Posted in Books

Book Review: Eithihyamala (Malayalam), compiled by Kottarathil Sankunni

About the author:
Kottarathil Sankunni is a well known author in Malayalam Literature. He started compiling the legends of Kerala in 1909 and completed the work over eight volumes and taking nearly a quarter of a century. He died in 1937.

Cover and blurb:
A simple yet elegant and ornate cover with some hieroglyphs or such and a curtain, as if we are being invited into the room of legends, of folklore known and unknown.

My thoughts:
Reading a book in my native language was always something I had wanted to do. It’s not something that I find easy, being born and brought up elsewhere and not knowing the lingo or even all letters in Malayalam, and I restrict myself to usually newspapers or small magazines at most. So earlier this year, I told myself that I would read a book in Malayalam, and read it completely at that. The book I chose is this one.

Aithihyamala, translated to “Garland of Legends”… it is a book that contains all eight volumes, and over one hundred and twenty legends of Kerala folklore. Not something everyone would be familiar with, but maybe most Malayalis would know of. To read a translation and get the feeling of awe is difficult in itself, so reading it over eight months and in Malayalam was quite exciting.

Stories like Kadamatathu Kathanar, the story of the priest of Kadamattom Church, believed to possess supernatural powers, or Kayamkulam Kochunni, the Robin Hood of Kerala highways in the early 19th century are quite famous. Others like the Parayi Petta Pantirukulam, meaning twelve kulams (ethnic groups) born of a pariah woman, and Thiruvattatthadhi Kesavan, an elephant which considered to be auspicious, are not that known, yet interesting. Speaking to another Malayali friend Acchuse, she mentioned the tale of Viddikushmandam as her favorite: it is a story about someone who is thought of as a fool, and rejected by a guru, then years later, that someone returns as a great guru/healer.

This book is a mixture of entities, you could say, with myriad colors. It has the stories of thieves and kings, vampires and magicians, gods and goddesses and even elephants. When I spoke to my grandmother about the book, she already knew about it, and told me these stories were part of her childhood stories, told as bedtime stories or just for passing time during a rainy afternoon. And after reading these stories, I can’t help but agree. Not sure about it being bedtime stories, some feel a little scary at times, but it feels just right for a rainy afternoon and sharing with young kids.

If you can read and understand Malayalam, I’d suggest you to try this book sometime. It is really magical and fun. I’m going to have to read it again, as it has not quite sunk in just yet. But 900 pages in Malayalam, that too more of an old school lingo… well, that’s an achievement of sorts for me already. I’d rate it higher if I could, and this is a perfect book and deserves the perfect rating on my scale.

Rated a perfect 10/10
Rated a perfect 10/10

Book details:
Title: Eithihyamala
Compiled by: Kottarathil Sankunni
ISBN: 9788126422906
Genre: Fiction / Legends
Publishers: DC Books
Price: INR. 295


This book is a personal copy. No payment was taken for this review.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.

Shared with
1) First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws
2) Indian Quills Reading Challenge at Tales Pensieve.

(Aug 18th, 2013)


Poetry and writing are to me, a breath of fresh air in a life that is sometimes covered by the smoke of sorrow or self doubt. They also become the sweets I share to celebrate when life offers me a reason to. But most of all, they are to me, my life. For each word I write is a piece of my heart, a thought that just had to find its way into the world.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Eithihyamala (Malayalam), compiled by Kottarathil Sankunni

  1. One should always read some literature in their mother-tongue and Kerala has a very rich tradition. I remember reading a Amar Chitra Katha of ‘Chemmen’ and I had loved it. Most of these folk-lore are part of bed-time stories. My grandmom used to narrate stories , part of Kannada folk-lore and I had found them fascinating. But I still cannot read and write my mother-tongue. Keep reading Malayam books.

  2. It is a nice read.. though I have not read the book entirely, I have read the stories individually, usually coming in print on some magazines and that sort.. 🙂

  3. I’d say indeed it is a highly commendable achievement! I would not attempt it even-though I know Malayalam. 🙂
    I must say though that most of the stories are familiar. But this post definitely tempts me to give it a go.

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