G. SANKARA KURUP - THE GREAT MALAYALAM LITTERATEUR

P. Narayana Kurup

    The first Jnanapeeth award winner (1964) was from Malayalam - G. Sankara Kurup, known in Kerala by the initial ‘G’. He was born on June 3, 1901 and this is his birth centenary year. The poet passed away on February 2, 1978.

    Though he meticulously followed the tradition of Mahakavi Vallathol Narayana Menon (1878-1958), ‘G’ became notable even during the days of his illustrious predecessor, the distinctive voice being a more refined diction, more careful artistry, more profound view of life and pervading intellectualism. The profundity of ideas alone may not make poetry, but when there is an aesthetic demand to invent a new language - a new idiom - and a young poet succeedes in creating it, it can prove nothing less than an epoch - making event. This happened in the case of ‘G’. His words acquired wings and suggestions re-echoed in the minds of the readers. Though his earlier works published under the title Sahitya Kautukam reflected only the romantic-turned neo-classic school, the publication of ‘Surya Kanti’ in 1933 revealed subjective lyricism in its best form. Feelings conveyed through flowers, the ocean, the sky, the star, the cloud, were all surcharged with sublime human aspiration. It was a thrill but there was no outburst of it as the diction always followed a classic discipline. Nevertheless, the economy of words was a positive achievement of symbols or image which replaced descriptive words.

    Some called them symbolic and a few others traced a mystic mould. It was a timely reappearance following the national resurgence of the age-old vedic voice of India, of which Rabindranath Tagore was referred to as a pioneer. External nature became an integrated part of human nature and ‘G’ always felt its presence in every human action.

    The symbol he thus employed was gradually extended to convey even mundane ideas -like a spider as a monarch and its web as the empire, Gandhiji as a farmer sowing seeds of Dharma - resulting in what was called symbolism which was nothing but the most poetic application of Dhwani (suggestivity).

    `G’ had been educated in the conventional system with its emphasis in knowledge of Sanskrit. He passed the Malayalam higher examination and served as a Malayalam pandit. He learned English through his own efforts and retired as a Professor of Malayalam. He also mastered Bengali and translated Geetanjali and over 100 other poems of Tagore into Malayalam. He was nominated to the Rajya sabha (1968-72) by the President.

    New dreams released by modern education and changing patterns of social life has now upset the aesthetic ethos which had become an agglomeration of negations -negation of God, truth and cherished value systems. Disbelief in tradition has turned out new fashions in several guises. ‘G’ was not carried away by this West-oriented materialism. He was always of the view that faith in God was synonymous with Dharma and inevitable to culture at individual and national levels. As a prose-writer too he often dealt with this theme while arguing strongly for the unity and cultural identity of India. No wonder during a period when alien dogmas weighed heavily over the sensibility of the people, ‘G’ was looked down upon as a conventionalist by self-appointed progressivists who defined progress in their own arbitrary terms. ‘G’ had ceased to be a positive influence on this type of poets. But undeniable is the fact that his name is not written on moving tide; it is inscribed on granite foundation of Indian poetic heritage. His concept of poetry is based on the enduring values and super-sensory vision envisaged in Sanskrit classics with strong moorings in the social realities around him. Life in its complexity appealed to him and he never lost faith in it and never forgot his responsibility as a writer from a developing country. The beauty and the woes of the poor sections of the society portrayed with full sympathy and deep emotional appeal form a class of its own-like "The Dove-Couple ‘Master Mason’ ‘Three Streams and a River’ - where local colours, spoken idioms, and rustic images impart a distinct mark of realism. And by common consent, his forte is contemplative lyricism where fancy unfolds its wings of charm as in ‘Suryakanti’ (sun-flower) ‘Anweshanam’ (the search) and ‘Nakshatra - Geetam’ (song of the star). ‘Nakshatra - Gitam’ concludes with a profound assessment of the service rendered by the star : "When Life was a furnace to me,I was able to shed purity on earth with that light"

    Perhaps the poet’s own assessment of his contribution.