Mahakavi Kumaranasan - Poetic incarnation of a Revolution
There were only three poets in Malayalam literature who could steal the show in the early part of the 20th century. Ullur, Vallathol and Kumaranasan. In popularity Kumaranasan topped among the above three. Maha means great and kavi means poet. For Kumaranasan (asan means teacher) this title was awarded by The Madras University on 1922.
Even the laymen used to sing his poems, because they could understand as well as get identified with these poems. Kumaranasan’s characterization seemed more real than real ones. At that time one who would tell another that these characters were mere figments of imagination, could most probably face public wrath. “If they are not real they should be” was the public opinion.
He was born in 1873 in a remote village by name Kayikkara in Chirayinkeezhu, north of Thiruvananthapuram to Sri Perukudi Narayanan and Smt Kaali. Kumaran could gain some preliminary knowledge in Sanskrit from his father. Kumaran was the second in the six children the couple had.
Kumaran was at that time known in the pet name “Kumaru”. After the completion of his early education he worked as a teacher first then as an accountant in a shop owned by one Kocharyan Vaidyan. The young Kumaran also had a short service in a nearby Muruga temple and it is said that he got his poetic talents as a blessing from God Muruga.
While working in the shop he got engaged in poetic creations and his works appeared in magazines like “Sujana nandini” and some other ones. These were the times when great social changes were taking place in Kerala and the movement led by Sri Narayanaguru was taking the Kerala social setup by storm.
Kumaran’s father approached Sri Narayanaguru and happened to discuss about the boy. At that time Kumaran was laid up by some illness, Sri Narayanaguru visited the boy and understanding his talents Sri Narayanaguru asked Kumaran to be his disciple. The boy was taken to
There he got specialization in “tharka shastra” (dabate science). Later Kumaranasan proceeded to Kolkatha and joined the Sanskrit college. There he could absorb the wind of social changes brewing there (
Kumaranasan returned to Kerala as an entirely changed man all his concepts regarding social hierarchies had undergone thorough change. Kumaranasan got settled in Aruvippuram Ashram and in 1903 when S.N.D.P (Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana) sangham was formed Kumaranasan was appointed as its secretary.
Along with his mindset his poetry was also undergoing radical changes and “veena poovu” (the fallen flower) was one of the most telling examples for this change that has taken place in the poet. There after his poems literally stirred the Kerala’s social scene by storm and all were immensely popular. People of Kerala devoured what Kumaranasan wrote.
In 1918 Kumaranasan married Bhanumathi and she mothered two male children for him. The couple got settled at Thonnakkal near Kollam. After marriage. Kumaranasan was successful in leading three lives simultaneously, as a family man, as a poet and as a social activist.
“dhuravastha” (tragic state of affairs) is one of his poem which pictures the conditions those existed in Kerala at that time. The people of most backward castes are described as “those cannot be touched, those cannot be approached, and those who should be avoided from being seen”. These were not just figurative expressions of a poet but the actual conditions prevailed at that time.
If those conditions have changed, major part of the credit goes to this poet who sowed the seeds of change in the minds of all Malayalis by the poetry that could pierce any stone walls or break any barrier however strong it be.
Kumaranasan’s death happened quite unexpectedly, On January 16th 1924 while he was traveling in a motor boat from to Kollam to Kottayam to attend a meeting to be held there the boat was sunk when it was afloat the Pallana river thus putting an abrupt end to a prolific life. Kumaranasan was fifty one at the time of death.
Some of his major works are as follows.
Veena poovu. 1907 (fallen flower)
Nalini.(allengil oru sneham). 1911
Chinthavishtayaya Seetha. 1919 (Sita immersed in thought)
Chandala bhikshuki. 1922. (beggar maid –low caste)
Dhuravastha 1922. (bad patch)
Karuna. 1923. (compassion)
Vanamala 1925. (wild flowers)