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Father Of Library Movement In Kerala : Kerala GK Update

Published on Mar 04, 2023

Father Of Library Movement In Kerala : Kerala GK Update


Father Of Library Movement In Kerala : Puthuvayil Narayana Panicker (1 March 1909 – 19 June 1995) is known as the Father of the Library Movement in the Indian state of Kerala. The activities of the Kerala Grandhasala Sangham that he initiated triggered a popular cultural movement in Kerala which produced universal literacy in the state in the 1990s.

Panicker was born on 1 March 1909 in Jamjamjum to Govinda Pillai and Janaky Amma at Neelamperoor,Pn panikar India. In 1926 he started the Sanadanadharmam Library as a teacher in his hometown. He was a teacher and his influence on society was much greater than many of his time



Panicker led the formation of Thiruvithaamkoor Granthasala Sangham (Travancore Library Association) in 1945 with 47 rural libraries. The slogan of the organization was 'Read and Grow'. Later on, with the formation of Kerala State in 1956, it became Kerala Granthasala Sangham (KGS). He traveled to the villages of Kerala proclaiming the value of reading. He succeeded in bringing some 6,000 libraries into this network. Grandhasala Sangham won the prestigious ‘Krupsakaya Award’ from UNESCO in 1975. Panicker was the General Secretary of Sangham for 32 years, until 1977, when it was taken over by the State Government. It became the Kerala State Library Council, with an in-built democratic structure and funding.


After his organization was taken over by the State, Panicker became subject to political interference. In 1977 he responded by founding the Kerala Association for Non-formal Education and Development (KANFED). KANFED was instrumental in starting the Kerala State Literacy Mission, which led Kerala to its universal literacy movement. Thus, Kerala became the first state which achieved universal literacy.

Panicker took a keen interest in promoting Agricultural Books Corners, The Friendship Village Movement (Sauhrudagramam), Reading Programmes for Families, Grants for Books and building libraries and Best Reader’s Award P.N. Panicker Foundation.


Panicker died on 19 June 1995, at age 86. The Government of Kerala acknowledged his contributions and ordered that 19 June be observed, annually, as Vaayanadinam (READING DAY ) with a week-long series of activities at schools and public institutions to honor his contributions to the cause of literacy, education and library movement.

The Department of Posts honored Panicker by issuing a commemorative postage stamp on 21 June 2004.

His birth centenary was celebrated under the auspices of the P. N. Panicker Foundation in 2010.

Bom on 1 st March, 1909 in Kuttanad, in the erstwhile Travancore state, the young Panicker showed a keen interest in reading newspapers and books. Not only did he read them himself, he also read the daily news to groups of illiterate people of all ages. In a small room given by the local cooperative society in his village, Panicker started a reading center called Sanadanadharmam Library. This was the little pebble which was to have a major ripple effect. An admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, Panicker was inspired by the Mahatma’s words that “illiteracy is a curse and shame of the country and it should be wiped out as early as possible”.

Social historians ofthe state are of the opinion that the cultural revolution following the social emancipation movements initiated by Sree Narayana Guru, Ayyankali, V T. Bhattathiripad and others was the outcome of Panicker’s library movement. He walked through the state contacting men and women everywhere, generating awareness. The idea, inspiration and leadership for making Kerala the first totally literate state of the country came from Panicker and his KANFED. The state-wide popular movement called Sakshara Keralam through a time-bound intensive campaign involving thousands of voluntary workers achieved success on 18th April, 1991.

Disturbed by the fissiparous tendencies that he saw growing in the country, Panicker also worked to foster social amity and harmony. For this he devoted his last years to the Friendship Village Movement (Sauhrudagramam). He continued travelling and working vigorously, sustained by his simple Gandhian lifestyle and an indomitable will till he passed away on 19th June 1955.

The Government of Kerala observes 19th June annually as Vayanandinam (Day of Reading) with a week-long series of activities at schools and public institutions to honour the contribution of P.N. Panicker to the cause of literacy and education. The National Literacy Mission has been inspired largely by the work of this frail man who converted a simple slogan of “Read and Grow” into a powerful movement.

The Department of Posts honours Shri P .N. Panicker through issue of this commemorative postage stamp.

P.N. Panicker’s life gave credence to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s observation that “an institution is the lengthened shadow of one man”. A frail khadi-clad old man, he left a shadow that has grown over the years making him a legend in his own lifetime and thereafter. The activities of the Kerala Grandhasala Sanghom (Kerala State Library Council) ignited a popular cultural movement in Kerala at the end of which the state acquired total literacy in the 1990s. It was the work of P.N. Panicker who carried the message of education and development even to the remotest corners and neglected tribal pockets of Kerala.

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