C. Raman Kartha is the keeper of the history of the Cheranallore Swaroopam. To him falls the title of ‘Cheranallore Kartha,’ the patriarch of the ancient Swaroopam. Raman Kartha, who will turn 90 this July, is the head of the family that once ruled large parts of Ernakulam.
His ancestor Kunju Kartha has become part of the legends of the State through his skill as a magician. Kunju Kartha’s exploits are featured in Aitihya mala, a compendium of myths and legends of Kerala. The Cheranallore Karthas are also key figures in the history of Kochi. Several landmarks in the northern part of the city were set up with the consent of the Karthas. “The famous church at Varapuzha was built on land granted by the Cheranallore Karthas,” says Raman Kartha. The Karthas also set up the Chittoor Sri Krishna Temple.
The North Railway Station stands over what used to be a guest house of the Karthas. “I used to live there when I was studying at St. Albert’s School in the 1930s. The house there was built for members of the family who came to Ernakulam for medical treatment or studies. The Railway Station came up later,” says the patriarch. The Town Hall stands on a former cattle grazing ground of the Karthas.
Raman Kartha has documented the history of his family in a handwritten manuscript.
“I have pieced it together from historic documents, books on local history and what my ancestors told me. It is not for publication. I wrote it so my children and grandchildren can know about their family’s history,” he says.
Even today, the Cheranallore Kartha’s signature is required in some land sale documents in the area to show that the family has no objection to transfer the ownership of land.