughtful and humanistic the novel was acclaimed as a classic.In 1860 there was a feeling that romanticism is oldfashioned among the writers.But this novel was romantic and acclaimed much fame and rewrote the opinion about romanticism.The representative of the new generation of writers Baudelaire wrote:”It is obvious that in Les Miserables the author wished to create living abstractions ,ideal figures,each one of which,representing one of the principle elevated to an epic height.It is a novel constructed like a poem,where each characters is only exceptional because of the hyperbolic manner in which he represents a reality.”The book was beautiful as a romantic symbolic poem.And a perfect model of a novel,as the western critics of the time evaluated it.
But it is not a complete imaginery story.Hugo had done lot of investigations before he did the novel.The story of Monsineur Bienvenue bartering the soul of Jean Val jean is the real story of Bishop of Digne(Meolist was his name)and the criminal Pierre Morrin .The Bishop of D as Hugo calls is the Bishop of Digne in real life.In Choses vues (A French newspaper)on jan 9th of 1841 Hugo had described a sad sight he witnessed in a street of Paris.That story is given in Les Miserables as the cruel youngster flinging ice into the blouse of poor Fanteen ,who is having Tuberculosis and breathing trouble.A naval officer ,a friend of Hugo ,had written in one of his letters a real story of how from Orion ship of Toulong he rescued a traveler.The black amber trade with which Father Madalian revolutionise industry in M town ,Hugo had researched and so too he had studied the whole of Christianity and its principles to write the chapters on Bienvenue’s writings on Christianity.He visited and studied life in jails of Toulong and Bresk before writing about the criminals life in those jails.
Hugo’s autobiographical parts are seen in Marius.The Hugo at his 20th year is Marius.The bourgeoise royal heritage,and the admiration for a father who had been the general of Napolean ,and the dilemma of where to show his loyalty ,is seen in that character.That is the story of Hugo from 1825-1830.The poverty Marius experienced was his own experience.As Paul Benishow of Harward uty has opined ,Les miserables is a book with a perfect vision of life due to different experiences of this world.Image of reality ,as well as a realistic image is seen in it.The symbols of Hugo depicts the spirituality of objects.There is no other disguise for them.Jean val Jean,Fanteen,Bienvenue,Javert and even Thenardiere is a symbol in the novel.
When it was first published and first translated there had been criticismson its style and melodrama.And within ten years ,the characters seen within different parts of France is not acceptable ,they said.At that time,to visualize the entire society ,from a single point ,as a technique had not originated at Hugo’s time.The aim of Hugo was educating the masses.That aim was done with simple and touching style and language .The ethical and philosophical approach and the realistic picturisation ,the symbols which were lovable ,all helped him in fulfilling the aim.
In a letter to Lamarteen after publication of the work Hugo had written”The base of my book is fraternity.Its peak is development..The work thus was a strong edifice of human development on love and brotherhood.What should be the real religion and spirituality of an individual,except ethical and truthful life of love and service?Paul benichou writes:-He intended to write a work in which everytime would be striking and profoundly meaningful to the reader,a sort of life-giving legend or epic of our time born with it and linking the present to the future.It is in this spirit that one should read this book”
The aim of Les Miserables is happiness of all humanity.Sacrifice of selfishness is its method.The creation of a better society than the present is dependent on unselfish actions.Even the policeman of the old orthodox system(Javert)is depicted a s honest and truthful by Hugo.He is not a bad man.Only thing is that he fails to understand the new developments.He too is performing a duty which he feels is his dharma.And hence has a sort of selflessness.The moment he understands that his faith had been wrong ,and that Jean val jaean was truthful and honest and not a criminal ,he commits suicide.
The consciousness above all laws is God,according to Hugo’s definition.For him a thief,a priest or a policeman are equal in front of God.This equality and presence of consciousness changes all manmade laws.God is above church and laws of church,Hugo said.The personality of Bienvenue is a symbol of Christ in this novel.To call the presence of that light and its influence throughout the novel as melodrama is to negate the goodness and conscience in man.It is a message of humanity .Whenever a time of trial happens the strength of that positive influence comes to Jean Val jean and he is shown the way to selflessness and happiness for all.The lifecenter of the novel is the struggles each human being experience and how one gets through unscathed with grace of God and ethical life.God is positive.There should be a negative symbol opposite to od.Bienvenue has an opposite in Thenardiere.
