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First In India: Kozhikode wins “UNESCO City of Literature”

Today, Kozhikode stands proudly as India’s first UNESCO City of Literature, a title that highlights its deep-rooted literary heritage and cultural spirit. This historic announcement was made at the Kandamkulam Muhammad Abdu Rahiman Memorial Jubilee Hall in Tali on October 31, 2023, marking a significant milestone for the city.

Over the next four years, Kozhikode will host many literary and cultural events at famous places like Mananchira, Tali, and Kuttichira. These initiatives aim to turn these venues into the centers of literary excellence, encouraging an atmosphere best suitable for creative exchanges and cultural conversations.

Even before receiving the prestigious UNESCO honor, Kozhikode celebrated its rich literary history by unveiling the sculptures of notable figures like playwright KT Muhammad and the famous goat from Vaikom Muhammad Basheer’s beloved story “Pathummayude Aadu.”

The journey towards UNESCO recognition began in 2022, inspired by successful cities like Prague— Kozhikode carefully prepared its bid for the UNESCO City of Literature title. Working with experts from the University of Prague, the city highlighted its strong literary environment, featuring over 500 libraries, many publishers, and a lively schedule of literary events.

Researcher Ludmila Kolouchova’s comparative studies confirmed Kozhikode’s cultural richness and readiness for global recognition. The hosting of the Kerala Literature Festival and various book fairs showcased the ability of Kozhikode to organize large events and its dedication to maintaining diversity in literary activities.

Looking ahead, Kozhikode plans to use its UNESCO status to boost global cultural exchange and attract literary enthusiasts from around the world. As part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, Kozhikode will join the annual conference in Braga, Portugal, which will focus on empowering youth in cultural activities.

Mayor M. Beena Philip expressed great pride in Kozhikode’s achievement, announcing plans to celebrate June 23 as ‘City of Literature Day’ with yearly awards honoring contributions in various literary fields. The Anakkulam Cultural Centre has been named the ‘City of Literature Centre,’ showing Kozhikode’s dedication to supporting talent and safeguarding its cultural heritage.

In a special honor, writer M.T. Vasudevan Nair received the Kozhikode Corporation’s diamond jubilee award, showing the city’s profound respect for its literary heroes. Poet P.K. Gopi and MLA Thottathil Raveendran joined in marking this historic event, highlighting Kozhikode’s role as a place that encourages creativity and leads to cultural growth benefiting everyone, regardless of background or identity.

By earning the UNESCO City of Literature title, Kozhikode can build on its strong literary heritage, vibrant culture, and global reputation. It serves as a role model for cities that are looking to incorporate creativity into their urban development while preserving their unique cultural identities.

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