Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Legends in Malayalam Journalism

1. Hermann Gundert
2. Swadeshabhimani K. Ramakrishna Pillai
3. Kesari Balakrishna Pillai
4. K. P. Kesava Menon
5. Kandathil Varghese Mappillai
6. C.V. Kunhuraman
7. Chengalath Kunhirama Menon
8. Vengayil Kunhiraman Nayanar
9. K. M. Mathew
10. K. M. Mamman Mappilai


Rev. Dr. Hermann Gundert was a German missionary and scholar, who compiled a Malayalam grammar book, Malayalabhaasha Vyakaranam in 1859, the first Malayalam-English dictionary in 1872, and translated the Bible into Malayalam. He worked primarily on the Malabar coast, in Kerala. He worked for 23 years as a linguist and missionary in Kerala. When he returned to Germany he went on to manage the Calwer publishing house.

Hermann Gundert was born in Stuttgart in 1814. He was educated at the grammar school of Stuttgart and the Maulbronn seminary. Subsequently he studied protestant theology and philosophy at the University of Tubingen where he obtained his PhD. 1836 he left Germany for India via England to work there as a private tutor. Through Carl T. E. Rhenius he got to know the South Indian languages, their linguistic examination as well as the work in the fields of mission and schools. After his marriage with Julie Dubois from Switzerland, Gundert joined the Basle Mission in 1838, with whom he took up work on the south-west coast of India. Besides his missionary work, during the 23 years that he lived in India, the majority of which was spent in Kerala, Gundert devoted himself principally to the study and documentation of the local Malayalam language, as well as to research into the country and its culture. In 1857 the British colonial administration appointed Gundert as school inspector of Kanara and Malabar. In 1859, however, poor health forced Hermann Gundert to return to Germany, where he went on to manage the Calw publishing house from 1862 until his death in 1893. He worked as an author and a publisher of Indian and German publications and was a source of great fascination to his children and grandchildren, especially Hermann Hesse.

Hermann Gundert left behind a substantial body of work in German, English, Malayalam and Tamil. His great talent extends over a remarkable range of specialised fields. In Kerala he is known primarily for his linguistic publications, which are still regarded as standard works to this day. His articles on research into the history and customs of Southern India - particularly Kerala - are also afforded considerable recognition. Above all, Gundert is held in high esteem for the systematic and scholarly way in which he approached his work. Notably, it was Gundert who published the first two Malayalam journals, which proved to be the forerunners for contemporary Malayalam newspapers and opened a new field for literature. Gundert's theological works, his translation of the Bible and missionary tracts, as well as his articles on Indian religious and missionary history are less well known in the present day, but they nonetheless offer an absorbing insight into the state of affairs at the time.


Swadeshabhimani K. Ramakrishna Pillai was a writer, journalist, newspaper editor, and political activist in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore, Kerala. He was the editor of the newspaper Swadeshabhimani, meaning ‘The Patriot’ and hence known by the name.
While studying for B.A. in 1898 at Thiruvananthapuram University College, Ramakrishna and other newspaper enthusiasts felt the need of a Malayalam newspaper from Travancore. Kerala Darappanum and Vanjivibhujhika were started in 1900.In order to take up the editorship of Kerala Darppanam he had to leave his home out of pressure. He struggled to manage his B.A. degree studies, his survivaland the editorship of the newspaper. He passed the B.A. degree with first rank and also received Keralavarnamudhra honorary award for the excellence.
He wrote strongly against the age-old malpractices and ill customs of those days.He challenged the society by marrying a lower caste woman from the Nair community
In 1901, Kerala Darppanam and Vanjivibhujhika merged to form Keralapanjhika under the ownership of Shri. Marthanada Thampi. Ramakrishna continued to be editor of that newspaper from 1901 to 1903. After resigning, he continued to write articles in Nasranideepika and Malayali newspapers. In 1904 he settled with his family at Kollam to work as the editor of Malayali newspaper.During this time, he wrote editorials on the rights and duties of the people of Travancore.

On 26 September 1910, Swadeshabhimani newspaper and the printing press was sealed and confiscated by the British Police and Ramakrishna Pillai was arrested and escorted till Thirunelveli in Madras Province. He was arrested without furnishing an arrest warrant.
He wrote his book Ende Naadukadathal on his banishment from Travancore. In 1912, he published Vrithantha Pathra Pravarthanam, the famous book on journalism and his biography books on Karl Marx and Benjamin Franklin. In 1913, he contributed to write for Aathmapokshini and other magazines. He wrote over 20 books in his life time and many of them are very notable.
On 28 March 1916, Ramakrishna Pillai died of poor health. Swadeshabhimani Smaraka Samithi is the trust formed in memory of Ramakrishna Pillai. Swadeshabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai Award is awarded for press journalism every year by the Government of Kerala.