The love which is innocent and profound is God and in Cosette brought up by Jean Val Jean we see this love ,the symbol of Divinity.Eponine,Gavrosh etc are children who were denied the opportunity for life and love and grew up with Thenardiere.Even in them Hugo shows us a pristine goodness and innocence .Marius is a modern man rebellious of old systems yet having respect for it.Always in dilemma.He saved by the love of Cosette which is equivalent to God.
There is a style of novelist engaging in private talk with the reader .By this any reader ,in any place or time gets an opportunity to enter the world of the novelist directly .The ideas are not only universal ,but timeless,a sort of eternal nature.No wonder both Thomas hardy and Nalapt were very much influenced by this novel and by the novelist.On Hugo’s birth centenary Hardy had written that his work is a crown in lieratures architectural beauty.His imagination increases the greatness of the great and increases the beauty of the smallest.Mayor of Casterbridge has the shadow of les Miserables according to critics.And in Tess of Duberwills ,the priest(father of Claire)is a shadow of the bishop of Les Miserebles.
Nalapatstarted his translation in 1919-1920.The ideas were impressive to this young man who was born and brought up within the classicism of Indian systems and was aware of the modern trends and was a great intellectual giant and a compassionate humanist.He knew the translation of this book has to be his aim /mission in life .The youngster talking about this great work ,and traveling with Vallathol as his translator(since Vallathol was dumb and needed Nalapat to tell everything that others talk)he told the poet about this work and told him the story in his own special communicative skill,and vallathol became interested in reading it in entirety .The publication of this great and massive work was promised to be helped by Vallathol.Thus Nalapat did the mission of his life,and Vallathol enjoyed it ,each page,as and when it was being translated and was a transformed poet .The bondages of orthodox venmani and southern kalari were broken by this singing bard by the influence of Nalapat through Hugo and Malayalam witnessed a beautiful relation and a beautiful new era emerging out of it.When Vallathol was interested in Hugo’s romanticism ,the younger generations were interested in its sociopolitical realism and its messages.
The whole story is given below:
. HERALDING WINDS OF CHANGE:
How Nalapat NarayanaMenon’s Malayalam translation of Victor Hugo’s LES MISERABLES transformed the Kerala society.
(On 7.10.2000,Vijayadasami day was the 113th birth anniversary of Nalapat.It was the 75th year of his translation of LesMiserables .This paper written to commemorate the occasion was presented later in the Department of foreign languages ,at Cochin University).
In history we often find perceptions of some beings translated to the aims of many.To analyse how the perceptions of Victor Hugo through his translator Nalapat ,influenced the pre-independent youth of Kerala ,we have to first analyse the Indian scenario at that time.
The Indian Scenario.
For practical purposes the Indian scenario can be divided into four eras.(methodology followed by M.K.Naik in his A history of Indian English Literature.)
1.From vedic times to 1857 revolt
2.The winds of change (1857-1920)
Nalapat (1887-1954)belonged to the second and third era with the fag ends of his life spanning over to the post-independent period.During the winds of change phase ,the Indian ethos gradually underwent a seachange from the shock of defeat and frustration and the trauma of inferiority feeling to a newfound selfawareness and confidence.The confident authenticity of Vivekananda ,Aurobindo,Tagore,Tilak,Gokhale and Ranade vivified the sociopolitical scene.India’s rediscovery of identity became a vigorous and allabsorbing quest and she learnt enough from the west to progress from imitation to assimilation and creation.
During this period ,Nalapat established his confident but silent discourse and identity .He learnt Sanskrit ,the veda,jyothisha,occult sciences,became a member of the theosophical society (1917),translated Edwin Arnold’s light of Asia,wrote biographies of vivekananda,Dayanandasaraswathy,Vallathol and went to Almorah for renunciation,and took an active part in Indian National congress and its activities.He had translated even part of Leadbeater’s occult writings dealing with visualization of angels with kirlion photography.An ardent vedanthin and theosophist ,practitioner of truth and nonviolence throughout his life,a solace and strength to the women and children around,he combined the personality of thinker/poet/philosopher/scientist/reformer rolled in one.He had internalized the Indian Rishi and the Budha ,before he came across Christ in the form of Monsieur Francois Bienvenu Myriel, in Les Miserables And he lost no time in recognizing in Monsieur’s model Christ ,his own ideal rishi and the Budha.
