Biography of Kerala Varma
Kerala Varma Valiya Koil Thampuran, CSI, also known as Kerala Varma, also spelt Kerala Varma Valiya Koilthampuran, was a Malayalam-language poet and translator who had an equal facility in writing in English and Sanskrit from the Indian state of Kerala. He was part of the royal family of erstwhile Parappanad, Malabar.
Kerala Varma has been called "a colossal Renaissance figure in 19th century Kerala" and "perhaps the first of the major [Malayalam language] writers who consciously and deliberately began to absorb and celebrate the Western influence" on his native literature. He advocated resuscitation of Malayalam literature by absorbing selected Western influences combined with native Sanskritic elements in poetry, drama and prose.
He was born in Changanacherry at the Laxmipuram Palace into[clarification needed]. His mother was Pooram Nal Devi Amba Thampuratti while his father was Cheriyoor Mullapally Narayanan Namboothiri, Perinchelloor Gramam (Taliparamba) in Kannur District. His family had fled Malabar and sought refuge in Travancore during the invasion of Tipu Sultan towards the end of the 18th century. After peace was restored, however, the Parappanad Royal family agreed to accept a pension from the British government as also from the Travancore government and stayed back in the latter state. Although the Koil Thampuran was born at Changanacherry, his family subsequently moved to Haripad and settled at the Ananthapuram Palace. In 1859 he was married to Her Highness Bharani Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi, the adopted niece of Uthram Thirunal, then Maharajah of Travancore. His marriage to the Senior Rani thus brought him into close association with the Travancore Royal Family. Later, however, through palace intrigues and personal disaffection with the Maharajah Ayilyam Thirunal he was confined at Haripad forcefully in 1875, only to be released and reunited with his wife in 1880 by Maharajah Visakham Thirunal. He was made a Companion of the Order of the Star of India in 1885 by the British Government. After the death of his consort Rani Lakshmi Bayi in 1901 he was appointed the guardian of her two grandnieces, the Senior and Junior Ranis of Travancore, including Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi.
Kerala Varma was in close touch with literary movements in both northern and southern parts of Kerala, including Bhashaposhini Sabha and magazines such as Vidya Vinodini and Malayala Manorama.
His work Abhijnana Sakunthalam(1898), a translation of Kalidasa's Sakunthalam, is one of the most acclaimed works of poetry in Malayalam from that period. (Kerala Varma has also been known as Kerala Kalidasan.) It influenced a number of other translations of Sanskrit classics into Malayalam and was a success on the stage. The subsequent spate of translations from English and Sanskrit into Malayalam was an important feature of Malayalam literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
He has also written Mayoorasandesham (also spelt Mayura Sandesam; 1894) on the line of Kalidasa's MeghaDooth(aka Meghaduta). In this poetry he has used the peacocks of Haripad temple to sent his messages to his wife, the Maharani, in Trivandrum. His celebrated work Visakhavijaya was written after his release by Visakham Thirunal.
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