Vaikom Mohammed Basheer’s ‘Mathilukal’ is one of the few novels where the reader wishes till the end that the protagonist doesn’t get out of prison. But as fate would have it, he is released on the day before he is to meet Narayani, an inmate of the women’s cell whom he and the reader are familiar only through her voice.

So, if you want to read that fateful order which signalled his release from prison and broke the heart of the readers, head to Kanakakkunnu Palace, where a three-day exhibition organised by the State Archaeology Department and the Archives Department is on. The exhibition is being organised on the sidelines of a national seminar on ‘Revisiting Dravidian Culture, with special reference to Archaeology of South India’.

An interesting historical document on view is a directive from the ruler of Travancore Sri Parvathi Bai Maharani in 1817, permitting the use of tiled roofs for houses and shops. The reason cited is the increasing incidence of fires due to the thatched roofs in many places.

Against Nehru’s arrest

Another document is about a landmark protest meet at Alumkadavu Maidanam in Ernakulam on June 24, 1946, in protest against Jawaharlal Nehru’s arrest. “We are not afraid of bayonets or lathis and would go ahead to even demolish the police station,” thundered C. Achutha Menon while addressing the meeting. A detailed account of this meeting is part of a letter sent by Rama Varma Thampuran, the then Chief Secretary to the Maharaja of Cochin.

Also on display are documents showing treaties between Travancore State and the Dutch company, another one about King Marthanda Varma dedicating the State of Travancore to Sri Padmanabha Swamy and an order to set up the first Government Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. Another one shows an ‘intelligence report’ on a meeting addressed by Sree Narayana Guru.

A few of the documents are originals, but a majority of them are copies.

The exhibition also has a wide array of kitchen utensils, brass and wooden vessels, and statues from yesteryear on display. A collection of ‘bullets’ used in old cannons is another item of interest. A collection of photos shows the work that went behind recent excavations, most notably the Laterite Tunnel Excavation in Thalassery and the Urn Burial Excavation in Chennithala, both of which were carried out last year.