The bungalow was built during 1886-87 by British industrialist T.J. Cameroon with permission from then Travancore Maharaja Sree Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma to start a paper mill at Punalur.
A colonial bungalow that “drowned” thirty years ago has surfaced from its watery grave in the reservoir of the Thenmala Dam in Kollam district.
The spot is about 3 km from the dam top and can be reached after a 45-minute trek through the forest. The resurfaced bungalow looks eerie from a distance. Yet, one is overwhelmed on entering it after squelching across knee-deep silt.
The water in the reservoir has receded to an unprecedented low in the wake of the drought in Kollam district.
Shortly before the structure was inundated in 1983 by the waters of the Kallada Irrigation Project (KIP), its teak doors, windows and rafters had been auctioned.
The bungalow was built in 1886-87 by the British industrialist T.J. Cameroon who was given permission by the then Travancore Maharaja Sree Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma (1885 to 1924) to start a paper mill at Punalur, using the abundantly growing reeds in the surrounding dense forest as raw material.
Commissioned in 1888, the paper mill was initially christened the Travancore Paper Mills. The name changed to Lakshmi Paper Mills, then to Meenakshi Paper Mills and finally Punalur Paper Mills in 1931 as managements changed. It boasted the India Security Press at Nasik among its clientele at that time.
The bungalow, with 15 rooms, had glass pane windows. Natives called it the “kannadi (glass) bungalow.” The majestic structure stood on the side of the erstwhile Shengottai-Thiruvananthapuram road. Shengottai, now in Tamil Nadu, was then part of the Travancore kingdom. The bungalow was the office complex of superintendents monitoring the reed harvest and its transportation in bullock carts to the paper mill, some 20 km away.
Following the declaration of the Wildlife Protection Act in 1972, the bungalow was taken over by the Forest Department and it later served as the survey office of the KIP when the dam was sanctioned. The dam was commissioned in 1984, but the bungalow had gone under water some time before that.
Senior citizens of the area who had seen the bungalow in its heydays say that the structure is still in immaculate condition. This they attribute to surkhi mortar with which it was built.
Fifty-year-old G. Thomaskutty, who resides near the dam, often passed the Kannadi bungalow as a teenager. The courtyard had plenty of guava and mango trees then, he recalls.
As the monsoon progresses, the Kannadi Bungalow will once more be inundated.