Sitting atop a hill overlooking the beach line near East Hill is a 200-year-old bungalow, which has been witness to quite a few historical happenings — from the writing of the Malabar manual to the killing of the British Collector R. Canolly.
The building, which housed the Collectorate and jails during the British era has been home to the Pazhassi Raja Archaeological Museum since 1976. No one at the Kerala State Archaeology Department that manages the museum seems to be aware of the building’s double-century mark.
A visitor can doubt it for an abandoned structure, considering the thick shrubs that cover the landscape at the entrance. The gardener, who is part of the staff of eight, is now working in a museum in Ernakulam as part of a ‘work arrangement’ of the government. So, for the past one year, there has been no. But his salary is being drawn from here. Since the post is not technically vacant, a replacement is also not possible, says one of the workers here.
The museum has a vast collection of rare artefacts from as far as back a 1000 B.C. Rare terracotta sculptures from the Indus valley; hero stones, and burial jars from 200 B.C. are part of the collection. But the lack of modernisation is visible in the way these are displayed. There is no temperature-control system or proper glass cases to preserve some of the artefacts that can get damaged in a hot and humid environment. The rather plain lighting — using compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) — gives an ordinary drawing-room feel to the halls.
In 2010, renovation work was carried out at the building at a cost of Rs.76 lakh. A proposal of Rs.7 crore was submitted at the same time to the Department of Cultural Affairs to upgrade the exhibition facilities and to beautify the compound. However, this is yet to be approved.
“We submitted two proposals, one to the Department of Culture for the Pazhassi Raja museum and the other, to the Museum Department for the adjacent Krishna Menon museum. The funds have not been sanctioned yet. But there are chances that a decision will be taken at a meeting of the departments to be held on Friday,” says A. Pradeep Kumar, MLA.
He says that the 200th anniversary of the building will be celebrated if these funds are allocated on time. The Pazhassi museum has, on an average, more than 100 visitors a day, with school students making up the majority of these numbers. It is also a control centre for various other museums and monuments in North Kerala. But the museum is yet to be marketed aggressively as a tourist haunt.
“This museum is the administrative centre of the Iringal craft village, five forts in Kasargod district, and two temples. A cave in Maniyur and the Vasco Da Gama memorial in Kappad are also under our control. We are in the process of taking over two more forts in the district,” says Sreenath, display technician at the museum.
However, barring the Chandragiri fort in Kasargode, which has a watchman, none of the other four forts under the museum’s control has any staff to take care of it. This has led to encroachments and quarrying in the hilly regions, where most of these forts are located.