N. Kumaran Ashan (12 April 1873 – 16 January 1924), also known as Mahakavi Kumaran Ashan (the prefix Mahakavi, awarded by Madras University in 1922, means “great poet” and the suffix Ashan means “scholar” or “teacher”), was one of the triumvirate poets of Kerala, South India. He was also a philosopher, a social reformer and a disciple of Sree Narayana Guru.
Kumaran Ashan initiated a revolution in Malayalam poetry in the first quarter of the 20th century, transforming it from the metaphysical to the lyrical. Deep moral and spiritual commitment is evident in Ashan’s poetry. His works are an eloquent testimony of poetic concentration and dramatic contextualisation.
Some of the earlier works of the poet were Subramanya Sathakam and Sankara Sathakam, wherein Asan voiced his devotional aspirations. His short poem Veena Poovu (fallen flower) is a literary classic. It paved the way for a new movement in Malayalam literature.
He died aged 51 as a result of a boat accident in January 1924 while travelling to Kollam from a function in Alappuzha. The boat capsized at Pallana and all on board drowned, except Ouseph Kurian Mappila Thannikuzhiyil Kanjirathanam . Kumaranasan was the only poet in Malayalam who became mahakavi without writing a mahakavyam.
The Kumaran Asan National Institute of Culture at Thonnakkal was founded in 1958 in his memory, and includes a small house which he had built on his land.