Life & Style

The library at Kanayannur

An elephant parked outside a toddy shop, ostensibly waiting for its mahout is etched on a wall of the Kanayannur Grameena Vayanasala (library).

The artwork, which begins at the other end of the wall, tells the history of Kanayannur weaving together distant and recent pasts. The agrarian beginnings, rulers and their palace, temples and churches, trade and commerce... all find a place on that wall. This grafitti is significant as this year the library turns 75, and is a memento for the milestone.

Sandwiched between Chottanikara and Mulanthuruthy, Kanayannur is a ‘village’ slowly but surely staking its claim to a semi-urban identity.

When the Cochin Maharajas ruled, it was an important hub. ‘Kanayannur Kovilakam’, their summer palace, was a kilometre and a half away; it since fell to disrepair and no longer exists.

This is the proverbial sleepy village, with lush greenery, few people and few signs of urbanity. History is everywhere, intertwined with myth and legend in the stories told here.

“We are proud of our history, we want to reclaim it and celebrate it,” says Sudhish Radhakrishnan, who is on the organising committee of the celebrations. “Chronicling local history is very important. Each place would have one, usually seldom recorded and lost to posterity. We want to record it, chronicling it is the first step,” he adds.

After some brainstorming three local artists — Seema Panchavarnam, Aneesh Krishnan and Dinil Raj — brought history to life on the 300 sq. ft library wall. “It took us four days; we first drew with pencil, and filled in the colours, with paints.”

The library at Kanayannur

The episodes were selected in a way that the people of Kanayannur could relate to them, “these are part of our everyday, the temple, the church, the road...” says Aneesh, who is also the secretary of the library. This is home and his memories of the library are of it being there as a small building. The new, double storey building was inaugurated in 1999.

Founded in 1944, then a small, tile-roofed building, it is the vortex of cultural activities. The building is now two-storied, houses more than 16,000 titles and almost everybody who can read in Kanayannur is a member. The subscription rates were hiked earlier this year, from ₹5 to ₹10 monthly. The rent from a couple of shops that have been rented out, in front of the building, and funds from the Library Council ensure the library’s functioning. It stands on around five cents of land donated, in 1944, by the Pallipurathu Mana Vasudevan Namboothiripad; the Pallipurathu Mana has close links with the Chottanikara temple and the Cochin Royal Family. “My father donated the land, I have heard, when those involved with the library set it up,” says his son Unni. Vasudevan Namboothripad is remembered as being progressive, who thought ahead of his times and hence the donation.

The library at Kanayannur

The why and who of how it came to be is sketchy, “since it is a library it would have to have been the progressive thinkers of the time. Must have been founded as an extension of the social and cultural lives of the people at the time,” says Sudhish. A peepal tree, along the main road that leads to Piravom, constituted the meeting point for people before the library. The arrival of the library would have moved the location of interaction, Sudhish suggests.

“This library has been buzzing, ever since I remember. All of us have a connect with it, in some way or the other,” Aneesh adds. “We have been at the forefront of cultural activities – a film club, a music club, book discussions, activities for children, and for elders (drawing classes, PSC coaching, an e-learning center, a youth club, and for women). We want to make the celebrations a festival for the people.”

Sudhish adds, “The celebration is not merely limited to the library. We want to involve everybody and make it a festival . There is no point in merely talking of Kerala navodhanam (renaissance), we thought why not put it to practise. We are harnessing the goodness in people.”

A new chapter

The celebrations are scheduled from November 27 to December 1.

The graffiti does not end with the library wall. The artists have been offered compound walls, and even a house, so that they can paint images from classics of literature.

There will be kathak, dance drama (interpretation of Edassery’s Poothapattu), music symphony, and instrumental fusion performances too.

Work has started on a documentary, which focusses on aspects of the library. The plan includes speaking to 60 people from the village to chronicle what the library means to them.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 6:14:21 AM |

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