Gandhi returned to India in 1915.In 1920 the nationwide nonco-operation movement was launched.Nalapat,an ardent Gandhian ,chose to stay away from the movement because he had started to translate his magnum opus the very same year.The decision to translate Hugo’s classic (Nalapat named the translation Paavangal,which means the poor)at the most historic moment in the Freedom struggle of India shows his commitment to to the cause as well as his personality ,as E.M.S.Namboothiripad,the Marxist thinker has rightly put it.To Nalapat,like Hugo,the Republic was the mother of all citizens.And he wanted to educate the young men and women of his times on Hugo’s philosophy.To change a degenerate political and social system ,the cleaning up should start at individual level and then spread horizontally.Collective thinking of society is a late manifestation .Romanticism,relism,liberal humanism and the revolutionary ideas of Hugo were ideal tools to be used to educate a decadent society and sow the seeds of action in its youth.Nalapt used it in the most needed hour of India’s history.The preface of the translator reads thus.”The proud boundaries created by men are of no value to God.National histories may differ.But human history is always the same.”The book ,as Hugo puts it”,will be useful to any society where ignorance and misery prevail,where women sell themselves for food and shelter ,where children lack love,home and education”.
Social influences and the women’s issues
In the neighbouring Tamilspeaking provinces E.V.Ramaswami Naicker had become a strong influence and was raising a Dravidian /feminist discourse. The selfrespect marriages conducted by him were asserting the Dravidian concern of gender equality .Gandhi stressed the need for emanicipation of women and the downtrodden.But many did not consider the women’s issues seriously.This was not the situation in kerala.The women of the lower castes were comparatively better in status than the Brahmin counterparts.There arose a series of reformations in the Brahmin society in which the Dravidian matriarchal equality rights were granted to women.The social activist instrumental in this reform was V.T.Bhattathirippad.He was influenced by Nalapat and Hugo as we see from his autobiographical writings.He wrote:I was aware of the state of women in my own community.Early widowhood resulting from marriage of little girls to old men.How can I stop it?Who am I to stop it?”Again to quote him,”I was gropping in the dark corridors of Brahmanism.Nalapat took my hands and brought me out.He taught me that the aim of my life should be destroying that corridor.From that day onwards I understood that if a Brahmin joins hands with a shoodra there wont be any catastophe.I was in front of all revolutionary events in the Brahmin community,like removal of ghosha(purdah),mishrabhojan(inter-caste dining),widow remarriage ,and intercaste marriages.But Nalapat was behind all these “.V.T.Bhattathiripad cites examples from his own experience to prove the revolutionary behaviour of Nalapat and his family,including his own mother.He also quotes profusely,references from Paavangal in his autobiography.Hugo knew that one could assess the level of civilization of a man in society by his/her actions to women ,children and the weaker sections of society.His Monsieur Beanvenu and Jean Val Jean were examples of this excellent civilized behaviour.They loved and served people irrespective of class,gender,political/religious beliefs out of compassion .Hugo and his translator wanted this to happen in their society.And in fulfilling this aim,V.T.was chosen by Nalapat ,to create a social change.
The social impact made by Les Miserables was direct but the political inflence was indirect.E.M.S.Namboothiripad,an active member of the yogakshemasabha (a council of namboothiri Brahmins of which V.T also was a member)and the Indian National Congress in its early days and who turned socialist/communist/Marxist ,was responsible for the political impact.Though located in his classical Marxist position ,E.M.S attempted a wholistic approach while looking at Nalapat’s personality.He observed that Nalapat ,conscious of the need of the time ,as a true social thinker revolutionized not only the Malayalam prose style prevalent at that time,but also the viewpoint of a whole generation of Malayali youth ,including himself.The revolutionary whirlwind in Hugo’s mind was transferred through the mind of Nalapt to the new generation and E.M.S. feels that Nalapat had succeeded in his endeavour ,judging from what followed in the political history of Kerala.According to E.M.S ,Paavangal hastened the revolutionary pace in Kerala and evoked intense social changes.It made young men and women active participants in the process of social change.
