‘Velicham dhukamanuni thamasalo sugapradham’
(Light is woe, darkness is bliss)
These famous lines are from the Malayalam masterpiece ‘Irupatham Noottandinte Ithihasam’ (Epic of the 20th Century) — a poem written by noted poet Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri. The lines written back in 1952, with its utmost simplicity and yet deep philosophy, still hold meaning in the present day and age. The 93-year-old poet, popularly known as Akkitham, on Friday won the Jnanpith Award for his outstanding contribution to Literature.
93-year-old Akkitham is the sixth person from Kerala to receive the top award for Literature in the country. The others are: G Sankara Kurup -1965; SK Pottakkad - 1980; Takazhi Sivasankara Pillai - 1984; MT Vasudevan Nair -1995; and ONV Kurup - 2007.
"There have been great poets in Malayalam. It was Edasseri (Edasseri Govindan Nair) who taught me that literature is a search for tears in life. I don't have the opinion that whatever I have written is right, there might be mistakes, please forgive," Akkitham told media while reacting to news of the top honour.
He also thanked many others in the Malayalam literary world, including those who translated his works into other languages.
Born in March 1926 into a Namboothiri family, Akkitham was vociferous in speaking against untouchability. He demonstrated his unwavering support by participating in the Paliyam Sathyagraha against untouchability in 1947. Akkitham also took efforts to spread Vedic studies among non-Brahmins.
His smaller epics other than ‘Irupatham Noottandinte Ithihasam’ include 'Balidarsanam' (Vision of Bali) and 'Desa sevika'. His other noted works are 'Arangettam', 'Nimisha Kshetram', 'Idinju Polinja Lokam', to name a few.
Akkitham is a recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, both nationally and in Kerala. He has won Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award for the poem Balidarsanam. His other recognitions include Aasan Prize, Vallathol Award, Lalitambika Sahitya Award, Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award, Odakkuzhal Award, KrishnaGeedhi Award, Vayalar Award, Nalappad Award, Ezhuthachan Award and the Moorti Devi Award of Jnanpith Award Committee.
Akkitham was also conferred with the Padma Shri award in 2017.