Dr Vellayani Arjunan, scholar who brought encyclopaedia to the masses, dies

Dr Vellayani Arjunan. Photo: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: Renowned scholar Dr Vellayani Arjunan (90) passed away on Wednesday due to age-related ailments. The funeral will be conducted at his residence at 8 pm on Wednesday. He has postgraduate degrees in the literature of four languages and has written over 40 books.

He was honoured with the Padma Shri award by the nation in 2008. Dr Arjun, who was the first Professor of Malayalam at the Aligarh University and head of the Department of Modern Indian Languages, later became the Director of the Encyclopaedia Institute and the Basha Institute in Kerala. He is survived by his wife Radhamani and children Dr A R Supriya, A R Jayashankar Prasad, A R Sahithy, A R Rajashree, and A R Jayashree.

Arjunan was the only son of P Shankara Panicker and P Narayani into Kurumi Kunnathu Veetil family of Ponnumangalam on February 10, 1933. He completed his primary education at the Mudippura Nada Lower Primary School, Vellayani; the Government Malayalam School, Nemom; and the Government High School, Chala. His higher education was at the Arts College, Thiruvananthapuram, and the University College.

He obtained a master’s degree in the literature of four languages. He also had four doctorate degrees and three DLitt degrees. He began his official career at Akashvani.

He became the Director of the State Encyclopedia Institute in 1975 and played an important role in taking the encyclopedia project to the people. He also held posts such as director of the Kerala Bhasha Institute and of the School of Communications and Information Sciences at Mahatma Gandhi University. Dr Arjunan played an important role in the preparation of the general encyclopedia and the Malayalam encyclopedia. He also wrote over 40 books.

One of his achievements was that he succeeded in taking to the people the volumes of the encyclopedia, which were considered symbols of luxury before the age of the Internet and Google. The decision he took after taking over as Director of the Encyclopedia Institute to sell the volumes of the encyclopedia on an installment basis to readers became a big success.

He began his official career at Akashvani. Dr Arjunan, who earned his doctorate from the Aligarh University, was conferred the degree of DLitt by the Universities of Aligarh, Agra, and Jabalpur. Conferment of a DLitt by three universities on a person is extremely rare. He was also the author of over 40 books and over 500 research papers. He started the department of Malayalam at Aligarh University.

There are very few scholars in Malayalam who have three DLitt degrees and four Master’s qualifications. He spent most of his retired life in his home library, which contained over 10,000 books. Dr Arjunan also wrote his autobiography titled "Ozhukkinethire" (Against the Tide).

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