Indulekha is a Malayalam novel written by O. Chandu Menon. Published in 1889, it was the first major novel in Malayalam language. It was a landmark in the history of Malayalam literature and initiated novel as a new flourishing genre.
Author. Chandu Menon
Country»India Language»MalayalamGenreNovelPublisherAuthor (1889), Educational & General Book Depot. Kozhikode (1890)
9 December 1889Media
The title Indulekha, refers to the prodigy in this novel, a beautiful, well educated Nair lady of 20 or 22 years.
The novel was written at a time when there was an emerging class of upper caste men (mostly Nairs) who received a Western style education, and were achieving prominent positions in British India. The period was a clash of cultures, as the educated Indians were torn between Western ideals and traditional practices. The Nambudiri Brahmins of Kerala, traditionally had marital relations with Nair women, known as Sambandham, since only the oldest Nambudiri youth was allowed to marry a Brahmin girl. The younger sons were encouraged to have Sambandham with Nair women, in order to maintain male primogeniture, since the children born from such relations belonged to their mother’s family. The matriarchy practiced by the Nairs was also coming under attack during this period. Many of the Nambudiri men, though learned in Vedas and Sanskrit, had little knowledge of English and Western sciences. The novel highlights the lack of willingness of the Nambudiris to adapt to the change of times, as well as the struggle by Nair women to break out of the age-old principle of Sambandham, which had little relevance during the late 19th century.
Chandu Menon has written that he initially meant Indulekha as a translation of Benjamin Disraeli’s Henrietta Temple (1836), but, having struggled with the subtleties of an alien culture, he abandoned the project in favour of writing one on his own, depicting a similar story.
The first English translation was by John Willoughby Francis Dumergue, a friend of O. Chandu Menon who worked as a Malayalam translator to the Madras Government. Another translation of the novel under the title Crescent Moon by R. Leeladevi was published in 1979. A translation by Anitha Devasia was published by Oxford University Press in 2005 and included in their Oxford India Paperbacks series.
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