Lalithambika Antharjanam

Lalithambika Antharjanam

Lalithambika Antharjanam (1909-1987)

Lalithambika Antharjanam was a well-known Indian writer and social reformer best recognized for her Malayalam-language books. 

She was famous for her short stories and poems. Her writing demonstrates sensitivity to women's roles in society.

Her only novel, Agnisakshi, which she penned in her old age, shows the Namboodiri community's existence, customs, habits, and culture, the plight of Namboodhiri women, the impact of the Partition in Punjab and Bengal as well as the impassioned cries of the Indian National Freedom movement. 

It became one of the greatest classic works in Malayalam literature. 

While her sole novel was Agnisakshi, her autobiography Aathmakadhakkoru Aamukham is also another noteworthy work.

Let us understand more about Lalithambika Antharjanam's life in preparation for the Kerala PSC examinations.

Basic Facts

  • Birth – March 30, 1909,  Kottavattom near Punalur, Kollam district.
  • Family – Madathil
    • Parents – Damodaran Namboothiri & Arya Devi Antharjanam.
    • Spouse – Narayanan Namboothiri.
  • Lalithambika Antharjanam's first poetry anthology – Lalitanjali (1936).
  • The one and only novel written by Lalithambika Antharjanam – Agnisakshi (1976).
  • First Vayalar Award winner – Lalithambika Antharjanam (Agnisakshi, 1977).
  • Lalithambika Antharjanam's Agnisakshi received the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award & the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in – 1977.
  • The play was written by Lalithambika Antharjanam based on the theme of Widow remarriage – Punarjanmam (പുനര്‍ജന്മം, 1935).
  • Name the 1965 Malayalam film for which Lalithambika Antharjanam wrote the screenplay and dialogue – Shakuntala.
  • Death – February 6, 1987.


Lalithambika Antharjanam was born into an upper-class Brahmin family.  The age difference between her and her mother Arya Devi Antharjanam was only 15 years.

Her family was quite conservative, and according to the customs and traditions of the time, women were not permitted to attend school in general, therefore she was not allowed to go to school and had minimal formal education.

Her father, however, being a progressive man (a member of the Sreemoolam Praja Sabha, a scholar, and a social reformer), assigned a private tutor to teach her English, which was also quite unusual at the time.

In 1926, she was married to Narayanan Naboothiri. She had four boys from her marriage, Bhaskara Kumar, N. Mohanan, Mani, and Rajendra, and three daughters, Leela, Shantha, and Rajam. 

Her son, N. Mohanan was also a well-known novelist who received the 'Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award' in 1998 for the novel Innalathe Mazha.

She died on February 6, 1987, in Nijaliyakuzhi, Kerala, in the district of Kottayam.

Works of Lalithambika Antharjanam

Despite her lack of formal education, Lalithambika Antharjanam was fluent in Malayalam, English, Sanskrit, and Hindi owing to her father.

The general narrative of her writings was inspired by what she saw around her and her personal experiences. To some extent, the stories were able to curb the superstitions and practices prevalent in the Namboothiri society.

As a child, her creativity was fostered by her mother's poetry writings in secret and by reading her poems by Tagore.

She was soon drawn to the ideologies of Gandhi, Vivekananda, and Tagore. Tagore's portrayal of women in his works captivated her and influenced her writings.

When she began writing in the early 1930s, Kerala was a hive of social reform organizations tackling numerous social inequalities, particularly those pertaining to the persecution of lower castes, non-Hindu faiths, and women.

Her debut piece, 'Abhinavaparthasarathy,' on Gandhiji was published in the September 1923 issue of 'Sharada' magazine published from Punalur. 

Many of her poetry and essays have been published in the magazines 'Unninamboothiri', 'Yogakshemam', and 'Sharada'.

Lalithambika's first anthology, 'Lalitanjali,' was published in 1937. The next year, she published a collection of tales named 'Ambikanjali.'

'Yatravaasanam,' Lalithambika's debut short fiction, was published in Malayalarajyam and caused societal upheaval.

Many of her stories focus on the struggle of upper-class Namboodiri women in a patriarchal culture.

Lalithambika penned and published stories such as 'Vidhibalam,' 'Pratidhwani,' and 'Manushan Matram,' which depicted the struggle of Namboodiri women whose lives had been blighted by traditions in the dark interiors of Namboothiri illums, and empowered them to break free from harmful conventions.

The novella 'Pratikara Devata,' based on Kuryedathu Thatri's Smarthavicharam, is a heartbreaking representation of the suffering of a penniless lady labeled as a fallen woman by her family and community.

In 'Ormayile Nidhikal' (The Treasures of Memory), she addressed her feelings about people criticizing her socialization and upbringing. "They considered that a young girl had no right to so much independence," she says.

In 'Balyasmriti,' she talked about herself in the third person.

Aathmakadhakkoru Aamukham

Lalithambika stated in her autobiography, 'Aathmakadhakkoru Aamukham,' that the emergence of nationalism in India and the war for independence movements formed new ideas in her young mind which was restricted to protective seclusion. Her autobiography is also regarded as an important achievement in Malayalam literature.

In her book 'Mulappalinte Manam,' she discusses the role of women as the most tenacious force in Indian culture, as well as her support for artificial birth control measures.

