Jnanpith for ONV: Malayalam’s moment of pride

via Courtesy: Daily Pioneer published on September 24, 2010

The declaration of ONV Kurup as the Jnanpith winner for 2007 on Friday brought with it the moment of pride for Kerala, the Malayalam language and its poetry. He is the fifth Kerala writer to win the honour.

ONV is also the second Malayalam poet to win be honored with Jnanpith after G Sankara Kurup, who won the title in 1965. “I am proud and delighted that I became the reason for the honoring of Malayalam poetry (with Jnanpith) after such a long time,” ONV, who received the news at Gulf, told the media.

“I accept it as an honour showered on the Malayalam poetry and dedicate it to the Gurus and ancestors who enriched the history of our literature,” the poet said. Novelist MT Vasudevan Nair, recipient of the Jnanpith for 1995, felicitated ONV saying, “This was a much-awaited honour.”

Ottaplavil Neelakandan Velu Kurup, known to Keralites simply as ONV, was born to Krishna Kurup and K Lakshmikutty Amma on May 27, 1931 at Chavara in Kollam district. His childhood was spent in Chavara village where he attended the government school.

Responding to the news of the winning Jnanpith, the poet said his literature could not be alienated from the village. ONV is known to the average Malayalees as the best film lyricist. His poems are perhaps the most passionate odes to Nature that Keralites have ever read.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in economics from SN College, Kollam, he moved to Thiruvananthapuram where he joined the then Travancore University (now Kerala University) to become a Master of Arts in Malayalam literature.

ONV served as a lecturer at Maharajas College, Ernakulam, University College, Thiruvananthapuram, Arts and Science College, Kozhikode, Government Brennen College in Thalassery, Kannur and as head of the Department of Malayalam at Government Women’s College, Thiruvananthapuram. He retired in 1986.

A recipient of the Padmashree in 1998, ONV published his first poem Munnottu in 1946. His first poetry collection, Poruthunna Soundaryam, was published in 1949. Apart from Sankara Kurup, MT and ONV, the other Malayalee Jnanpith recipients were SK Pottekkatt (1980)) and Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (1984).

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