….Collected with diligence narrated in style the abilities of a master story teller are one
Kesavan Veluthat Professor and Chairman Department of History mangalore University the richness
and complexity of Kerala a choice selection of stories from Kottarathil Sankunni’s Aithihyamala,
the definitive resource of the myths and legends of Kerala published nearly a hundred years ago
gives a glimpse of traditional Kerala society and culture.
Peopled by sorcerers spirits yakshis snakes and elephants the themes of tehse 48 stories
translated by T.C Narayan are as varied as the characters that animate these pages. From the
Majesty of temple elephants to the origins of the most important temples of Kerala form
recounting the lives of warriors learned priests and accomplished artists to the exploits of the
Robin Hood of Kerala Kayamkulam Kochuni the stories are a window to this multicultural
Including full page illustrations by leading Malayali illustrations C.N Karunakaran and
Namboodiri, Lore & Legends of Kerala will appeal to young readers and also to general readers and
tourists interested in Indian and culture.
The stories are fascinating and highly convincing by that I mean I can why people believed and
loved such things …this is a new world for me and I loved being into it. Jonathan Mirsky noted
China export and former East Asia editor The times.
Kottarathil Sankunni (1855-1937) was Vasudavan Unni’s pern name. though Sankunni had no formal
schooling, her was a scholar of Sanskrit classics and Ayurvedic treaties. He knew enough English
to tutor many European missionaries in Malayalam which led to his appointment as the Malayalam
munshi at MD Seminary School at Kottayam.
This was where he met Kandathil Varughese Mappilli who was the Manager of the school and who went
on to become that Sankunni joined the newspaper as its first poetry editor.
Sankunni was a prolific writer who contributed to a variety of genres of literature. He wrote
thirteen manipravalakrits translated three Sanskrit plays mythological stories some short stories
and songs written for specific kinds of dances and performances like Kaikothikali, Kiliputtu,
thullalpaattukkal, and vanchi paattukki and also contributed to prosody.
No poet was more recognized or rewarded than Kottarathil Sankunni by the royal houses of
Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi as also by the British rulers of the time.
Kerala successfully branded as God own country draws huge numbers of foreign and Indian tourists.
More than two lakhs nearly ten percent of foreign tourists who visits India every year make
Kerala their destination. A larger number of domestic tourists are also said to visit Kerala. It
is appropriate that Malayala Manorama should have decided to promote the wider propagation of at
least a selection of the Aithihyamala stories and give the tourist something to take back as a
valuable reminder of their Sojourn in God’s Own country”.
The credit for the birth and promotion of the Aithihyamala series should go to the founder of
Malayala Manorama Kandathil Varughese Mappillai who encouraged Kottarathil Sankunni to compile
his various articles into a series of books. The ready acceptance and enduring public interest in
Aithihyamala are reflected in the number of edition published and copies printed since 1909 till
as recently as 2003,
For many reasons the translation of a selection of stories from Kottarathill Sankunni’s
Aithihyamala has been a rewarding and challenging task. I was never an ardent student of
history. In fact in my younger days I viewed from them and discards the textbooks themselves.
However there were two women who entered my life one by divine grace and the other by my
distorted view of history did not become a dogma. It is a coincidence that I am now privileged to
translate one of my few concessions to history –Aithihyamala and thereby hangs a tale.
My grandfather had a well stocked library of English Malayalam and Sanskrit books. In my
childhood my mother herself one of the earliest women post graduates in Sanskrit from Kerala and
Madras university read out from Aithihyamala the stories of miracles, Gods legendary persons and
elephants as my sister and I listened open mouthed. Then came the time when I began to the read
from the Aithihyamala as my mother listened. That was my entry into the world of Malayalam
literature during the days when those brought up outside Kerala and influenced by teachers form
the West considered it fashionable to display a deliberate inability to read write or speak
Malayalam. I was fortunate in that I was encouraged to do all three as well as read and write
fortunate all of which I have nurtured over the years. Then I made a quick foray into teresting.
It was perhaps my history textbooks in school and the compulsions of asking examinations that
perverted my attitude history.
In later years another women entered my life and brought with her a passionate love for history.
