Thursday, October 9, 2008

Kunjan Nambiar- some tales

Kunjan Nambiar

Kunjan Nambiar was a great poet and story teller of Kerala. He was a disciple of one great story teller called Pothiyil Rama chakyar. Pothiyil used to be an expert in the art form called Chakyar Koothu in Kerala. In this the story teller would come to the stage and tell us a story illustrated by Sanskrit slokas. They were also licensed to tease the audience and even the king. Pothiyil Rama chakyar one day teased Kunjan Nambiar too much. This irritated Kunjan Nambiar. So at the same time when Pothiyil Rama chakyar was presenting a story, at a near by stage Kunjan Nambiar introduced a new art form called –Ottan thullal. Literally translated it means jumping while running. A new genre of poem in Malayalam was written by Kunjan and since he used simple Malayalam words, he could easily draw away the complete audience of the Chakyars. There are many stories of wit about Kunjan Nambiar (Kunjan for short) prevalent in Kerala. I am giving below a few of them:-

The packet of Khus khus.

It seems n the debut day; he brought a packet of Khus Khus and showed it to the audience. Packet is called pothi in Malayalam and Khus khus is called Ramacham. He opened the packet in front of the audience saying “Pothiyil Ramacha akki yar?”
Meaning “who put the kuhs khus in the packet as well as teasing his rival whose name was the same thing.

Deepa Sthambam

Once Kunjan was attending a function in which the lamp pillar (deepa Sthambam) was being inaugurated by the king. The king naturally wanted all the poets to sing about his Deepa Sthambam. He gave them lot of money for each poem. Kunjan Nambiar was reluctant and when he was forced to do it, he sang

Deepa Sthambam mahascharyam,
Namukkum kittanam panam,

The lamp pillar is greatly wonderful,
I also should get the money.

The king realized his mistake and carved the pardon of this great poet,

The king’s boarding house

Kunjan Nambiar being poor was eating from the free boarding house (called Ootu puraii in Malayalam) maintained by the king. The managers and servants there were giving sub standard food after stealing the money granted by the king. One day Kunjan and the king were walking on the main road. Suddenly they saw a cow having watery motion. Kunjan rushed near the cow and enquired “Are you also eating in the king’s Ootu puraii?”
The king who heard this made enquiries and dismissed the corrupt officials and set right the Oottu puraii.

Who is more pretty?

One day Kunjan Nambiar was taking a morning walk along with his friend. The queen and her maid were going for bathing in the temple tank.
The friend of Kunjan asked him, “Nalla Thali (good shampoo)”
And Kunjan replied “Kathilola (Studs in the ears.”
Actually they were using their mastery in Sanskrit to enjoy themselves.
What the friend asked was “Ka athi lola?(who is more pretty) and what Kunjan replied was
Nallathu AAli(the maid is better.)


gadhisunu said...

In the Kathilola - Nallathali story the sequence of the converstaion seems to have been reversed as presented by you, Sir. The friend asked Kunjan Nambiar, "Kathilola" which obviously had two possible meanings.
<1> Kaathil Ola = The one perhaps the royal femme was wearing a pair of eardrops. It also means as you have have rightly pointed out
<2> "Kaa athi lola" Who is more beautiful?" KN's answer was "Nalla Thali" = Good Shampoo", as you have pointed out. And also it can be split differently to mean, "Nallathu AaLi" The companion(maid)is more beautiful. The whole conversation beutifully camouflages the intentions of the observers while letting out only innocuous statements to the others.

Mahadeva S.Sarma

Raja Thatha said...

Thanks for the comment. I had heard it from some body and possibly he may be wrong or I might have understood it wrongly, Thanks once again, Ramachander

George Seagull said...

You have probably heard the following verses also reputed to be Kunjan Nambiar's :

Ambalappuzha ambalathil
enikkum onnu kadakkanam
Embranthiriye pidichu
Manikkinattil irakkanam
Mukkanam pinne thathanam
Pinne Pokkanam Pinnem thathanam

The story as I've heard it is that Kunjan was aghast and indignant at the restrictions on caste-based entry into the temples and let fly with this verse when he was not quite himself after being bitten by a rabid dog.

Raja Thatha said...

Thanks a lot for the story. I have not heard it before. For the readers who do not malayalam, I would like to translate it in to English:-
In the temple of Ambalappuzha,
I also want to enter inside,
I want to catch hold of the priest there,
I want to take him inside the well,
I want to drown him in water, re drown him,
Lift him up and then again drown him.

subabe said...

Since this seems like a discussion of people in the know, I must ask about a short couplet (or rather two in this case) I heard as a child.

It relates to a high born woman who wants to be eulogized in verse. The services of Kunjan Nambiar are summoned.
Nambiar proceeds to describe the woman's beauty in exquisite but harsh sounding words.
The woman fails to see past the harsh sound and see her beauty reflected in the words.