Kesari Balakrishna Pillai was a bold journalist and the pioneer of an era in Malayalam literature. He introduced the essence of English and French literature classics to the Malayalam literature. Through translations and criticism he brought new idea among the younger generations. Many personalities like Thakazhy Shivasankara Pillai were his disciples. He was a pioneer in this field to many other writers. He was the editor of Swadeshabhimani Journal. Later, he published another journal ‘Probodhaka’. His criticism infuriated the government, which resulted cancellation of license to his journal. Then he started another daily, “Kesari” in 1942, but the Government canceled its license also, due to his severe criticism against nepotism and corruption of authorities. Kesari is the most influential figure in modern Kerala's intellectual life. M.N. Vijayan has compiled many of Kesari's works with the title "Kesariyude Lokangal". Many believe that it was Kesari's writings which later inspired M.N. Vijayan's intellectual activism; and together, both helped to transform the Kerala to a modern progressive society.

His 'progressivism' meant two fundamental things:
1. An underlying idea of (class based)society replacing the emphasis on the genius of the writer. The duty of the writer is to show the inequalities between the social classes
2. Effective propaganda that doesn't compromise the value of art. Through his writings, he tried to create a modern Kerala by presenting his futuristic vision.

K. P. KESAVA MENON (1886-1978)

K.P. Kesava Menon was born in 1886 in Tharoor village of Palakkad. He was the grandson of the Raja of palakkad. He graduated in Arts from Madras University and Bar-at-law from Middle Temple.He joined the Indian National Congress in 1915 and served as the secretary of the Malabar branch of the Home Rule League after setting up practice in Calicut. He was a member of the Home Rule League under Annie Besant which proceeded to London to present a memoranda to the Secretary of State in 1917.
In 1921 he joined the Non-Cooperation movement after giving up practice. He did relief work as secretary of KPCC during Moplah rebellion. He became the Founder-Editor of the Mathrubhumi in 1923. He was imprisoned for six months in the Trivandrum Central jail for leading the famous Vaikom satyagraha. In 1927 he set up practice in Malaya due to financial difficulties as a result of full time political activity.
Kesava Menon became a member of the action committee of the Indian Independependence League which was organised by Ras Behari Bose in 1947. He was very active in INA but when Subash Chandra Bose assumed the leadership and formed Azad Hind Government, Kesavamenon parted ways from it as he found it difficult to cope with Subash's way of functioning. When the Japanese attempted to exploit the Indian freedom fighter in Malaya he resisted it. At Singapore he was arrested and confined to solitary imprisonment by the Japanese and was released only after the second world war. He resumed the editorship of Mathrubhumi in 1946. He was appointed as the High commissioner of Ceylon, but resigned due to difference of opinion.
When he was the president of the Aikya Kerala Committee he worked for the unified Kerala state. Kesavamenon has penned several books in Malayalam. He was honoured by the President of India with the 'Padma Vibhushan'. He was the first Executive President of the Kerala Sahtiya Academy. Kesavamenon served as the Editor of the 'Mathrubumi' till his death on November 9, 1978.

Kandathil Varghese Mappillai in Kottayam, founded Malayala Manorama in 1888. Malayala Manorama was started from Kottayam on 22 March 1890 by Kandathil Varghese Mappillai as a weekly. This became a daily in 1928.
An accomplished writer and an intellectual, Varghese Mappillai started the newspaper with a mission to articulate the aspirations of the Pulayas – the untouchables then. The very first editorial in the Malayala Manorama was a passionate plea for the education and welfare of the Pulayas.
Manorama was founded by Kandathil Varghese Mappilai in 1888 at Kottayam in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore. Mammen Mappilai, his nephew, was associated with its working from the outset, although he was only a schoolboy at the time. After graduation he became a teacher but continued his association with the newspaper. On Varghese Mappilai’s death in 1904, he assumed stewardship of the newspaper.
Founded by Kandathil Varghese Mappillai on March 14th 1888 Manorama has become Malayali’s most popular newspaper and publication group over the time.
After the death of Kandathil Varghese Mappillai in 1904, his nephew K.C Mammen Mappillai was the natural choice as Editor.

