Biography of Poet Edappally Raghavan Pillai

Biography of Poet Edappally Raghavan Pillai is given here. In Malayalam literature the place Edappally is famous because of two poets, Changampuzha Krishna Pillai and Edappally Raghavan Pillai. Both gave a new turn to the Malayalam poems by giving much importance to romanticism. Hailing from a lower middle class family he had to suffer very much for his living. This reflected in his poems. Below a short description of his life history is given.

In the history of poetries, perhaps in any language, the poem titled 'Ramanan' written by late 'Mahakavi' Changampuzha Krishna Pillai broke all records in its circulation and readership. It was first published in 1937 and within eight years 15 times it had to be reprinted, with thousands of copies in every reprint. (As on today 52 reprints have been brought out and lakhs of copies sold). People even wrote down completely in their own hand since the copies were not available in the market. This pastoral elegy, first of its kind in Malayalam language, was written by Changampuzha in memory of his friend and poet Edappally Raghavan Pillai. A short lived Raghavan Pillai is recognised as a poet with his notable contributions.

Raghavan Pillai and Changampuzha Krishna Pillai belonged to the same place, Edappally, a suburban area near Ernakulam town (now coming under the city limits of Kochi). Raghavan Pillai was senior to Changampuzha by three years. Raghvan Pillai was born in 1909 at Paravur in Ernakulam district, which was the native place of his mother . Pandavath Neelakanda Pillai and Meenakshi amma were his parents. Neelakanta Pillai was working as a peon in the Excise department, and the family' had to survive with his small income. To add to this Neelakanda Pillai had the habit of drinking liquors. All these made Raghavan Pillai's life miserable. He did not get much support for his education. He had his school education at Edappally itself. He showed his interest in writing poems in his younger period itself. This attracted the attention of senior persons such as Edappally Karunakara Menon, who himself was a literary worker.

Edappally Karunakara Menon was the son of Krishna Raja of Edappally Palace. He took initiative to organize young literary workers of that area in his residence. Raghavn Pillai was one among them. Seeing his talents in writing poems and knowing his family problems, Karunakara Menon helped him financially also. The poems written by him were read before the literary club and the experts gave their comments instantaneously. This helped Raghavan Pillai very much to come up as a poet.

When Changampuzha joined the preparatory class in the primary school at Edappally, Raghavan Pillai was studying in the second form. Because of this seniority he did not mingle with Changampuzha. Changampuzha also had started writing small poems by this time. Ragavan Pillai did not want to recognise this talent of Changampuzha. Thus he started ridiculing him through poems. Changampuzha's grand mother was a maid servant at the Edappally Palace. So naturally she used to bring home the left overs from the Palace. This issue was highlighted in the poems written by Raghavan Pillai, which made Changampuzha uneasy. Both behaved as enemies and utilized every situation to defeat each other.

But, when Karunakara Menon introduced Changampuzha also in the literary forum and urged him to present poems in front of the seniors the situation slowly changed. Both started moving together. It was in the year 1927 an annual of the Literary forum was well organized inviting most of the literary stalwarts of that period. Poets like Vallathol Narayana Menon, Ulloor S.Parameswara Iyer, G.Sankara kurup, etc. were present for the function. At the end of the sessions, a new organization of literary workers, viz. Samastha Kerala Sahitya Parishad, was formed. In this three day conference both Changampuzha and Raghavan Pillai worked as volunteers.

Raghavan Pillai was unfortunate enough to undergo one day's imprisonment, for none of his fault. His father did some misappropriation with the money which was entrusted with him from his office to remit in the Government Treasury. Police took him to custody for this. Raghavan Pillai went to the Police station to meet his father, which resulted in his imprisonment for one night. Basically an introvert and a man of inferiority complex, this touched his feelings very much and attempted suicide by jumping into the Ernakulam lake. Somehow, the attempt was not successful. Another tragedy with which he confronted was the untimely death of his mother (which was a suicide). To make his life more miserable, his father married again and the step mother never showed any sympathy towards him. Raghavan Pillai had to stand on his own feet for pulling on his life. He started taking tuition for children in different houses.

After his primary schooling at Edappally, he joined St Albert's High school at Ernakulam. He could not go for higher studies. He had to continue his tuition since there was no other means of income for him. But this also led him into troubles. He developed an affection with a girl belonging to a rich family for whom he was taking tuition. This affection turned into true love and which attracted the attention of the girl's parents. They were not happy with this relationship and tried to separate them. This forced Raghavan Pillai to leave Edappally and to join a relative at Thiruvananthapuram. There he prepared for Malayalam Vidwan Examination, but could not get through the examinations.

Later Raghavan Pillai shifted his stay to Kollam where he was to to assist an Advocate. He stayed there with the Advocate. This Advocate had a relation with the family of the girl with whom Raghavan Pillai was in love. By this time, the parents of the girl had arranged another marriage for her and the Advocate went to Edappally for attending the marriage. Since nobody was there in the house at Kollam, Raghavan Pillai committed suicide in the same night. Thus at the age of 27 he left this world. On the previous day of his death he had written a poem, 'Nalathe prabhatham' (tomorrow's sun-rise) and handed over to a press (Malayalarajyam) asking them to publish it on the next day. He had also left a note addressed to "All my friends and foes" in his room in which he written that nobody was responsible for his death.

Raghavan Pillai has contributed more than eighty poems, two short stories, two essays and one semi poem. Changampuzha Krishna Pillai has edited and published a compilation of Raghavan Pillai's works under the title 'Edappally Raghavan Pillayute Krithikal', after his death.


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