Renewed interest in Arnos Pathiri’s poem ‘Puthen Pana’

The composition by German Jesuit priest Johann Ernst Hanxleden, better known as Arnos Pathiri, represents pain of a mother on his son’s death

The Holy Week and Easter celebrations by Christians this season has seen a renewed interest in Puthen Pana, a composition by Arnos Pathiri, who is popular for his poetic compositions in Malayalam.

Johann Ernst Hanxleden, the German Jesuit priest better known as Arnos Pathiri, arrived in Kerala from Gujarat in 1701. The lexicographer and grammarian became a scholar in Sanskrit and Malayalam before authoring Puthen Pana.

Antony Puthur, who has been doing research on the composition’s recital, says there has been considerable interest in the composition of late. The interest in reciting the poem, which represents the pain of a mother on his son’s death, had been earlier ebbing. However, “the present circumstances” have revived an interest and Mr. Puthur has been taking classes on the historic and linguistic importance of its recital.

Major landmark

According to Mr. Puthur, the composition marked a major landmark for the Malayalam language. “Arnos Pathiri not only mastered the Malayalam language in about 20 years, but also composed poems that have stood the test of time,” he says, adding that at one point, the interest in the recital of Puthen Pana, which recounts the pain of mother Mary on the death of Jesus, had been low.

Felix Pulloodan of the Joint Christian Council says there is an effort by different groups of people, including those involved in folklore research, to revive the work.

John Britto, a Chavittunatakam artiste from Fort Kochi, says that perhaps one reason for the growing interest is the restrictions imposed on places of worship since the pandemic. As a youngster, Mr. Britto was witness to devout recitals of Puthen Pana in many parish churches.

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