C. V. KUNHIRAMAN (1871 – 1949)

C. V. Kunhiraman, distinguished man of letters, was an eminent social reformer, founder of Kerala Kaumudi, pioneering journalist and renaissance leader as well.
Born as the son of Velayudhan and Kunhichali at Mayyanad near Kollam, he stopped his schooling at the eighth standard. He, however, made good by hardwork, learnt the epics in earnest and became an enlightened scholar enabling him to fight against superstitions of every sort.
He began contributing poems and articles on Sujananandini published by Paravoor Kesavanasan. Subsequently he served as its sub editor. C.V., as he was popularly known, started a school for low caste Hindus at Vellamanal, Mayyanad, Quilon and became its headmaster.
An untiring activist of SNDP Yogam, he was elected its general secretary in 1928 and 1931. Valmiki Ramayanam, a prose rendering of the great epic, was his first work to come out in print, in 1901. It won him wide acclaim prompting him to write Vyasabharatam and Panchavadi.Meanwhile, Karthikodayam brought out his prowess as a poet.
'Kerala Kaumudi' started in 1911, in Mayyanad had grown over the years as one of the most influential dailies in Malayalam, that has raised its voice against injustice on all fronts.
He had been on the editorial board of Malayala Rajyam, Navajeevan, Navasakthi, Malayala Manorama, Bhashaposhini, Kathamalika, Vivekodayam and Yuktivadi. He had also been a lawyer and a member of Sree Moolam Prajasabha.
C.V. has been hailed for his role behind the historic Temple Entry Proclamation in 1936. Credited with an austere but lucid style, he has enshrined himself into the annals of Malayalam letters. He passed away in 1949.


Chengalathu Kunhirama Menon (1857-1935) is the founder/editor of Kerala Pathrika which was the first and earliest malayalam newspaper published from Kozhikode, Kerala during 1885.
Kunhirama Menon is one of the first five Graduates of erstwhile Malabar. He completed his graduation from the Maharajah's College Trivandrum, Kerala. He represented erstwhile Malabar and attended the first Indian National Congress in 1885. Also met Bipin Pal who suggested Kunhirama Menon to start a newspaper from Kerala supporting the National movement. The financial help to start a Newspaper was provided by two important persons of Malabar, Mr.Appu Nedungadi and Mr. Kannambra Valiya Unni Nair. Kunhirama Menon also attended the 1890 editors’ conference in England with Kasturiranga Iyengar of ‘The Hindu’.
Kunhirama Menon was conferred the title of Rao Sahib by the then Gov.General of India as a personal distinction.


Vengayil Kunhiraman Nayanar, more famous under his pseudonym Kesari, was one of the first to explore the essay form in Malayalam. He was closely associated with periodicals like Kerala Chandrika (started in 1879 at Thiruvananthapuram), Kerala Patrika [started in 1884 by C.Kunhiraman Menon (1854-1936) and Appu Nedungadi (1866-1934) at Kozhikode], Kerala Sanchari (after 1898 under the editorship of Murkoth Kumaran) and the English Journal Malabar spectator. Kesari has often been compared to Mark Twain. As he was not overburdened with scholarship, he could write in a simpler, popular, informal style. He was a man who likes to write comedies. Here is a passage from his essay, 'The Pleasures of Death'. When you do not have to breathe any longer, you will not be troubled by the innumerable germs of disease in the air. Kesari belongs to the comic tradition in our literature, and like Tholan, Nambiar, Chandu Menon, E.V.Krishna Pillai and Sanjayan, he was a sharp critic of social reality. Vengayil Kunhiraman Nayanar gave a new vigor to the literature field of Payyanur. He was the author of first short story in Malayalam, 'Vasanavikriti'. He was a close friend of Dr. Herman Gundert and William Logan who did a lot of researches on the history, language and other aspects of Kerala.

