The bicentenary of Poet-Laureate and musicologist Irayimman
Thampi is being celebrated now by the Art-lovers of Kerala. We remember
this unique personality with highest regard and esteem. Nobody can forget
the sweetest lullaby song composed by him -
Poovil niranja madhuvo
Nalla poornendu thante nilavo'
(Is it the child of moon
Is it a beautiful lot of flower
Is it the honey filled in the flower
Or is it the moon-light of a full-moon-night)
This lullaby was composed by Thampi for the sake of a royal child and that too
Sri. Swathi Thirunal. Later when the child became the Maharaja of Travancore Thampi was accredited as his court poet and composer. The Maharaja and Thampi fulfilled the musical aspirations of Kerala at a time. We the successors of that glorious tradition can be definitely proud of the wonderful asset and heritage left behind by those two stalwarts of the last century.
Irayimman Thampi was born on the Pooruruttathy star of the month of Thulam in the Year 958 M. E. This year it fell on the 29th of October. Thampi’s father was Kerala Varma (Kelaru) Thampan of Shertallai Palace, and mother was Parvathi Pilla Thankachi of Puthumana Amma Veedu at Karamana, Trivandrum. Thampi was brought up by his parents at their residence Kizhekke madhom near the Virakupurakotta, the House given to Kelaru Thampan by the illustrious king Dharmaraja Sri. Karthikathirunal. The father himself gave Thampi the basic education. Later Moothat Sankaran IIayath gave him higher learning in various branches of knowledge like grammar, literature etc. Thampi’s aptitude towards music and arts was very deep and under the royal patronage he could develop his various talents. At the age of fourteen, he wrote a poem and dedicated it to the Maharaja.
Thampi was married to Kalipilla Thankachi and a child was born to that couple on the Anizha star of the month of Kumbha in the year 995 ME. That child later became the real successor of the artistic tradition of her father. She is the well-known writer and poetess, musicologist and composer- late Kutty Kunju Thankachi who contributed much to Malayalam literature. Thampi lived at Trivandrum throughout his life and he had the privilage of enjoying the liberal patronage and protection of four kings Dharmaraja, Balarama Varma, Swathi Thirunal and Uthram Thirunal and two Queens Gouri Parvathy Bai and Gouri Lakshmi Bai. Thampi witnessed so many events of the capital and of the royal life on which he composed poems also. The rulers decorated his hand with golden chain-Veerasrinkhala acknowledging the talented poetic craftsmanship and musical power of Thampi. He was often qualified by the rulers as ‘Kavi’ (Poet). Thampi died in the year 1866 at the age of 73.
Thampi’s contributions include 1) Kichakavatham Attakatha 2) Utharaswayamvaram Attakatha, 3) Dakshayagam Attakatha 4) Subhadraharanam Kaikottikalippattu 5) Murajapa Pana 6) Navarathri prabandham 7) Omana thinkal kidavo Tharattu 8) Vasishtam kilippattu 9) Rasakrida, and 10) Rajasevakramam Manipravalam in addition to a number of verses and songs. The late T. Lakshmanan Pillai says; “Thampi is said to have composed something like 500 pieces, only twenty five of which seem now to be sung ..... he was a gifted poet, the finish and beauty of those compositions are hardly inferior to those of Maharaja Sri Swathi Thirunal. It would appear that His Highness after composing his pieces loved to show them to Thampi and set much value on his appreciation of them.
Thampi wrote Kichaka Vadham Attakatha according to the will of Uthram Thirunal Yuvaraja. The story of Utharaswayamvaram is a continuation of the theme dealt with in Kichaka Vadham. Both depict stories taken from the Mahabharata. Dakshayagam is another attakatha based on Srimad Bhagavatha. All these three Attakathas combine as a mound-trio of the Kathakali literature and this contribution equates him to famous Unnayi Warrier who wrote Nalacharitham Attakatha in the 18th Century, a work which is said to be a unique one in Malayalam. All the three Attakathas of Thampi are beautiful literary and musical pieces as well as visual productions. Many padas of these poems have won wide appreciation. For example, some of them are cited below.
1 Sasimukhi varika suseele- Kichaka Vadham
2 Malini ruchiraguna Salini -do-
3 Harinakshi Janamoulimane -do-
4 Vira virata kumara vibho (kummi) Utharaswayamvaram
5 Jayajaya naga ketana- Dakshayagam
6 Kanninakkanandam -do-
7 Puntenvani srinu -do-
The famous Dandake “Kshonindrapatniyute vanim nisamya” is also noted by the readers. Thampi composed a good number of padas and kirtanas also. Some famous pieces are these
I Malayala kirtanas
1 Neelavarna pahimam (surutti - chempata)
2 Pahimamgirithanaye (saveri - chempata)
3 Karunacheyvan enthuthamasam (saveri - chempata)
4 Adimalarinnathanne (Mukhari - chempata)
1 Amba Gouri (Arabhi - Atanta)
2 Manasi parithapam dussaham ayyo (Sankarabharanam - chempata)
1 Aroducholvan Azhalullathellam (indisa - Jhampa)
2 Kamaladikalam Narumalarellam (Kamodari - chempata)
3 Enthujnanihacheyvu (Neelambari - chempata)
4 Prananathanenikkunalkiya (Kamodari - chempata)
All such songs prove the grace of verbal felicity and exquisite artistry reflected in the compositions of Thampi. They are full of lyrical charm and musical beauty. Among the musicologists and the composers of Kerala, Thampi gains a high place perhaps next to Sri Swathi Thirunal Maharaja because of his brilliant writings. Not only as a composer of songs but also as an Attakatha writer he has established his reputation on strong basis. The visual effect and the melodious quality of the three Attakathas is well acknowledged by the actors and the Sahridyas. Some of the padas composed by Thampi are employed by the Mohiniyattam dancers and are much appreciated by the art-lovers. In fact, Thampi’s contribution in that way to the Mohiniyattam style of dancing is also distinguishable. Many pieces from the Attakathas like the famous 'Kummi' - 'Veeravirata kumara vibho' from the Utharaswayamvaram are often used for the Thiruvathirakali, another Lasya dance of women in Kerala. They cannot rule out the grace of such padas which are really having aesthetic beauty.
Thampi has proved his ability to depict soft rasas like the Sringara, Karuna, Bhakti etc. throughout his creative writings. The well-knit nature of the musical and literary elements in his compositions and the aesthetic charm of their visual effect are the clear evidence for the masterly writings of Thampi. Even the beautiful lullaby piece makes him uniquely immortal.
This second century of the versatile genius, Irayimman Thampi proves the undeniable fact that he has left an indelible impression in the minds of the all people in Kerala. It may also be said that it is only an essential matter to collect and compile all the works of Thampi with suitable notes, so that all admirers and art lovers may know and assess the value of Thampi’s contributions to Art and Literature. Undoubtedly we can consider Thampi as a bright light which shines forever in the cultural arena of Kerala. Thampi’s pioneering contribution to the musical sphere of this land is also of everlasting value.
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