The drama 'Savithri Adhava Vidhava Vivaham,' written by Lalithambika Antherjanam, narrates the tale of the protagonist Savithri, who falls victim to child marriage and her subsequent life.

Her sole novel 'Agnisakshi,' which has become a classic in Indian literature, was released in 1976.  This novel was serialized in Mathrubhumi Illustrated Weekly before being released as a book by Current Books in 1976.

The plot revolves around the bond of sisterhood between two ladies, Devaki Manampilli, (Thethikutty aka Sumitarananda), and Mrs. K.M.K. Nair (Thankam), set against the backdrop of India's freedom movement.

The novel unfolds through the reminiscences of Thangam Nair after encountering Devaki after many years on the banks of the Ganges and it follows her path through silent agony, response, and eventually full asceticism.

The novel has been translated into English by Vasanthi Sankaranarayanan.

A cinematic adaptation of the novel, starring Rajit Kapur as Unni Nambudiri, Sobhana as Devaki, and Praveena as Thankam, was released in 1999. Shyamaprasad wrote the storyline and directed the film. It received eight Kerala State Film Awards as well as a National Film Award.

Agnisakshi Film

Lalithambikantharjanam also wrote the screenplay and dialogues for the 1965 film Shakuntala directed and produced by Kunchacko.

List of Important Books Written by Lalithambika Antharjanam 

  • Books – 
    • Autobiography – Athmakadha oru Aamukham (ആത്മകഥയ്ക്ക് ഒരാമുഖം).
    • Novels –
      • Agnisakshi (Odakkuzal Award, 1977) 
    • Plays –
      • Punarjanmam (പുനർജന്മം)
      • Veerasangeetham (വീരസംഗീതം)
      • Viradhatri
    • Short Stories –
      • Manikyan (മാണിക്കൻ)
      • Viswarupam (വിശ്വരൂപം)
      • Ambikanjali (അംബികാഞ്ജലി
      • Kilivathililoode (കിളിവാതിലിലൂടെ)
      • Moodupadathil (മൂടുപടത്തിൽ)
      • Agnipushpangal (അഗ്നിപുഷ്പങ്ങൾ)
      • Kodunkattilninnu (കൊടുങ്കാറ്റിൽ നിന്ന്)
      • Pavitra Mothiram (പവിത്ര മോതിരം)
      • Kaalathinte Edukal (കാലത്തിന്റെ ഏടുകൾ)
      • Thakarnna Thalamura (തകർന്ന തലമുറ)
      • Kannuneerinte punchiri (കണ്ണീരിന്റെ പുഞ്ചിരി)
      • Satyathinte Swaram (സത്യത്തിന്റെ സ്വരം)
      •  Dhirendu Majumdarude Amma (ധീരേന്ദ്ര മജുംദാറിന്റെ അമ്മ)
      • Seetha muthal Sathyavathi vare (സീത മുതൽ സത്യവതി വരെ,  Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award, 1973)
    • Poetry
      • Lalitanjali (ലളിതാഞ്ജലി)
      • Nisabda Sangeetham (നിശ്ശബ്ദസംഗീതം)
      • Onakkazcha (ഓണക്കാഴ്ച)
      • Sharanamanjari (ശരണമഞ്ജരി)
      • Bhavadipti (ഭാവദീപ്തി)
      • Ayirathiri (ആയിരത്തിരി)
      • Oru Pottichiri (ഒരു പൊട്ടിച്ചിരി)
    • Children's Literature
      • Kunjomana (കുഞ്ഞോമന),
      • Gramabalika (ഗ്രാമബാലിക),
      • Gosayi Paranja Katha (ഗോസായി പറഞ്ഞ കഥ; Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award, 1965)

PSC Questions

  • The first recipient of Vayalar Sahithya Puraskaram – Lalithambika Antharjanam. (Junior Instructor Architectural Assistant (SR for SC/ST, 2017)
  • The drama “ Punarjanmam” written by – Lalithambika Antharjanam. (HSST Sociology, 2018)
  • Who is the first to receive the Vayalar Award for the best literary work in Malayalam? Lalithambika Antharjanam. (Deputy Accounts Manager, KWA, 2019)
  • Name the play written by Lalithambika Antharjanam on the basis of widow re-marriage? Punarjanmam. (Assistant Professor in Microbiology (NCA), 2019)
  • Who wrote the novel Agnisakshi? Lalithambika Antharjanam. (Technical Superintendent(Dairy), 2018)
  • Aathmakadhakkoru Aamukham’ is the autobiography of – Lalithambika Antharjanam. (Lecturer in Vocal, 2016)
  • Consider the following pairs of authors and their works : (High School Teacher English, 2022)
    • (1) Parvathy Nenmenimangalam    –       Punarjanmam
    • (2) Annachandi                               –        Kalapakarchakal
    • (3) Akkamma Cherian                    –        1114 nte Katha
    • (4) Lalithambika Antharjanam       –        Agnisakshi
    • Which of the following pairs is incorrect?
      • (A) (1) and (2)     (B) (2) and (4)    (C) (1) and (3)      (D) (3) and (4)


  • Anthology – published poetry collections, plays, short stories, etc.
  • The first recipient of Lalithambika Antharjanam Memorial Sahitya Akademi Award – Vaikom Muhammad Basheer & B.M. Suhara.
  • Winner of Lalithambika Antharjanam Memorial Sahitya Akademi Award 2021 –  T. B. Lal.

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