05 October Thursday

Kannur, The Land of Libraries

P MohandasUpdated: Friday Apr 8, 2022

Azad Library, Thalassery

A culture of establishing and maintaining the reading rooms and libraries are one of the special features of Kannur.  Rise and growth of libraries and reading rooms had started in the early years of the twentieth century thanks to the interest shown by the reform, nationalist and communist movements. The first reading room and library (Victoria Memorial Library) in the district was started in 1901 by the British officials at Thalassery. After independence, it became Azad Library. When the struggle for independence was intensified and the workers and peasants joined in the movement in large numbers, the culture of setting up reading rooms and libraries also strengthened.

Thozhilali Vayanasala and library established in 1932 in Kannur was such a reading room where newspaper reading and in depth political discussions happened. It acted as the nerve centre of the industrial workers union in Kannur. Sree Harshan vayanasala started in 1935 at Kalliasseri was another prominent reading room started by the socialist group working within the Congress, in memory of the freedom fighter and a  labourer known as Harshan who died in Kannur  Central Jail.  K P R Gopalan, K A Keraleeyan, E K Nayanar, P Krishna Pillai and AK Gopalan and others had played a prominent role in strengthening this reading room. The Magazine (Manuscript) started by them attracted many.
The experience of Sree Harshan Vayanasala was emulated by many villages and between 1935 and 40 there emerged hundreds of reading rooms. In 1938 when EMS Namboodiripad became the secretary of KPCC (Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee), he issued a circular urging to start libraries in all parts of Malabar.

Even the historic meeting for the formation of the Kerala unit of the Communist Party took place in a Vayanasala established in memory of Swami Vivekananda, in Parapram near Thalassery. After the formation of the Party,  comrades Krishna Pillai and EMS went underground to organise the party units. EMS was staying in the house of a toddy tapper, Nallakkandi Pokkan, in Cherumavilayi near the birthplace of AKG. A reading room was started there under the instruction of Krishna Pillai and the newspapers including English ones they were subscribing to were taken secretly to the house of Pokkan by evening for EMS who was absconding secretly so that his hiding place is not found out by the police. This vayanasala is still active.

Kannur district has 1126 libraries including 114 started recently under the initiative of Dr. V Sivadasan, MP, as part of the `NETWORK  Peoples Mission for Social Development'. Some of the local libraries even have digital catalogues using the latest software.