The aim of Nalapat ,as E.M.S rightly guesses,was not a movement with extreme leftist ideology and like Hugo ,he was not a proponent of a bloody revolution as that of France.Here the speech of swami Ranganaathaananda ,made in Sylhet,East Pakistan ,inMay 1949,can be recalled.Speaking on the role of religion in politics he said, “Behind the government ,the constitution,the state ,lie the society ,the matrix of all forces,the womb of constitutions,and revolutions,placid like a calm lake at one period,erupting like a volcano at another.A moving,changing,struggling mass constituted of ego-centers belonging to varying levels of intellectual ,moral,and spiritual evolution.Political revolutions and even social revolutions engineered by politico-economic forces ,such as a socialist or communist revolution of these types may upturn states and shake up societies.But only for some time.After a few years ,the impulse looses its dynamism and societies resume their even course as before with only slight modification and changes.This was the lesson of the French Revolution ,as is also the lesson now becoming slowly evident of the mighty Russian revolution.The price we pay is out of all proportion that leads us to view a violent revolution as the product of historical necessity or as a factor of social progress.The only revolution initiated by a great spiritual teacher and the ideology and movement proceeding from him,gently but steadily ,shapes human desires and emotions and judgements in terms of certain lofty and spiritual values realized and taught by the teacher.It alters the ratio of social forces through profound transformations in individual men and women and effects an all-round refinement in human morals and manners”.
This profound change induced by Bienvenu in Jean Val Jean and its effect on many individual lives(of Fanteen,Cosette,Fushalwang,Javert,people of M city)is the theme of Hugo.Nalapat being an advocate of nonviolence ,was never in favour of bloody revolutions ,which proudly shows up the list of their martyrs to exploit public sympathy.His path was more spiritual and in this he resembled Bienvenu.
Prof. Joseph Mundassery (the first education minister of Kerala and noted literary critic)Kuttykrishna Maarar(literary critic)Novelist P.C.Kuttikrishnan have remarked how the style of Malayalam literatute was revolutionized by the translation of Paavangal.Mundassery said”It made thoughtless people think,silent people talk”.A critic ,M.R.Nair alias Sanjayan said that the elegy Teardrops written by Nalapt is a first class poem by a second class poet.Probably this is the best example of a longlasting comedy of the entire Malayalam literature.On this remark,a series of critics and academics have wasted time,quoting this wherever they could,and argueing whether Nalapat was first class or second class.But none of them seems to have realized that Sanjayan has taken that phrase to criticize Nalapat from Nalapat’s own translation of Hugo.In Les Miserables Hugo describes the battle of waterloo as the first class victory of a second class general(Lord Wellington)and Nalapt had faithfully translated it.This phrase was taken from Nalapt,to criticize Nalapat,to compare him with other poets of Kerala by a critic.This ,if we look at closely is a real tribute in disguise,to give the poet the satisfaction of a last laugh.Maarar,the eminent critic ,who never had any direct contact with the western literary methods was benefited by his contacts with Nalapat,and evolved a system of criticism in Malayalam ,based on the western style and benefited the branch of Malayalam literary criticism.The use of colloquial language styles in novels and short stories is perfected by many writers in kerala such as Uroob,M.T.Vasudevan Nair,Madhavikuuty.This style of using Malabar colloquial language was first introduced into Malayalam literature by translation of Paavangal by Nalapat .Hugo’s use of soliloquy and freeflowing narrative has come to stay in Malayalam literature after Nalapat’s translation.
In 1925,when the first edition of Paavangal came into print ,society was awakened.The young men and women of the time took up the challenge .At present ,in the time of separatist forces ,Les Miserables gives us an intellectual and humanistic solution to our problems.The silent discourse of Nalapat ,like the character Bienvenu in the classic he translated ,gives us new insights.The year 2000 ,marks the 75th birthday of the translation.The message of Hugo is still valid to us,the Paavangal of India and kerala,who still suffer the atrocities on the poor,downtrodden,the child and the women,and this book and its ideas come and knock at our door to awaken us from a slumber and make us elect only those who are morally perfect and humanistic to our powerpositions,in politics,in society and in all departments which deals with the nation’s economy,education and defence.