The Archaeological Survey of India has taken up preliminary work to restore an intact 17th century palace in south Tamil Nadu, the Thirumalai Naicker Palace, in this temple town. The ASI has also recommended that the palace be included in the tentative list of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.

The Srivilliputhur palace was declared a protected monument in 1921, but since the local district courts were functioning in the palace, it could not be reclaimed till the courts vacated the premises. The palace is spread over 15,000 sq.ft. and has two halls — the bigger one about 3,600 sq. ft and a smaller one of approximately 2,100 sq.ft and a few smaller rooms.

The ASI is investigating literature from 1623 to find any reference to the palace. A seal of the Queen on the ceiling of the main hall names the place as “Thirumal Naik’s Hall, Srivilliputhur Taluk Cutchery. Decorated in the jubilee year 1887 – of Her Most Gracious Majesty, Victoria, The Empress of India.” A second English writing, of a much later era, commemorates the death of eight persons from the village in World War 1: “From this village 52 men went to the Great War 1914-1919. Of those 8 gave up their lives.”

The local courts vacated in 2008 after the government constructed new buildings to house the courts. In fact, both the palaces of Thirumalai Naicker, in Madurai and Srivilliputhur, housed courts prior to Independence.

ASI personnel working to remove the lime coat on the walls in the halls have come across wall paintings underneath. “There is a reference in 1882 which says that the courts were functioning here for the last few years. We believe that the possible time of courts occupying the structure was around 1870,” says Sathyabhama Badhreenath, Superintending Archaeologist, Chennai Circle. “Though there are many references to the court in historical literature, we are yet to find any reference to the palace,” she said.

School Education Minister Thangam Thennarasu, who also is in charge of the State Archaeology Department (SAD), has assured the ASI of support of the State government. He said that the palace was important in Tamil history and suggested that it be converted into a museum after renovation. There was a reference to Pulithevan being summoned by Robert Clive and it was possible that the meeting happened at the palace, he said. He has directed the SAD to examine literature of that period to correlate if this was a fact.