K. M. MATHEW (1917-2010)

K. M. Mathew was a former Editor in Chief of leading Malayalam daily Malayala Manorama. He joined the newspaper as Managing Editor in 1954 and went on to become Editor in chief in 1973.
Mathew launched many publications such as the women’s magazine Vanitha in Malayalam and Hindi, the English magazine The Week, the farmer’s magazine Karshakasree, children’s magazines Balarama, Amar Chitra Katha and Kalikudukka in Malayalam and Magic Pot in English and encyclopedic Manorama Yearbook in Malayalam, English, Hindi, Tamil and Bengali.
Mathew, who inherited the family owned Manorma, started in 1888 by his great uncle Kandathil Varughese Mappillai and later managed by his father K M Mammen Mappllai and his elder brother K M Cheriyan, also over saw the process of handing over his baton to the fifth generation when his grand children took up the responsibilities.
In 1998 he received Padma Bhushan. He has received many other awards including Foundation of Freedom of Information Award (1991), National Citizen’s award (1992), Ramakrishna Jay Dayal award (1995), Durga Prasad Chaudhary award (1996) and B D Goenka Award (1996).
Mathew has served as chairman of Press Trust of India, President of the Indian Newspaper Society, Chairman of Audit Bureau of Circulations, Vice-president of Indian Language Newspaper Association, founder trustee and chairman of Press Institute of India as well as the Research Institute for Newspaper Development. He was a member of the Press Council of India, wage boards for working journalists and non-journalists and Central Press Advisory Committee. He was also on the executive committee of the Federation of International Newspaper Publishers and Editors, France.
His wife Annamma Mathew (1922 - 2003) was a culinary expert and Chief Editor of Vanitha, who wrote under the name Mrs. K.M. Mathew. He has penned two books, an autobiographical “Ettamathe Mothiram” and “Annamma”, written in memory of his wife.
K. M. Mamman Mappilai
K. M. Mammen Mappillai was born in Kerala. He was born to K. C. Mammen Mappillai and Kunjandamma as the youngest of the prosperous family of eight sons and a daughter.
He graduated from the prestigious Madras Christian College. He started his industrial life with a toy balloon manufacturing unit from a small shed near Madras in 1946. By 1952, Madras Rubber Factory ventured into the manufacture of tread rubber. Since then, the company has grown to become a INR 30 billion enterprise.
Mr. Mathew started off as a rubber planter in Chickmagalur in Karnataka. He later went to Bombay to look after another line of the family business. He joined the family-owned Malayala Manorama in 1954 as its General Manager and Managing Editor under his elder brother K.M. Cherian, following the death of their father, Mammen Mappillai, who was the Editor from 1904. Mr. Mathew became the Chief Editor of the newspaper, founded in 1888, on the death of Cherian in 1973.
Under his stewardship, Malayala Manorama embarked on a new journey of expansion and modernisation. He encouraged young talent, and several professionals were specially trained and oriented to a popular style of journalism that in many ways changed the face of newspapers and the style of newspapering in Malayalam.
Manorama introduced reader-friendly editorial packaging techniques and professional page designing under his guidance and consolidated its leadership in circulation in the regional market. The newspaper today has a daily circulation of about 18 lakhs, with 17 printing centres in Kerala and elsewhere. The group has nearly four dozen publications in Malayalam, English and Hindi. The group runs a television channel and FM radio channels in Malayalam.
He served as the president of the Indian Newspaper Society; chairman of the Press Trust of India; founder-trustee and chairman of the Press Institute of India and Research Institute for Newspaper Development; executive committee member of the Federation of International Newspaper Publishers and Editors based in France and a consultant to the International Press Institute.
Mr. Mathew has written two books, Ettamathe Mothiram (The Eighth Ring), an autobiography, and Annamma, in memory of his late wife who made a name for herself with a range of cookery books. Mrs. K.M. Mathew, as she chose to be known in public, was the Editor of Vanitha, a magazine for women, until her death in 2003. They have four children: Mammen Mathew, Editor; Philip Mathew, Managing Editor; and Jacob Mathew, Executive Editor of Malayala Manorama. Thankom Mammen is their daughter.
In 1993, K.M. Mammen Mappillai was awarded the Padma Shri award for his contribution to industry - the first industrialist from South India to be given this honour. His brothers, K.M. Cherian, K.M. Philip and K.M. Mathew and nephew Mammen Mathew are also Padma Shri awardees. The eldest brother K.M. Cherian is also a Padma Bhushan recipient.


  1. You have not included the greatest Malayalam novelist and pioneering journalist, C.V.Raman Pillai, who started his career as a journalist after qualifying for the B. A. degree of the Madras University, with the seventh rank in the then vast Madras Presidency of British India. C. V., then just 23 years old, started a newspaper called "The Kerala Patriot" which he had to close after six months due to financial difficulties. Then he became the first editor of the "Malayali" newspaper, in Malayalam, which was launched as the organ of the social organisation, Malayali Sabha,in Thiruvananthapuram, in 1886. It was the first newspaper launched in the then native State of Travancore by a non-missionary, non-Christian. In Malabar, a newspaper called Kerala Patrika had been launched in 1884, edited by Chenkalath Kunhirama Menon. C.V. Raman Pillai wrote the first editorial of the "Malayali" on landlord-tenant relations, supporting the cause of tenants. The Travancore Government brought the first Press Regulations Act forbidding Government employees editing newspapers, only to prevent C.V. from editing the newspaper or writing reports and articles in newspapers. C. V. was then a head clerk in the Travancore High Court. He later edited newspapers called the "Vanchiraj" and the "Mithabhashi". He wrote 15 editorials in the "Mithabhashi" asking for appointing sons of the soil, none of whom had any place then, in the highest posts in the then Travancore Government and stop appointing persons from outside the State to those posts. These editorials were later published as a book entitled "Videsheeya Maedhaavithvam". The latest edition of that book was published by the Cultural Publications Department of the Government of Kerala and is available in the book shops. C.V. also used to write reports and articles in English in the then newspapers of Madras (now Chennai), The Hindu, the Madras Standard, edited by the famous G. Parameswaran Pillai (G.P.), and the Indian Patriot edited by Chettur (C.) Karunakara Menon, who was earlier editor of the Hindu, strongly criticizing the State Government's policies and programmes.

  2. Well, that's okay...Now that you've included it..

  3. Thanks for this. This was helpful.