Sunday, March 28, 2010

Some Great Writers in My Family... Justifiably Proud of Them

(Since my website got deleted - hm, guess the service provider goofed up, not me - I have been feeling guilty about the dead link about my family in my Blogger profile. So, I updated it and am directing it to this post. Here it is for discerning readers, the story of my literary provenance. Must warn you, might sound like self-promotion. It is. Nobody talks about your work unless you do. Anyway, what better for a writer than having three great pioneering writers in his own family? So here goes.)

My family has had the distinction of having begotten some distinguished writers in Malayalam, a language of South India. The following three major writers in Malayalam are from my family. I am proud of them and their achievements and give below a brief outline of their lives and works.

Rev. George Mathan
Rev. George Mathan, my great-great-great uncle, was an Anglican priest who was born on September 25, 1819. (Historically speaking, he would be a contemporary of great writers like Mark Twain and Charles Dickens.) 

Rev. Mathan, actually, my grandfather's grandfather's brother, was a Syrian Christian Jacobite priest before he was offered the position of the first Indian priest of the Anglican Church. He wrote the first book of Malayalam grammar called "Malayazhmayude Vyakaranam," which was published in 1863. His other books, sort of longish essays, include, "Satyavadakhedam," "Vedasamyukthi," and "Balabhyasam." He was also principal of Cambridge Nicholson Institute (CNI) which was an institution that pioneered English-medium education in Kerala.

Here's what the great Malayalam poet and litterateur Mahakavi Ulloor Parameshwaran Iyer (who is considered Kerala's finest poets along with Kumaran Asan, and Vallathol) had to say about him:

"All in all, George Mathan built a permanent framework for Malayalam literature and thus made all Malayalis indebted to him, this fact is beyond dispute."

Rev. George Mathan died on March 4, 1870 and a hospital, George Mathan Memorial Hospital, Mallapally, Kerala, is named after him. A memorial lecture at Bishop Moor's College is also dedicated to his memory.

Mahakavi Puthencavu Mathan Tharakan
Mahakavi (a title meaning “great poet”) Puthencavu Mathan Tharakan, my great-uncle and Rev. George Mathan's great nephew was born on September 5, 1903. He was a contemporary of my grandfather P.C.Mathew, a.k.a. Puliyelil Estate Writer, with whom he was in close contact.

He was a poet, a singer, a film lyricist (Gnanambikam, the second Malayalam film ever made), a novelist and principal of the Catholicate College in Pathinamthitta, Kerala. Among his novels is "Madhubalika" set in the Calcutta of British colonial era. Among his many poems, the most eminent is the epic poem "Vishwa Deepam," and "Magdala Mariam" or "Mary Magdalene" which is noteworthy for its epic proportion and intense erudition. It is "Vishwa Deepam" based on the life of Christ that earned him the title of "Mahakavi."

He was a good singer and a reciter of his poems and one of the lasting memories I have is of listening to his strong reciting voice. He was a member of the Sahitya Akademi of Kerala and won many awards for his writing.

Prof. K. M. Tharakan
Prof. K. M. Tharakan, my uncle, was born on October 6, 1930 and was a writer, critic and novelist. He was son of Puthencavu Mathan Tharakan. From 1979 to 1988 he was editor of the Malayala Manorama, Kerala's, and indeed India's largest circulated weekly magazine. Though we worked simultaneously in Malayala Manorama for some period of time, it's my great regret that I couldn't meet him and speak with him when he was alive.

Among his books are: Utharadhunikathayum Mattum, Paschatya Sahitya Tatwashastram, Malayala Novel Sahitya Charitram, Anashwaranaya Uroob, Magdalamariam Oru Muktigadha, Anugraheethanaya Bashir, Adhunika Novel Darshanam, Adhunika Sahitya Darshanam, The Poetic Act, and A Brief Survey of Malayalam Literature.

His novels are: Avalanu Barya, Ninakai Mathram, Ormakaluday Ratri, Atmavil Sugandham, Ennil Aliyunna Dukham.

He died in 2003.


Brian said...

Friend, I found this account of your illustrious family members most interesting!

I have heard the poem Magdala Mariam recited, in Malayalam, by the late Sri Eknath Easwaran, the great spiritual teacher. The poem is stunningly pretty even for a person like myself who knows no Malayalam. Sri Easwaran gave a class on that poem, which I attended. He translated it extemporare, and commented on it extensively. I found the experience quite moving, perhaps because of how moved the speaker was in reciting the poem and commenting on it.

I also have a question for you, or for any chance contributor to this blog. Did your great uncle, Mahakavi Puthencavu Mathan Tharakan, also compose in Sanskrit?

Here is why I ask: I am trying to re-locate a poem on the Life of Jesus, written by a Malayali poet in Sanskrit. It too is quite beautiful; and far more sonorous than the better-known New Testament translation produced in Calcutta in the 1880s, by missionaries. Once again, my introduction to this poem came in a talk given by Sri Easwaran.

If this was not your great uncle's work, would you know of the author's name? Or, better yet, would anyone know how one might obtain this poem?

John said...

Hi Brian,

Sorry for being so late in replying to your comment.

Yes, "Magdala Mariam" was written by my great uncle. However, I do not recollect his having written a Sanskrit poem on Jesus Christ. However, I will check some records and may be let you know later if you could give me your contact details.

Thanks for commenting.



Brian said...

Thanks for the reply, John. Yes, leave my contact info... but...

Shall I leave contact info here? in plain sight? I suppose it is not a problem; why should it be? But if you think it is, please delete it for me:


And thanks for looking into this.


John Mathew said...

Sorry, correction. My great uncle Puthencavu Mathan Tharakan wrote "Vishwa Deepam" an epic poem on the life of christ.