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Development Of Malayalam Language

The growth of an indigenous form of literature is attributed to the medieval period. Malayalam, as a distinct form of language began to develop. Ramakatha, a poem composed during the Perumal period is regarded as the beginning of Malayalam literature. However the text is more or less in Tamil. Most of the indigenous literature belonged to the Pattu form, orally communicated. Local usages and syntax got in to all these compositions. The script used is Vattezhuthu adapted from Tamil and Brahmi. Grnatha characters were used for writing Sanskrit compositions. Malayalam began to have its own script during this period. The temple inscriptions have used Tamil. However, a number of local usages and syntax got in to these compositions composed in Tamil.


Manipravalam is the name given to that form of literature in Malayalam, which came in to existence during the 9th – 14th Century. It is a curious mixture of Malayalam, Tamil and Sanskrit. From the 11th Century onwards, a number of literary works appeared in Manipravalam pattern. Tolan was one of the earliest poet in Malayalam who composed works in Manipravalam style. However the first full-fledged work in Manipravalam was Vaisika Tantram of the 11th Century. Most of the manipravalam works have Devadasis as their heroine. Of the works in this category may be mentioned Unniaticharitam, Unniachi Charitam and Unnichirutevi Charitam. They depict the life of ease and indolence of the leisured class in society. They reflect the social conditions of the age such as the Devadasi system, Sambandham system of a decadent society. However they are valuable for the social historians of Kerala.

Philosophical And Devotional Works

The feudal age produced a series of philosophical and devotional works in Malayalam. The Gathas and Champus come under this category. Krishnagatha of Cherusseri was the typical Gatha. Its theme is the story of Krishna. It was written under the patronage of Udaya Varman of Kolathunad. The Ramayanam Champu of Punam Namputiri and Bhasha Naishedham Champu of Mahishamangalam were produced during this age. If the early Champus depicted the Devadasis of the day, the later Champus drew their themes from the Puranas and depicted contemporary social life. Other great savants of the period are Punthanam and Melputhur. Puntanam belonged to the school of Bhakti and composed such works as Jnanappana, Sri Krishna Karnamrutam and Santana Gopalam. Melputhur composed learned works such as Narayaneeyam and Prakriya Sarvaswam. Chennos Namputiri wrote Tantra Samucchaya, a treatese on temple architecture and sculpture. Other literary figures include Madhava who translated Gita in to Malayalam and Sankara who wrote Bharatmala. There was also works relating to scientific literature. Ashtamga hrudaya, an encyclopaedia of Ayurvedic system of medicine was composed during this period. Parameswara founded the Digganita system of astronomy based on the observation with the naked eye.

A number of pure Malayalam songs in praise of Gods and heroes appeared; symbolizing the dawn of Kilipattu literature. The Kannassa Ramayanam revived the tradition of religious poetry. Kannassa Panikkar, the most outstanding of the Niranam poets wrote Ramayana, Bharatam, Bhagavatam and Sivaratri Mahatmyam. Though adapted from Sanskrit, they are remarkable for their originality of treatment. The Ramayana works of Niranam poets and the Ramakathapattu revived the tradition of religious poetry. Their works culminated in the epoch making translations of epics and Puranas by Tunjath Ezhuthachan.


Cherusseri Namputiri is famous as the author of Krishnagatha. He enjoyed the patronage of Udaya varma, the king if Kolathunad. He composed Krishnagatha in accordance with the wishes of his patron. Krishnagatha is remarkable for its simplicity and felicity of expression. However it contain several verses, which come under the class of erotic poetry. While Ezhuttachan tried to rejuvenate society by introducing spirituality, Cherusseri treated Gods, Godesses as human beings with flesh and blood, with feelings and emotion, love and hatred.


Ezhuttacchan was one of the most outstanding figures in the history of Malayalam literature. He liberated Malayalam from the clutches of Tamil and Sanskrit and made it popular. He is rightly regarded as the Father of modern Malayalam language. He was a pioneer in the socio- religious movement of the time. Ezhuttacchan appeared at a time when there was anarchy and degradation in the political and cultural fields. In a period of gloom, anarchy and violence, Ezhuttacchan appeared as a man of destiny.

Tunchatt Ramanujan Ezhuttacchan was born in a Nair family at Thrikkandiyur. He left Kerala to the Tamil country for higher studies. Returning to the native land, he established an Ezhuthupally (school) to teach children. He devoted his time to literary pursuits and composed devotional works. During his last days, Ezhuttacchan left Thrikkantiyur (Tirur) for Chittur where he established a Mutt and a temple on the banks of the river. Ezhuttacchan’s contributions to Malayalam are everlasting. He inaugurated the ‘Kilippattu form of literary expression in Malayalam. He rendered in to Malayalam the great epics Ramayana and Mahabarata. His adaptation of Ramayana is unique as it had a spiritual and religious connotation. He was also credited with the authorship of Harinamakirtanam and Irupathinaluvrutham. These works shows his genius for synthesis. In fact, the history of Malayalam poetry begins with this savant.

In the devotional and religious sphere, Ezhuttacchan revived the Bhakti cult in Kerala. His ‘Adhyatma-Ramayana’ is the finest literary expression of the Bhakti Cult which became popular in Kerala during the medieval period. He composed his work with supreme emphasis on Bhakti or devotion to God in the form of Rama in a style and language that appeals to the heart rather than brain. The devotional songs in this work are considered to be the best in Malayalam poetry even today.

In the social sphere too, Ezhuttacchan made his mark. Though a non-Brahmin, he studied the Vedas and the Sastras and exposed the Aryan myth that they alone could master the sacred knowledge. Ezhuttacchan also began the system of imparting primary education through Ezhuthupalli. In the words of Dr. Ayyappa Panikkar. “With his absolute sincerity, skill and total dedication to poetry and religion, Ezhuttacchan was able to create and establish, once and for all, a language, a culture and a people. He is thus a magnificent symbol of our great cultural movement”.



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