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Lalithambika Antharjanam

(1909 – 1987) – (Kerala)

Lalithambika Antharjanam (Aged 78), who was born on March 30, 1909, was an Indian author and social reformer best known for her literary works in the Malayalam language. Her writing reflected a sensitivity to the role of women in society, in the family, and as individuals. She was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and social reform movements led by V. T. Bhattathiripaatu among the Nambuthiri caste.

Despite having little formal education, Lalithambika’s father appointed a private tutor who taught her, which was unusual at the time. Although she was part of the powerful landholding Brahmin caste of Kerala, her life’s work was to expose and destroy the hypocrisy, violence, and injustice with which women were treated in Nambudiri society. She was not allowed to study in school and could only glean scraps of information about the outside world through male relatives who were kind enough to tell her about current affairs.

Lalithambika published nine volumes of short stories, six collections of poems, two books for children, and a novel, Agnisakshi (1976), which won the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award and Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 1977. Her autobiography, Aathmakadhakkoru Aamukham (An Introduction to Autobiography), is also considered a significant work in Malayalam literature.

Lalithambika’s frustration and anger towards the degradation of her caste sisters moved her to expose their plight in her celebrated Malayalam novel Agnisakshi (Fire being the Witness). The novel was later made into a film with the same title in 1997. Some of the awards she received include the Sahitya Akademi Award (1977), the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for Novel (1977), and the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Fellowship. She passed away on February 6, 1987.