Thirunalloor Karunakaran

(8 October 1924 - 5 July 2006 / Kollam, Kerala, India)

Biography of Thirunalloor Karunakaran

Thirunalloor Karunakaran poet

Thirunalloor Karunakaran was a renowned poet, scholar, teacher and leftist intellectual of Kerala, India.

Early Life

Thirunalloor (variously spelt in English as Thirunelloor, Thirunellur and Thirunallur) Karunakaran - 'Thirunalloor',his family name and 'Karunakaran',first name - was born in the village of Perinad in Kollam (Quilon) district in Kerala to P.K.Padmanabhan and N.Lakshmy. He started learning Sanskrit in the traditional way before joining primary school and was associated with the working class political movement early in his life.He published his first book-the Malayalam translation of a poem by Oliver Goldsmith- while in school. During student days he wrote several poems, lyrics and articles in periodicals and made his mark during the Pink Decade in Malayalam poetry.By the time of his joining college his close contacts with Communist leaders like R.Sugathan and M. N. Govindan Nair had made him a staunch sympathiser of the Communist party.


After taking his BA degree in History from S N College, Kollam, he worked as a tutor there for a brief stint. Soon he joined University college Trivandrum for post graduate studies in Malayalam where he did some advanced study of Kerala history under Prof. Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai, famous historian and scholar who was a major influence in his intellectual life. After taking his MA in Malayalam he joined the government service as college lecturer and taught at Government Arts College and University College. He served as a member of the Kerala Public Service Commission for 6 years. Later he worked as the editor of Janayugam, a weekly cultural magazine of the Communist Party of India. In 1973 he visited the Soviet Union as a member of the delegation of Indian writers who participated in the Afro-Asian Writers Conference held in Kazakhstan.


Awards conferred on him include Asan Award (1984), Vayalar Award (1988), Muloor Award (1992), Abudabi Shakthi Award, Kerala Sahitya Academy Award for lifetime contribution (2000) etc.

Final Years

Though he lived in the city of Trivandrum for more than three decades he chose to spend the rest of his life in his native village Perinad on the banks of the scenic Ashtamudi lake which had been a constant source of inspiration for his poetry.

He died on July 5, 2006 at his residence in Quilon. He was buried without any customary religious rites or ceremonies, as he had wished. During his last years he was engaged in writing a long poem titled 'Seetha' (Sita) reinterpretting the Ramayana legend.

A three-day long cultural festival called 'Thirunalloor Kavyolsavam' is held every year from May 1 (International Workers' Day) on the banks of the Ashtamudi lake in Quilon to perpetuate his memory.

Writings and Philosophy

Having studied Marxism and Indian philosophy in depth he formed a unique vision of his own combining the best aspects of both and this vision is the central illuminating force of all his poems.In many of his poems he depicts the physical and spiritual experience of collective human labour as a creative process of self assertion and self emancipation of the mankind. Tharisu nilangalilekku (To the barren fields), Parayudappukar (The Granite crushers), Adyathe Theevandi (The First Train) Kayamkulam Kayal (Kayamkulam Lake) etc.better bear the stamp of this vision.

The Ashtamudi lake and the life on its shores inspired his writings a lot and his poetry is abound with varied themes, characters and imagery taken from this rich repository. He wrote with equal ease short lyrics dealing with soft transitory feelings and moods as well as long narrative poems having diverse characters and complex social situations.

Several of his works like lyrics written for various media and artforms like 'Kadhaprasangam'and stageplays, as well as marching songs, articles and writings in Sanskrit are yet to be compiled. This include the Sanskrit translation of Kumaran Asan's Chandala Bhikshuki and studies in Indian aesthetics.

He believed that the Indian Philosophy is essentially materialistic and areligious and he strongly called for a critical evaluation of the Bhagavad Gita and the philosophy of Shankaracharya (Adi Shankara) to expose their darker sides. He said that Shankaracharya was a supporter of the caste system and the Bhagavad Gita was an open sanction for violence.

Thirunalloor Karunakaran's Works:

Samagamam (Long poem)
Manjuthullikal (Collection of poems)
Premam Madhuramanu Dheeravumanu (Long narrative poem)
Soundaryathinte padayalkal (Collection of poems)
Rani (Long narrative poem)
Rathri (Long narrative poem)
Anthi Mayangumbol (Collection of lyrics)
Tashkent (Long narrative poem)
Thirunalloor Karunakarante Kavithakal (Collection of poems)
Vayalar (Long narrative poem)
Greeshma sandhyakal (Collection of poems)
Puthumazha (Collection of poems for children)
Meghasandesam (Translation of Meghaduta by Kalidasa )
Omarghayyaminte Gadhakal (Translation of Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam )
Gypsikal (Translation of Gypsiesby Alexander Pushkin)
AbhijnanaShakunthalam(Translation of Abhijnanasakuntalam by Kalidasa )

Malayalabhashaparinamam Sidhanthangalum Vasthuthakalum (A study on the origin and evolution of Malayalam language )
Oru Mahayudhathinte Paryavasanam ( The Mahabharata retold through an independent angle)
Praacheena Bharathathile Bhouthikavaadam (Translation of In Defence of Materialism in Ancient India by Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya)
Anusmaranangal (Collection of articles)

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