Aksharaslokam session in Thiruvananthapuram   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Slokasangham promotes Aksharaslokam through WhatsApp

The group has members from across the State and outside who are from different walks of life


It’s 5.40 am. K Velappan Pillai from the city posts a Malayalam quatrain as a voice note on WhatsApp. Within eight minutes, VKV Menon from Palakkad posts another four lines as an audio clip, taking the first word from the third line of the previous verse. Next online is VK Sasidharan from Thrissur. This continues throughout the day till 10 pm, taking the total count to 119 slokas (verses). This is a typical day for members of Slokasangham, a WhatsApp group for Aksharaslokam.

For those in love with the rhyme, rhythm and metre of verses in the language, this is the equivalent of reading or hearing their favourite verses or learning some new ones every day. As the group, formed in 2014, holds its first offline session this Saturday in the city, MetroPlus catches up with a few of its members. “There are 105 members in Slokasangham and it is the passion for the art form that keeps it going. It’s all about adapting a traditional art form to suit modern times,” says AU Sudheer Kumar from Kanjiramattom in Kottayam district, chief coordinator of the group.

Velappan Pillai, the group admin, adds: “We have doctors, engineers, scientists, former employees, poets and students who recite the verses almost daily. There are members from across Kerala and from places such as Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai, in addition to those from West Asia.”

Sudheer says the concept was launched by poet Ariyannur Unnikrishnan five years ago. “There were 40 of us in that group then. When there was discontinuity in keeping it active, we formed another group, which later evolved as Slokasangham. Now, there are a few WhatsApp groups dedicated to Aksharaslokam. However, what makes us stand out is that we haven’t had a break since it was formed, except for those days when we took a break as a mark of respect when some of our members passed away,” explains Sudheer, who takes Aksharaslokam classes via WhatsApp. “It is open to all those who are interested in learning this celebration of Malayalam verses,” he says.

While Aiswarya VM, a class nine student from North Paravur in Ernakulam is among the youngest in the group, the oldest member is 83-year-old VKV Menon. “I have been into Aksharaslokam since I retired from service 25 years ago. I learnt how to use WhatsApp to be part of the group, especially after I felt lonely when my wife passed away. This is an exercise that keeps me happy and mentally active as I keep on learning verses. Now, I write my own poems as well,” says Menon, who posts as many as 20 slokams a day sometimes. Aiswarya has been taking lessons in Aksharaslokam since she was in class two. Her elder sister, Sreelakshmi VM, is also part of Slokasangham along with 25 others from her Aksharaslokam class back home.

Most of the members have been actively into Aksharaslokam since their childhood. Dr Easwaran Nampoothiri K was the first winner of the Aksharaslokam competition when it was introduced in the State school youth festival in 1975-76. “This new concept on WhatsApp has its advantages. I can post as many slokas as possible whenever I can. I also learn new verses from other members,” says 57-year-old Dr Easwaran.

Hyderabad-settled, sixty-year-old Devi Prakash says being part of the group has been a dream come true for her. “Isn’t it better late than never? I haven’t got the opportunity to be part of any Aksharaslokam session on stage when I was young and so I didn’t have to think twice to be part of the WhatsApp group,” says Devi. Radha Devi, a scientist with ISRO, is another active member of Slokasangham from Hyderabad.

Each member can post any number of voice clips, but he or she has to wait for three members to post theirs or can recite the sloka after half-an-hour provided at least one member recites the verse.

To bring in some changes, they also recite slokas starting with a particular letter for a specific number of days. “One day, 201 slokas were recited in total when the rule was to recite verses with the word ‘slokam’ in it. At the session today, there will be a round in which we will recite quatrains that start with the words ‘51 aksharam’,” Velappan Pillai adds. There have also been sessions on Malayalam triumvirate poets, ancient and modern poets.

The event is at Vyloppilly Samskrithi Bhavan on February 15 from 3 pm to 4.30 pm.