G. Sankara Kurup, popularly known as ‘G’, was born on 3 June 1901. Nellikkappilli Sankara Warrier was his father and Vadakkani Lakshmikutty Amma was his mother. Both belonged to respectable but low-income Hindu families in Nayathode village near Kalady, in Central Kerala, the birth place of Sri Sankaracharya, the renowned philosopher and religious reformer. G’s uncle was a good Sanskrit scholar and astrologer. In 1931 G married Subhadra Amma from Purathu Veedu in Thiruvanchikulam, capital of the old Chera empire.
Losing his father at an early age, the boy Sankaran was extremely anxious about his education. His uncle Govinda Kurup and mother were, however, able to give him both home and school education in Sanskrit and Malayalam only. Subsequenly, he passed the Malayalam Pundits’ examination which brought him a teacher’s post. Later in 1926, he passed simultaneously the Preliminary and Final Vidwan examinations of Madras University, winning a first class and the first rank.
By self study he mastered English, Bengali and Hindu and so got direct access to the literature in these languages. Tolstoy’s ‘What is Art?’ was an eye-opener for him. Among his poetical compositions, some will suggest the influence of Mahakavi Vallathol, some other of Tagore. Some will show acquaintance with English poets like Shelley and Wordsworth, and also with Persian poets. The writings of Tagore and Gandhi shaped his ideas of comprehensive humanism, and at the same time fired his spirit of nationalism. Nevertheless, in everything that G said and wrote his individuality was clearly evident.
His career began in 1921 as a Government School teacher. In 1936 he entered Collegiate serviced and retired as a Professor in 1956. Then for two years he was Producer in the All India Radio Station, Trivandrum. From 1958 to 1960 he was ‘Sahitya Salak’ in the same station. A member of the Samasta Kerala Sahitya Parishad, he was also editor of its journal from 1944 to 1959.
He was its President from 1956 to 1957 and of the Kerala Sahitya Academy from 1966 to 1957 and of the Kerala Sahitya Academy from 1966 to 1968. He was editor of the Kairali and was founder-editor of the Thilakam. He was an honorary member of the PEN and of the National Book Trust of India, and was President of the Bharatiya Sahitya Parishad.
During all those years, poems, dreams and essays-mostly poems-poured abundantly from his pen. There are about forty publications to his credit. Four phases, somewhat mixed, may be observed in the course of his poetic evolution, namely romanticism, mysticism or symbolism, nationalism, internationalism or humanism. All these stages are seen in ‘Odakkuzhal’ (The Flute), a collection of poems which won the Bharatiya Gnanapeetha Award.
His interpretation of nature which is unique in Malayalam literature, may be seen in ‘Sandhya Taram’ (Twilight Star) or ‘Suryakanti’ (Sunflower). Tagore’s influence is seen in poemslike ‘Ente Veli’ (My Marriage) and ‘Pushpa Geethi’ (Song of Flower). ‘Azhimukham’ (Harbour Mouth), ‘Rakta Bindu’ (Drop of Blood) and the like express G’s intense nationalist spirit. ‘Eka Lokam’ (One World) and the drama ‘Irittinu Mumpa’ (Before Darkness) show his international interest.
In ‘Pathikante Pattu’ (Song of the Wayfarer) his universal humanism finds expression. In ‘Nimisham’ (Moment) and ‘Viswa Darshan’ (Vision of the Universe) G has very felicitously interwoven the explanations of cosmic phenomena according to ancient Indian culture and modern science. Many poems are lyrics, while ‘Moonnaruviyum Oru Puzhayum’ (Three Streams and a River), his longest poem, is a balled, a simple story of the poor, in one hundred and seventy-two quatrains.
Besides original compositions, he has translated into Malayalam, ‘Meghadoot’, ‘Rubayyat’ and ‘Gitanjali’. His ‘Muthum Chippiyum’ (Pearl and Oyster) is a collection of essays on the Persian poets. In the midst of all these G has given to children also books of simple verses like ‘Ilam Chundukal’ (Young Lips) and ‘Katte Va Kadale Va’ (Come Wind, Come Sea). G’s speeches are famous for their fluency, substance and rich imagery, like his poetry.
Honours came to him in recognition of his talents and achievements. The Samskrita Sadas and the Maharaja of the erstwhile Cochin State awarded him the titles of Sahitya Nipunan and Kavithilakan respectively. He got the Krishna Kalyani Award from the Kerala Writers’ Co-operative Society, and in 1963 the Sahitya Academy Award from the President of India.
In 1965, for the first time, the Bharateeya Gnanapeetha Prize was given to G. The President confered on him the title of Padmabhushan and nominated him as a member of the Rajya Sabha. The Soviet Land Nehru Award came to him in 1967. In 1968 he was invited to Russia by the Award Committee and the Soviet Writers’ Association and to Germany by German writers. His poems have been translated into other Indian languages, English and Russian.
He believes in socialism, but by evolution. His attitude towards religious and social conventions is Gandhian and unorthodox. But he is no atheist, as is shown by the name Guruvayoorappan Trust which he gave to his endowment for encouraging young writers. He thinks that while our educational system closed the doors on our old culture and talents, it did not open adequately the way for us for the new scientific and technical progress. He has very simple habits and pleasant social manners.
With his words and deeds he had inspired many promising writers, and brought home to the public the beauties of nature, the joy and pride of being an Indian. He sang of the glory of freedom, of the sanctity of the struggle for it. In Malayalam poetry he experimented boldly and successfully with new forms and gave the lead to the rising generations. In the history of Malayalam poetry these years will be known as the Age of G.