Kavalam Narayana Panicker

(28 April 1928 - / Kavalam, Kerala / India)

Biography of Kavalam Narayana Panicker

Kavalam Narayana Panicker poet

Kavalam Narayana Panicker (or Panikkar) is an Indian dramatist, theatre director and poet. He has written over 26 Malayalam plays, many adapted from classical Sanskrit drama and Shakespeare, notably Madhyamavyayogam (1979) Kalidasa's Vikramorvasiyam (1981, 1996), Shakuntalam (1982), Karnabharam (1984, 2001), Bhasa's Uru Bhangam (1988), Swapnavasavadattam and Dootavakyam (1996). He is the founder-director of theatre troupe, Sopanam, which led to the foundation of 'Bhashabharati: Centre for Performing Arts, Training and Research, in trivandrum.

He was awarded the 1983 Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in Direction by Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama, which gave him its highest award for lifetime achievement the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 2002.

Early Life and Education

He was born in the village of Kavalam, into an ancient family from Kuttanad in Alappuzha, Kerala, India. His family name is Chalayil and he is a nephew of Sardar Kavalam Madhava Panikkar and a cousin of Dr. K. Ayyappa Panicker, a Malayalam poet.

He attended CMS College in Kottayam whose alumni included K.P.S. Menon and his uncle Sardar K.M. Panikkar. He obtained a degree in Economics from S D College, Alappuzha and later a Bachelor of Law degree from Madras Law College.


He started his career as a lawyer in 1955 and practised law for six years before devoting himself to art and literature. In 1961 he was nominated as Secretary of Kerala Sangeetha Nadaka Academy, Thrissur and shifted his base to Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala. His work has always been rooted in both the classical and folk traditions of Kerala.

In 1974, Kavalam shifted his residence to the state capital Thiruvananthapuram. In this period his play Avanavan Katampa was filmed by G. Aravindan. He has worked in many countries, including the former Soviet Union. In Greece he worked with Greek artists on a production of the Ilyayana, a fusion of the Indian Ramayana and the Greek epic Iliad.

He has directed two movies about the greatest Kutiyattam maestro legendary actor Guru Mani Madhava Chakyar: Mani Madhava Chakyar: The Master at Work (1994) and Parvati Viraham (1993) in Kuttiyattam form featuring Mani Madhava Chakyar as Ravana. As a lyricist in Malayalam cinema, he has written for films like Ulsavapittennu, Manjadikuru (2008), Vadakakkoru Hridayam (1978) and Marmaram (1982). He won Kerala State Film Award for Best Lyrics for the latter two films.

Mani Madhava Chakyar: The Master At Work- A biographical film about Guru Mani Madhava Chakkiar directed by K. N. Panicker
He has remained a consultant at Asianet Communications and vice chairman for Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi.

Personal Life

He is married and has two sons. He lives in Thiruvananthapuram with his wife Saradamani and also has another house in his native village. His sons are Kavalam Harikrishnan and Kavalam Sreekumar. His elder son Kavalam Harikrishnan served as BHASABHARATHI's Chief contact person before he died in October 2009. His younger son Kavalam Sreekumar is a famous singer in Kerala.

Awards and Recognition

He was awarded Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1983 and Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 2002 and the Padma Bhushan civilian decoration in 2007.

He has won Kerala State Film Award for Best Lyrics twice, in 1978 for Vadakakkoru Hridayam and in 1982 for Marmaram, and Kalidas Samman for the (1994–1995).

Kavalam Narayana Panicker's Works:

The Right to rule (Kōyma) ; and, The domain of the sun (Sūryasthāna). Seagull Books, 1989.
Folklore of Kerala. National Book Trust, India, 1991.
Karimkutty ; and, The lone tusker. Seagull Books, 1991.

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