The Poet- Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri

the poet Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri from Thiruvalla

Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri is one of the widely acclaimed and famous poets of Malayalam Literature.

A scholar of Indian classical, western literature and philosophy, his poems are known for their mix of tradition and modernity. His incredible contribution to the Malayalam literature as par excellence.

He retired after 32 years of service being a lecturer and HOD in English Department at University College, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri is the recipient of various prestigious honors and awards such as Padma Shri in 2014, Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award and Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award, etc.

Early Life

Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri is born on June 2nd, 1939 in Seeravally Illam, Namboodiri family of Thiruvalla in Kerala, India. He had done his schooling from Prince Marthanda Varma High School, Thiruvalla in Kerala.

He imbibed Vedic and religious learnings in childhood from his father and grandfather as he born and brought up in the traditional Namboodiri family. His grandfather gave him first lessons in Sanskrit.  

Dwivedi Vishnu Sharma, his father’s uncle, gave him an in-depth insight into the Vedic culture and Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri acknowledges him as Guru.

Education

He graduated in Physics from St. Berchmans College, Changanacherry in 1958. He opted for Hindi as a second language in college. After graduation, he worked as a Science Teacher at Prince Marthanda Varma High School, Thiruvalla in Kerala for 2 years.

A well-known professor and Head of the English Department at St. Joseph’s College, popularly known as Devagiri College, Calicut. Prof. C A Sheppard used to appreciate Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri for his incredible ability to memorize Sanskrit and Vedic verses with perfection.

It was Prof. C A Sheppard encouraged Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri to study English and Western literature seriously. In 1960, he joined post-graduation in English Literature at St. Joseph’s College, Calicut.

He always takes pride in being the student of Dr. A Sivaramasubramnannia Iyer at St. Joseph’s College, Calicut. In 1962, Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri completed his Master’s Degree in English Literature as a Topper in the class.

Career

Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri started his professional career as an English Lecturer at Malabar Christian College, Calicut (Kozhikode), Kerala. He had worked at various colleges in Kollam, Pattambi, Ernakulam, Thrippunithura, and Chittur.

He worked as a research officer at The State Institute of Languages, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala for 3 years and as an editor of Granthalokam– the Malayalam literary magazine, for three years apart from his teaching profession.

Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri actively associated with Kerala Sahitya Samithi, Prakriti Samrakshana Samiti, Kerala Sahitya Akademi, and Kerala Kalamandalam in various positions.

After serving a long and glorious career in the government service Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri retired as Professor and HOD at English Department at University College, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala in 1994. From 1994 to 1997 at Sree Vallabha Temple, Thiruvalla he served as the Head Priest.

Personal Life

Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri married to Smt. Savithri Antharjanam, and he is having 2 daughters.

The Poet

Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri’s reputation is not limited as an English professor, he is much better known for his incredible contribution to the Malayalam literature. Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri created his own space in Malayalam poetry from a very young age.

In 1961, Mathrubhoomi magazine published his first poem ‘Varsham Varunnu’. Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri stands uniquely compared to other poets in Malayalam literature, he writes with full of emotions, sensitivity, and commitment about human life. He calls it ‘Athmeeyatha’ (Spirituality).

One can feel that his poems are beautifully synergized with modern thought processes. He always gives credit to Dr. N.V Krishna Warrier for nurturing and giving direction to his poetry and also taking his poetry on to greater heights with a vision on Indian spiritualism, human life, and commitment to society.

His poetic talent he received from his traditional background and refined over the years by inspiration from the lives of Sree Narayana Guru, Kumaran Asan, and Vallathol Narayana Menon.

He closely associated with great poets and well-known writers, for example, Edassery Govindan Nair, Vailoppilly Sreedhara Menon, Mahakavi G, N N Kakkad, Thayatt Shankaran, and K P Sankaran, etc.

Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri’s poetry always remains a mirror of his strong belief in a progressive mindset, openness, human values, desire to explore the brighter side of a beautiful life, and find solace in spiritualism.

He started his poetic career when Malayalam poetry was witnessing the rise of Ultra-modern poetry with established poets like Ayyappa Panikkar, Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan, and Kavalam Narayana Panicker.

Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri believes that “Poetry is a metaphor that emerges from the depth of culture and can be experienced as a beautiful flower. It has to be blended with our greatest gift from God, music. What I am writing does not concern me alone. What I am concerned about is what the readers feel about them. History will discard those creations, which do not create any impact on the readers. That is poetic relevance too.”

He says “I am indebted to Veda Vyasa and the Vedas for my vision that guides my poetic endeavors. The caste systems are our own creation for protecting our vested interests. For me India is now more than a passion, She is wisdom. What I search for in the depth of the so-called passion is that pearl of wisdom; the wisdom of survival. That leads me to wide travel and Himalayan pilgrimages where I can interact with the soul of India.”

Poetry is something that should create tranquillity in the human mind and thereby lead one to ‘Karma’. Anything that evokes mental tumult and agony is not poetry.” says Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri

Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri’s vision for India is unique. He believes that a shift is required in the society from the western consumerism to the eastern eco-spiritualism culture with prayers and meditation.

A great human being with a progressive outlook and strong beliefs towards human values makes Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri unique among other poets.

Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri Receives Padma Shri Award
Vishnu Narayanan Namboothiri receives Padma Shri Award from then Kerala Chief Secretary Bharat Bhushan in 2014

Poems

Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri wrote so many famous poems and they stay in mind forever include Swaathanthryathe-Kurichu Oru Geetham, Aparajitha, Bhoomi Geethangal, Ujjainiyile Rappakalukal, India Enna Vikaram, Mukham Evide, Athirthiyilekkoru Yathra, Karl Marxinte Kuteeram, Charulatha, Pranaya Geethangal, Adam and God, Aranyakam, Ente Kavitha, Parikramam, Sreevalli, Uttarayanam, Jayaprakasham, Yugalaprasadan, Vaishnavam, and Yathayatham.

Awards and Recognitions

Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri received many prestigious awards including Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 1979, Odakkuzhal Literary Award in 1983, Changampuzha Award in 1989 and Ulloor Literary Award in 1992.

And also Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award in 1994, Asan Smaraka Kavitha Puraskaram in 1996, Vallathol Literary Award and Vayalar Ramavarma Literary Award in 2010 and C V Kunhuraman Sahithya Puraskaram in 2018. The Sahitya Kalanidhi title conferred on him for his full contribution to the literature.

In 2014, Govt. of India conferred Padma Shri– The fourth highest civilian award to him. Also, he received Ezhuthachan Puraskaram in 2014, Pandalam Kerala Varma Award, and Ettumanoor Somadasan Sahitya Puraskaram.

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