With a remarkable capacity for storage and ability to retrieve this women my life regaled me with
stories of the courage of the Mewari principles the exciting escapades of the European royals and
nobles or and tourist interest in India and outside occupied a part of every holiday itinerary
and each visit was preceded by intense study. I soon learnt to show visible and audible signs of
appreciation as we stood in front of monuments often badly maintained and months going down. I
got over my dislike for history.
I have spent the last many months going through the arduous process of planning selecting
structuring and translating many stories from Aithihyamala and I have done this willingly happily
and with genuine interest. The full turn of the wheel has been rewarding and satisfying.
To revisit the persons the elephants and the temples and to fall under the spell of miracles and
magic and relive my childhood days when I read and re-read Aithihyamala was fascinating
experiences. However to try and reproduce the mystery the excitement and the thrills evoked in
the original was testing challenge. Mere translation however faithful would not only have not
conveyed these emotions but on other hand it would have rendered the product flat and soulless. I
have drawn on all the linguistic resources that I have in order to reflect in English the
distinctive flavour and the culture of the periods in which the stories originated. I hope that I
have not been unjest to Kottarathil Sankunni and that I have adequately fulfill the aspirations
of the publishers.
I wish to record my appreciation for the willing the splendid support the project has received
from the Malayalam Manorama management with whom this project was launched. Shri K.C. Narayanan
Editor in Charge Bhashaposhini In particular deserves this venture with his characteristic
courtesy patience and professional wisdom.
Oxford university press which is now publishing this book has brought being a bit writer into
writing a major endeavour such as this. She has always espoused the theory that translations rate
the same as the original work as they have to bring in new skill and technology to sustain the
original flavour of a particular culture in a new language which represents a different culture.
Experience tells me that there is much truth in the theory. I was persuaded into translation work
by mini at the most stressfull point of my and this new occupation has not only introduced me a
new skill but has also often me a fresh aim In life.
My dear friend Mini Krishnan is the one person who steered from being a bit writer into writing
a major endeavour such as this. She has always espoused the theory that translations rate the
same as the original work, as they have to bring in new skill and technology to sustain the
original flavour of a particular culture in a language which represents a different culture.
Experience tells me that there is much truth in this theory. I was persuaded into translation
work by mini at the most stressful point of my life and this new occupation has not only
introduced me to a new skill but has also given me a fresh aim in life.
I cannot afford to forger Jayagovindan Meon who gave us much time, advising who play different
roles that contribute to its eventual emergence as a complete product. In my case I have been
supported by my major asset in life that I record their assistance and encouragement.
My constant unobtrusive friend Maya Jayapal herself a travel writer of no mean repute acted as my
sounding board on man occasions when I chopped and changed the structure and content of my
writing to arrive at an optimum level of satisfaction. Her frank and prompt response was
My cousin and close friend, Ranjini Gopinath become a self appointed monitor of my project
schedule which I took on while still bereft and dazed. She constantly repeated the Aithihyamala
enthayi? Mantra (how is Aithihyamala going), coaxed, nagged and cheered me out of occasional
bouts of hopelessness and purposelessness.
In an effort the structure, format and content of my work right from the foreign readers
perspective, I sent samples of my translation to overseas friends, some of whom had not lived in
India and has been taken into account in the final product.
I cannot but express my gratitude to the friends mentioned below who gave me their time and
advice above and beyond the call of duty?: Sir Anthony Hayward former Chairman of the Shaw
Wallace group my mentor and associate of many years in India and aboard now retired in the UK,
and his family who have all looked upon India as their second home; Nikki Mohan travel writer and
editor in Eaglemoss Publications in the UK Glenys Londala, much traveled formerly of the British
High commission in New Delhi and now a senior corporate executive in the UK; Dr Jonathan Mirsky
prolific writer noted china expert former China correspondent of The Observer and East Asia
editor of The Times a former winner of Britian’s “International Journalist of the Year award and
David Wolff who lives in Australia and is an India watcher.
I conclude with the hope that this book will truly serve its original purpose and carry the scent
and flavour of Kerala beyond the broaden of the state and indeed of India.
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