The renowned Malayalam poet, Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri, who wrote “Irupathamnootandinte Ithihasam” (Epic of 20th Century), has bagged this year Jnanpith Award at the age of 93.
Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri, 93, has bagged the 55th Jnanpith Award for his humongous contribution to the Malayalam Literature. The Jnanpith Selection Board had in fact selected Akkitham unanimously for the award, which includes a cash prize of Rs.11 lakh and a bronze replica of Goddess Saraswati. With this, six literary luminaries had won this prestigious award from Kerala. The late G Sankara Kurup, one of the leading poets of Kerala had won the Jnanpit Award for the first time, while eminent author, late Thakazhi Sivasankaran Pillai was the second Malayalam author to receive this coveted prize. In addition to that, the late poet, SK Pottekkatt, Malayalam novelist MT Vasudevan Nair and the late Malayalam poet, ONV Kurup were the other recipient of the award. What is more, Akkitham had also bagged the fourth highest civilian award of Padmashree conferred by the Government of India in 2017. He has also won several awards such as Kendra Sahithya Akademi Award, Kerala Sahithya Akademi Award and Ezhuthachan Puraskaram.
Born on March 18, 1926 at Amettikkara, Kumaranallur in Palakkad District to Amettu Akkithathu Manayil Vasudevan Namboothiri and Checkur Manaykkal Parvathy Antharjanam, Akkitham learned Sanskrit, Astrology and Music in school. Although, he pursued the college education, nevertheless Akkitham could not complete his degree course. Akkitham began his career as the Editor of Unni Namboothiri Magazine in Malayalam, he wrote extensively on this platform about the social maladies. Later, Akkitham also served Mangalodayam and Yogakshemam magazines in the capacity of Editor. In 1956, Akkitham the All India Radio Kozhikode Station and he served the Government controlled broadcasting firm till 1975. Eventually, Akkitham was transferred to Thrissur. Furthermore, Akkitham also actively associated with Anaadi, a literary endeavour, started to popularise the studies of Vedas.
Sreedevi Antharjanam is his spouse and the couple have a son by name Narayanan and a daughter, Sreeja. The poet now lives in Amettikkara, which has produced more scholars including his own younger sibling, Akkitham Narayanan, the renowned painter.
Akkitham’s rose into the Malayalam literary horizon in the early 1950s with his masterpiece work, Irupatham Noottandinte Ithihasam. Set in Khandakaavya, the work is one of the truly modernist poems in contemporary Malayalam Literature. This work fetched Akkitham, the Sanjayan Award back in 1952. Moreover, Akkitham has published in excess of 45 books consisting of poetry, anthologies, plays and short stories. The important anthologies of Akkitham include Balidarshanam (Vision of Sacrifice), Arangettam (First Stage Performance), Nimisha Kshethram (Temple of Minute), Idinju Polinja Lokam (The Crashed World), Amritaghatika (Tale of Nectar) and Kalikkottilil (In the Cradle). His two essay collections are Upanayanam (Wearing of Sacred Thread) and Samavarttanam in the prose section. In addition to that, Akkitham has also translated Srimad Bhagavatam, titled: Sree Mahabhagavatham composing 14,613 verses covering in excess of 2,400 pages.
Akkitham also had deep involvement in social reform initiatives, which he accomplished through his association with Yogakshema Sabha. Akkitham tirelessly worked towards bringing about the much needed reformation in the lives of Namboothiri Brahmins of Kerala. Also, he was having association with several centres in Thirunavaya, Kadavallur and Thrissur in terms of promoting the vedic studies. Later, Akkitham also associated with Paliyam Sathiyagraha, a non-violent agitation against untouchability way back in 1947, at the time of India’s independence from the British rule.
Akkitham won several accolades. In addition to this year’s Njanpith Award, he has also bagged a slew of awards. In 1952, Akkitham won Sanjayan Award for his seminal work, Irupatham Noottandinte Ithihasam, the Kerala Sahithya Akademi Award for his poetry, Balidarshanam in 1971, Odakkuzhal Award for Nimisha Kshethram in 1973. Akkitham won the Asan Smaraka Kavitha Puraskaram in 1994 and in 1996 he bagged the Lalithambika Antharjanam Smaraka Sahithya Award. In 1997, Akkitham won the Vallathol Award. In 2012, he won the Vayalar Award, while the Government of Kerala had conferred Akkitham with Ezhuthachan Puraskaram, their highest literary award in 2016. Akkitham received the Padmashree the following year. Although, the poet could not take part in the investiture event due to ailments, nevertheless, the award was later conferred on him by the District Collector of Palakkad. Besides that, Akkitham has also bagged several other awards such as Krishna Geedhi Award, Nalappad Award, Puthezhan Award, Moorti Devi Award of Bharatiya Jnanpith and Amrita Keerti Puraskar (2004). E. Suresh directed a documentary film titled: Arikil Akkitham, delving deep into the poet’s life seen through the prism of his daughter, Sreeja.