Alappuzha: It was a boat tragedy that marked the end of an era in Malayalam literature. The great poet Kumaranasan was one of the 24 people who lost their lives when the boat they were travelling in capsized while negotiating a sharp curve at Pallana River in Kumarakodi in the district on January 16, 1924. Now the remains of the ill-fated boat ‘Redeemer’ will soon be displayed in a small building near the ‘Asan Smarakam’ at Kumarakodi at a time when the state commemorates the 100th death anniversary of the legendary poet, the only one to be conferred with the ‘Mahakavi’ status without writing any poem of the long format.
“We’ve got the collection of the pieces of the Redeemer Boat. We’re planning to set up a display complex on the southern side of the Asan Memorial where the boat remains along with the duplicates of certain artifacts belonging to the great poet, now displayed at the Asan Memorial, Thonnakkal,” Kumaranasan Smaraka Samithi Chairman Ramapuram Chandrababu told Onmanorama. The Smrithi Mandapam, where the mortal remains of the Mahakavi were cremated, is located inside the premises of the KAM UP School (Kumaran Asan Memorial Upper Primary School) along the banks of the Pallana River.
“The school management has given in writing its consent to use the land to set up the new building and showcase the rare artifacts to revive the memories of the poet and social reformer who died in the boat tragedy at the age of 50. We’ve also submitted the proposal for the approval of the State Government and the authorities have promised to give the nod soon,” he said. The boat was the subject of a long judicial probe which found that it was overcrowded with more passengers occupying the upper deck.
“The boat was supposed to be carrying nearly 145 passengers. At that time the Pallana River had much depth and it capsized at the sharp curve near Kumarakodi. The body of Asan was recovered after two days. Then it was the main trade route between Vaikom and Kayamkulam,” said Kumaranasan Smaraka Samithi Programme Committee Chairman Adv T C Thaha. Besides, a series of initiatives, including laying a new road to the Asan Memorial, are being taken to turn the Asan Memorial into a popular destination for visitors and literary enthusiasts.
“The only way now to reach the memorial, located on the river banks, is via the school gate. Visitors are not allowed to take their vehicles to the memorial during school working hours. Now we’ve received the sanction to lay a new road, which passes via the boat jetty, to the memorial. Once completed, visitors can drive straight to the memorial and the open library situated nearby,” Ramapuram Chandrababu said. The State Government recently allocated Rs three lakh for the renovation of the Asan Memorial, which itself is constructed in the shape of a boat.
“The work will start in three weeks. We’ve also submitted a proposal before the Government seeking sanction to acquire land on the other side of the river where we propose to set up a sculpture complex as well,” Chandrababu added. The memorial, located along the scenic backwaters of Kumarakodi, serves as a cultural hub, hosting various events and literature-related activities. It is also a cultural landmark that inspires researchers, students, and the general public to learn about the life and works of Kumaran Asan.
“This place offers a real inspiration for literary lovers like me. They have marvelously sculpted characters out of his works ‘Chandalabhikshuki’, which highlights the travails faced by those belonging to the lower castes at that time; ‘Karuna’ -- the story of ‘Vasavadatta’, a devadasi; Duravastha – a love story depicting the relationship between Savithri, hailing from upper caste and Chatan, a youth from a lower caste, and the like. My humble suggestion is to give the narratives and highlights below it so that it inspires the younger lot to write,” said Sugathan P R (79), a retired Navy officer, who now devotes his time to penning English poems and stories.