Jayakanthan, also called as JK, was the foremost voice of the progressive literary movement in Tamil Nadu, and yet, had a unique perspective that singularly distinguished him from other progressive writers of his era. Jayakanthan is also one of the fierce orators in Tamil Nadu upholding free thinking and progressive values of the Indian society. He is one of the significant figures of modern Tamil writer and has been at the forefront for his role in shaping the thought process of many readers, who come from various strata of the Tamil society. He is a recipient of Jnanapith, Padma Bhushan (2009), Sahitya Akademi awards and the Russian government’s Order of Friendship (2011) awards.


Early Life

Jayakanthan was born in 1934 in Manjakuppam, Cuddalore, a part of the South Arcot district of Tamil Nadu. Born into an agricultural family, he quickly got interested in politics as many of his family relatives were actively involved in it. He dropped off school at an early age of ten and moved to Chennai (then known as Madras). He joined the Communist Party of India (CPI) and quickly rose to one of the stalwart writers in the party.



Jayakanthan starting publishing short stories from 1953 in Sowbakyavati magazine and soon started writing in mainstream magazines like Ananda Vikatan, Kumudan. From then on started a four decade long era of writing ranging from short stories, poetry to novels. Being an ardent reader of the great Tamil poet, Bharathiyar, he meticulously took to many of his qualities. His popular stories are Vizhudugal, Nandavanathil Or Aandi, Agni Paritchai, GuruPeedam struck a chord with readers from all walks of life. His take on the social stigma around the concepts of chastity, feudal lordships, westernization of eastern culture that were prevalent in his short story form continued in his grand structures like novels and movies. Two of his novels, Oru Manidhan Oru Veedu Oru Ulagam (One Human One Home One World) and Gangai enge Pogiral (Where the Ganges flows?) are considered as works that synthesised his philosophy.

Jayakanthan directed two movies based on his novels. Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal and Yarukkaaga Azhudhan are offbeat movies.

Jayakanthan is also popular for this interviews and oratory skills. He had a unique style of building logic into his lectures and often burst with philosophical insights that would bring new dimension to the discussion.


Jayakanthan was a central figure not only in Tamil literary circles but also well known as a political, social critic of his times. His bold assertions against the Dravidian philosophy, though not very well received by the followers of Dravidian political parties, evoked lot of controversies in public life. He had high regards for the founders of Communism and Sathyagragis like Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave. All through his life he tried to provide a common ground amongst the free thinkers and the traditionalist in the Indian society.


Most of his novels were the results of influence of social and economic changes on the Traditional Indian society. He had high regards for the saints and also for the marginal class of the society comprising of prostitutes, the sick, poor and unorthodox mystics, Siddars, of India. Most of his writings came out of his direct interaction with all class of people and reflects their humanistic view.

Written by Bairaagi