Kunchan Smarakam Fort, a place with a unique purpose!! Kerala

Kunchan Smarakam Fort, Kerala. www.keralatourism.org
In India, we  seldom run into a fort named after a poet. Most of the Indian forts bear the name of either the place or a prominent ruler in the ruling dynasty. Kunchan Smarakam Fort or Kerala Kunchan Smarakam (meaning memorial in Sanskrit) Fort, located 30 kms from Palakkad town  in Kerala bears the name of a famous Malayalam poet  Kunchan Nambiar as a token of honor for his poetical work and introduction of dance forms in conjunction with songs. In the present context, using fort is a misnomer. Actually it is a memorial built as a tribute to his contribution in Malayalam poetry and art forms, The fort is a popular one which is converted into an institution for young  people, imparting training in various art forms of Kerala. This way the arts forms, native to Kerala, will never get lost in this modern world as they are passed on to the next generation.  A well furnished  library and an auditorium are also  part of the Smarakam.

 Kunjan Nambiar was,  no doubt. a  poet of great repute and versatility, an excellent  story teller of Kerala. His guru was  a famous  story teller Pothiyil Rama chakyar. Pothiyil  was an expert in the art form called Chakyar Koothu in Kerala.This koothu- entertainment is quite popular across Kerala, involving  story telling on the stage before the audience, profusely using  Sanskrit slokas. They were also allowed to tease the audience and even the king. The satirical contents make such koothus interesting to watch. A fair knowledge of Sanskrit and good pronunciation of Sanskrit words is an added advantage.
Kunchan Nambiar.famous Malayalam poet and artist. keralabookstore.com
In many Indian states, native arts forms that have survived for centuries,  are not given due importance and the artists who teach them also dwindle because of poor encouragement by the government and lack of patronage.  The satirical art forms include 'Parayanthullal'. The special training lasts for  three full years and the budding artists are taught  proper fundamental training in Ottanthullal, Seethamkan Thullal and Parayan Thullal. The festivals are  occasions for the artists to exhibit their talents gained in the institution. The festival held here include  Thullal, Navaratri  and also  the birthday of the poet - fifth day of May. Lots of people attend such festivals held on a grand scale  on the fort premises. The artists involve themselves with utter devotion and dedication, befitting the worthy name of Kunchan Nambiar who was credited with inventing the popular dance form of Kerala - Ottamthullal. as a category of poetry. The word 'Smarakam' has been derived from Sanskrit which means 'memorial.'

Parayum Thullal, www.flickr.com
Seethankan Thullal - A semi-classical dance form of Keralaratheeshsundaram.blogspot.com 
Born in a place called Killikurissi Mangalam. Kunchan Nambiar had spent his formative years at Kudamaloor and later in  Ambalappuzha. When he grew up he served in the courts of Martanda Varma in 1748 and later under Karthka Thirunal Rama Varma. That Kunchan Nambiar and Sanskrit poet Rama Panivada were same is a debatable one. It all started for him when he made a glaring mistake while playing drum for a Chaakiaar  in a temple festival. When publicly  reprimanded by  Chaakiaar, he left the venue as a dejected man. Following day, when the same Chaakiaar was busy performing, all of a sudden Nambiar began to sing and dance that made the performance more interesting and exciting. Obviously  more spectators began to gather around him to enjoy his facial expressions and antics without losing the rhythm, leaving  chaakiaar, as his performance was  neither captivating and imaginative nor was it improvised. Later Kunchan Nambiar introduced various art forms and gave shape to them according to the songs. He was a giant in the area of Malayalam literature and poetry. The fort which is dedicated to Nambiar, positively keeps the culture, tradition and art forms of Kerala  on a strong pedestal. The institution on the fort precincts is one of a kind in India. Hat off to the Kerala Government and their sincere dedication to preserve our age-old arts and culture.