Kumaran Asan is one among the famous triumvirate poets of Kerala who lived in the first half of the twentieth century. He was a beacon-light to the downtrodden and depressed classes of Travancore State. Besides being a poet, he was a philosopher and a great social activist.
Kumaran Asan was born in a backward
Ezhava family in 1873 in Kayikkara village, a little north of Thiruvananthapuram. His father was well versed in both Malayalam and Tamil and Kumaran Asan inherited his taste for Kathakali and classical music from his father. Even though he got a job as a primary school teacher at the young age of 14, he left it in order to pursue higher studies in Sanskrit. He worked as an apprentice in a local Muruga temple at Vakkom, in order to learn yoga and tantra. It is believed that the Muse of poetry blessed him during this devotional span of life and he began to compose a few devotional songs for use of the regular worshippers at this temple.
When he was eighteen, Sree Narayana Guru visited his house on the request of his father, and suggested that Kumaran should stay with him and become his disciple. Later Kumaran was influenced by the lofty ideals of
Rabindranath Tagore. The poet in Kumaran emerged during this period and he began to compose poems in Sanskrit and Malayalam.
Early works of the poet include Subramanya Sathakam and Sankara Sathakam. His short poem Veena Poovu (Fallen Flower) is a literary classic. His elegy Prarodanam, mourning the death of his contemporary poet and friend A.R. Rajaraja Varma, the famous grammarian, is a masterpiece. Poems such as Nalini, Leela, Karuna and Chandala Bhikshuki, are also great hits. In Chintavishtayaya Seetha (Mournfully Thoughtful Seetha), he displays his poetic artistry.
The crowning achievement of Kumaran Asan, Buddha Charitha in 5 volumes, earned for him the title 'Mahakavi' (Great Poet) and he is ranked equally with his illustrious contemporaries, Vallathol and Ulloor. He lived only for fifty years, as his life was tragically cut short by a boat accident in January 1924.