I only recall one line from the couplet describing the liquid nature of her eyes "daridraa illatthe yevahoo polle…"

Nambiar is asked to recast his lines and he sets the verse to pleasant sounding words, but describes the woman as a wretch...

Any ideas gentlemen?

Elen Susan said...

Thanks so much for this information. I find it very useful as I had a project on the same topic you have written. Keep posting....

Anonymous said...

പദ്മനാഭസ്വാമി ക്ഷേത്രത്തിലെ മേല്‍ശാന്തി ഒരു നമ്പിയായിരുന്നു. ഒരിക്കല്‍

അവിടെയെത്തിയ കുഞ്ചനോട് നമ്പി ചോദിച്ചു.
നമ്പിക്കത് രസിച്ചില്ല. അയാള്‍ രാജാവിനോട് പരാതി പറഞ്ഞപ്പോള്‍ നമ്പിയാരിങ്ങനെ

നമ്പിയാരെന്ന് ചോദിച്ചു; നമ്പിയാരെന്ന് ചൊല്ലിനേന്‍
നമ്പികേട്ടഥ കോപിച്ചു - തമ്പുരാനെ പൊറുക്കണം. from

AnGoMa said...

Pathram visthruthamathra thumpa malar thottodinironnavum
Puthan ney kaniye pazhutha pazhavum kaali pazham kaalanum
Pathanjooru karikku daasyamiyalum naarangayum maangayum
Nithyam chempaka naattilashti thayir mor thattaathe kittum sukham

swathi gopi said...

In the story of Kunjan Nambiar having lunch fro ootupura and commenting t the cow.... athinde malayalam comment is as follows- "Ayyo Payye... ninakkum pakkathaano oonu?!"...alle....?.. nice....

Harisankar said...

Nambiar Kadhakal are always a treat to read about or to enjoy from Ammumma herself..:D

JKMNAIR said...

Thanks Ramachander, to bring to light some of the Kunjan Stories. Kunjan Nambiar had this great sense of converting the truth to a lighter version that common man can understand. At the same time he kept his sharp criticism, without giving a chance to fight back.
J K M Nair, Director CEO Training $olutions International

Unknown said...

The story I heard from my Malayalam teacher regarding the couplet, “Kaathilola nallathali” has a relation to the story of what Subabe said above! The queen wanted Kunjan Nambiar to write a couplet on her. Since the queen was not as beautiful as she thought for herself and was a lady full of vanity, Nambiar reluctantly wrote a couplet eulogizing her beauty using very ordinary words and lines like, “chelotha mookkee”, “thamara kannee” etc. etc. (I do not now remember the complete couplet, after 40-45 yrs). The queen did not like the usage of words like “Mookkee”, “Kannee” etc. in a couplet eulogizing her. So she asked Nambiar to recast his lines with pleasant sounding words. An irritated Nambiar, knowing that the queen lacked knowledge in Sanskrit, wrote the couplet, “Kaathilola, nallathali” which has a dual meaning, one to be for the queen to enjoy and the other for Nambiar’s satisfaction of expressing what he had in mind for the queen’s real beauty! (I am unable to quote any references for what I wrote above. I was searching Google to find out whether those two couplets are there or not and chanced upon your blog).

Murali said...

I had heard a different version for the story on deepasthambham....

The king once received an oil lamp made of panchalohya(alloy) with beautiful forms etched on the side. The king was so pleased with the gift that he showed it off to each and every visitor. As is the norm, guests used ti praise the lamp and the king used to give some gift to them.

The opportunists understood king's over-attachment to the lamp, and soon started praising daily to get the gift.

One day, kavi was passing through the kingdom and he gave a courtesy call to the king's palace. When he saw that king was giving away gifts for just an oil lamp lying in a corner.

Kavi got upset and he said:
"Deepasthambham mahAshcaryam, namukkum kittanam panam".
(in a sarcastic tone).

Stunned by the sudden outburst, the king realized that he was giving too much focus to the lamp, and apologized to the kavi.

Col Rajendran said...

Deepasthambam is not just an ordinary oil lamp. It means a Light House.

Raja Thatha said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I still think what is refered here is a big lamp post found in big temples.

George Seagull said...

Bloggers here would be interested to read about Kunjan Nambiars leniage as compiled in Kottarathil Sankunny's Aithihyamaala, available on Malayalam wikipages.

Check it out atരചയിതാവ്:കുഞ്ചൻ_നമ്പ്യാർ which lists all of Kunjan Nambiars works and links to online versions of some of them.

anukuttan said...

Its not about kunjan nambiar. Its about tholakkavi who praised his live in , chakki. She didn't like it," calling me mookki, pokki" so he recast