The Karamana is an intrinsic part of Thiruvananthapuram and her people. However, pollution and sand-mining threaten the very life of the river that has sustained and continues to nurture the lives of people living on her bank

Scene of action

Karamana river, even though not very wide, seems to have given the rulers of erstwhile Travancore a thin edge in facing attacks from the south. The battle between Umayamma Rani and Veera Kerala Varma took place at Karamana. The river side was also one of the venues of the uprising against the oppressive rule of the Travancore Diwan and his coterie, two centuries ago. Velu Thampi who led the uprising and marched from Neyyattinkara to Thiruvananthapuram was received on the bank of the river by the people of the city.

Luminaries

Actor Karamana Janardanan Nair is a well-known personality from this area. Diwan Veeraraghavapuram Nagamaiyya, who was the first Bachelor of Arts graduate from the erstwhile State of Travancore and author of the Travancore State Manual (1904), lived in Karamana and has a street named after him. His house is still intact.

Diwan Sankara Subba Iyer was another resident who has a school named after him. M. Sambasivan, tantri and former neurosurgeon, and Y. Kalyanasundaram, popular professor of Mathematics, are some of the luminaries who hail from Karamana. Sooranadu Kunjan Pillai (lexicographer and Malayalam scholar) and Malayattoor Ramakrishnan (novelist) lived in Karamana. Famous astro-physicist Thanu Padmanabhan was a student of the Karamana Government High School. Both Chidamabara Vadhyar, who compiled most of the Swati Tirunal kritis in 1917, and Sanskrit Professor S. Venkita Subramanya Iyer who did monumental research on Swati Tirunal, hail from Karamana.

Melting pot

The ethnic diversity in Karamana region in the city is quite impressive. In addition to Brahmins in the village proper, members of the Viswakarma community and also Shaiva Vellala community who hail from Tamil Nadu are seen in good numbers around the bridge area. The Viswakarma families settled behind the Poojappura Jail are the artisans who produce the famous ‘Onavillu’. Muslim community is also a strong presence here with the Karamana mosque becoming a major landmark. The Telugu Chetti Theruvu in Kunjalummoodu is mainly inhabited by Telugu-speaking community who are the source of Bommakolu idols used in Navaratri celebrations. There is also a Naicker street in Kunjalummoodu.

The dying river?

The present plight of the Karamana river in the city region is painful to record. GREENS, a nature lovers’ club comprising staff members of Secretariat, has done a prominent study of the river. The study report highlights that indicators like pH, electric conductivity, total dissolved solids, total hardness and so on are within permissible limits. However, the presence of faecal coliform bacterial count in the foot of the river is 16,00,000 against the permissible limit of 100 MPN/100ml! At points upstream, like the Karamana bridge and at Kundamankadavu, the values are alarming at 1,10,000 and 50,000 respectively. Even at the head of the river, Chemunjimotta, the count is 1,100 even though the water is crystal clear on every other parameter. Also, these values relate to a period immediately after a summer rain. It is very obvious that the river has got polluted far beyond its limit to heal itself. Sand-mining is extant mainly in the region upstream of Kundamankadavu. There has been recent media reports about unauthorised sand mining in Thrikkannapuram too.

(Continuing the weekly series on the Karamana river, written by Dr. Achuthsankar S. Nair, head of the Department of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, University of Kerala. He is a music and history buff. Contact the author at sankar.achuth@gmail.com)