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Cherusseri Namboothiri
Born c. 1375
Kaanathoor village, Kolathunadu, Kannur
Died c. 1475
Occupation Poet
Language Malayalam
Subject Poems
Notable works Krishna Gatha
Notable awards Veerasrimkhala

Cherusseri Namboothiri is a 15th century Malayalam poet who belonged to Kolathunadu in northern Kerala. He was a court poet of Udaya Varma (1446-1475) and the author of Krishna Gatha, a poem which is considered a landmark in the development of Malayalam literature.

Cherusseri Namboothiri is believed to have lived between 1375 and 1475 CE. He was born in Kaanathoor village in Kolathunadu or Kolaththiri Desam (now Kannur district, Kerala). Several scholars like P. K. Narayana Pillai and P. Govinda Pillai hold the view that Cherusseri was the name of the Namboothiri's ancestral house (Illam). However according to T. K. Balakrishnan Nair, there were 12 cheris in Kolathnadu and the smallest of them was called Cheru-Cheri (Cheru-small; Cheri-an extent of a place) which has finally taken the form of Cherusseri. There aren't much details recorded in history about the life of this poet. There is some dispute about the author's name and his identity. Some scholars are of opinion that he was the same as the Punam Namboothiri of the Champu literature. The difference between the style of Krishna Gatha and that of any of the Champus however refutes this argument. A few lines in the opening stanzas of Krishna Gatha clarify that he was a court poet in the palace of the king Udaya Varma, who then ruled Kolathunadu: "Paalaazhi maaruthan paalichchu porunna Kolathu Nathan Udayavarman Aajnaye cholliyaal ajnanaayullava njaan Praajnaayingane bhaavichchappol" (When the king who rules the Kolath dhesam commands, the ignorant me pretend to be a talented one). Cherusseri's living period has been decided based on the historical record of King Udayavarman's period of reign.

Krishna Gatha is a long poem of epical dimensions written at the behest of Udaya Varma. It is the first Maha Kavya in Malayalam. Udaya Varma rewarded him with the title Veerasrinkhala and other honours. Cherusseri is the originator of the Gatha style of poetry in Malayalam. Krishna Gatha is the detailed description of the boyhood pranks of Lord Krishna based on the 10th canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, an early Puranic text. Cherusseri's importance lies in his clear inclination towards native tongue, by which his poetry became popular among the people of Kerala. With the writing of Krishna Gatha, the validity of the use of spoken Malayalam for literary purposes received its ultimate justification. Unlike the language of Cheeraman's Ramacharitam and the works of the Niranam poets, the language of Krishna Gatha marks the culmination of a stage of evolution. This work has been respected by the people of Kerala similar to Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan's Adhyathmaramayanam (Ezhuthachan is known as the father of modern Malayalam literature). The legend is that Cherusseri was inspired by a lullaby and followed the same metrical pattern for the composition of Krishna Gatha. It is written in a melodious metre known as manjari.

Krishna Gatha is used in India for daily recitation as an act of worship of Krishna during the Malayalam month Chingam (August - September) by devout Malayali Hindus. The sonorous poetry Krishna Gatha depicts the exploits of Lord Krishna. It is in Krishna Gatha, that we see a diction, which is similar to that of the present day. The theme deals with the story of Lord Krishna. The sweet and tender aspects of maternal love are wonderfully portrayed in this work. As there are lengthy beautiful descriptions with lavish use of adjectives throughout the poetical work, the composition is quite interesting and enjoyable. Feelings of passion, devotion, humor, and warmth are all discovered in a superior level, singly in natural style and with equal measure. Other than Krishna Gaatha, Bhaaratha Gaatha is also considered to be Cherusseri's composition.

Chirakkal Balakrishnan Nair had made valuable contributions in the research works regarding Cherusseri Namboothiri and his works. Chirakkal Balakrishnan Nair is considered as an authoritative source in the studies on Cherusseri. Chirakkal's articles has been published by Kerala Sahitya Akademi, Thrissur.


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