Balamani Amma
Born(1909-07-19)19 July 1909
Punnayurkulam, Ponnani taluk, Malabar District, Madras Presidency, British India
(Now in Thrissur)
Died29 September 2004(2004-09-29) (aged 95)
Kochi, Kerala, India
Notable awardsPadma Bhushan, Sahitya Akademi Award, Saraswati Samman, Asan Prize, Ezhuthachan Award
SpouseV. M. Nair
ChildrenKamala Surayya, Sulochana, Mohandas, Shyam Sunder

Nalapat Balamani Amma (19 July 1909 – 29 September 2004) was an Indian poet who wrote in Malayalam. Amma (Mother), Muthassi (Grandmother), and Mazhuvinte Katha (The story of the Axe) are some of her well-known works.[1] She was a recipient of many awards and honours, including the Padma Bhushan,[2] Saraswati Samman, Sahitya Akademi Award, and Ezhuthachan Award.[3] She was the mother of writer Kamala Surayya.[4]


Balamani Amma was born on 19 July 1909[5] to Chittanjoor Kunhunni Raja and Nalapat Kochukutti amma at Nalappat, her ancestral home in Punnayurkulam, Ponnani taluk, Malabar District, British India. She had no formal education, and the tutelage under her maternal uncle and his collection of books helped her become a poet.[6] She was influenced by Nalapat Narayana Menon and the poet Vallathol Narayana Menon.[7]

At age 19, Amma married V.M. Nair, who became the managing director and managing editor of Mathrubhumi, a widely circulated Malayalam newspaper,[5][8] and later an executive at an automobile company.[9] She left for Kolkata after her marriage to live with her husband.[10] V.M. Nair died in 1977.[10]

Amma was the mother of writer Kamala Surayya, (also known as Kamala Das),[8] who translated one of her mother's poems, "The Pen", which describes the loneliness of a mother. Her other children include son Shyam Sunder, and daughter Sulochana.[5]

Amma died on 29 September 2004 after five years of Alzheimer's disease.[5] Her cremation was attended with full state honours.[11]


Balamani Amma published more than 20 anthologies of poems, several prose works, and translations. Her first poem "Kooppukai" was published in 1930.[7] Her first recognition came when she received the Sahithya Nipuna Puraskaram, an award from Parikshith Thampuran, former ruler of Kingdom of Cochin. Nivedyam is the collection of poems of Balamani Amma from 1959 to 1986. Lokantharangalil is an elegy on the death of the poet Nalapat Narayana Menon.[12]

Collections of poems

Awards and recognition

Her poetry earned her the titles of Amma (mother) and Muthassi (grandmother) of Malayalam poetry.[5][13] While delivering the Balamaniyamma remembrance speech at the Kerala Sahitya Akademi, Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri, described her as the "prophet of human glory" and said that her poetry had been an inspiration to him.[14] Writer and critic M. N. Karassery considered her a Gandhian, and believed her works should be revisited when people consider Nathuram Godse to represent Indian nationalism.[15]

She received many literary honours and awards, including the Kerala Sahithya Akademi Award for Muthassi (1963), Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award for Muthassi (1965), Asan Prize (1989), Vallathol Award (1993), Lalithambika Antharjanam Award (1993), Saraswati Samman for Nivedyam (1995), Ezhuthachan Award (1995), and N. V. Krishna Warrier Award (1997).[12] She was also a recipient of India's third highest civilian honour, the Padma Bhushan, in 1987.[16]

She is often regarded as the ‘Mathruthwathinte Kavi’ (poetess of motherhood’ or ‘Muttassi’ (grandmother), due to her fondness for children. [17]


The Kochi International Book Festival Committee created the Balamani Amma Award, with a cash award for writers.[15][18]

On 19 July 2022, Google honoured Amma with a Google Doodle on her birth anniversary.[19][20] She has been referred to as "the grandmother of Malayalam literature".[20]


  1. ^ George, K. M. (1998). Western influence on Malayalam language and literature. Sahitya Akademi. p. 132. ISBN 978-81-260-0413-3.
  2. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  3. ^ "Literary Awards". Government of Kerala. Archived from the original on 24 May 2007. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  4. ^ Weisbord, Merrily (2010). The Love Queen of Malabar: Memoir of a Friendship with Kamala Das. McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-7735-3791-0. balamani amma.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Balamani Amma no more". Indian Express. 30 September 2004. Retrieved 12 July 2021.
  6. ^ Jadia, Varun (29 May 2016). "This List of India's Most Gifted Women Poets Is Sure to Bring Some Enchantment in Your Life". The Better India. Retrieved 12 July 2021.
  7. ^ a b Azheekode, Sukumar. "Balamaniamma". Archived from the original on 2 May 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  8. ^ a b TNN (1 June 2009). "Kamala Das passes away". Times of India. Retrieved 12 July 2021.
  9. ^ Fox, Margalit (13 June 2009). "Kamala Das, Indian Poet and Memoirist, Dies at 75". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 July 2021.
  10. ^ a b "Balamani Amma". Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  11. ^ "Kerala bids farewell to Balamani Amma". Times of India. PTI. 30 September 2004. Retrieved 12 July 2021.
  12. ^ a b "A prolific writer". The Hindu. 30 September 2004. Archived from the original on 19 November 2004. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  13. ^ "Balamaniamma" (in Malayalam). Malayala Manorama. Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  14. ^ "Balamaniyamma remembered". The Hindu. 8 October 2004. Archived from the original on 31 October 2004. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  15. ^ a b Special Correspondent (6 December 2019). "Balamani Amma Award presented to Padmanabhan". The Hindu. Retrieved 12 July 2021.
  16. ^ "Padma Bhushan Awardees". Government of India. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  17. ^ BU, Prathiksha (19 July 2021). "Nalapat Balamani Amma: Celebrate The Rebel Poet Of 20th Century!". Women's Web. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  18. ^ Express News Service (6 December 2017). "Balamani Amma award presented to Mohanavarma". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 12 July 2021.
  19. ^ "Balamani Amma: Google Doodle celebrates Malayalam poet's 113th birth anniversary". The Indian Express. 19 July 2022.
  20. ^ a b "Google doodle celebrates Balamani Amma's 113th birth anniversary". The Hindu. 19 July 2022. Retrieved 19 July 2022.