Staff Reporter

Trees have grown on the wall of Padmanabhapuram fort

NAGERCOIL: The Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage here has urged the Government to declare all forts in Kanyakumari district a national heritage and hand them over to the Archaeological Survey of India for maintenance.

Speaking to The Hindu, trust convener R.S. Lal Mohan said the district boasted of such forts as Vattakottai, Udayagiri, Marunthukottai, Maiyyakottai and Padmanabhapuram. While the Vattakottai was under the control of the ASI and the Udayagiri fort under the ASI (State), the Padmanabhapuram fort was under the control of the Public Works Department. Marunthukottai and Maiyyakottai were not covered by any government agencies. These forts were covered with shrubs and bushes. Uthachikottai near Munchirai, believed to be built in the 16th century by the parents of Thirumalai Nayyakkar, had disappeared, he said.

The Padmanabhapuram fort, dating back to 15century, was neglected. Even before 1,600 AD, the fort was in existence, during the reign of Veera Ravi Varma Kulasekara Perumal (1592-1609 AD). Later, it was made into a granite structure furnished with bastions and gun points by Maharaja Marthanda Varma (1729-1758 AD), the architect of modern Travancore.

The fort and the palace (the erstwhile capital of Travancore) remained the centre of governance till the reign of Karthikai Thirunal Ramavarma (1758-1798). Later, the headquarters of Travancore was shifted to Kaudiyar in Thiruvananthapuram.

Mr. Lal Mohan said the Padmanabhapuram fort was unique in that it had large granite stones, which were said to have been placed with the help of elephants on one side and Valia Ejaman, a strong man and the army chief, on the other. No mortar or lime was used to cement the stones. The height of the fort varied from 15 to 25 feet. It was on 186 acres, surrounded by fertile paddy fields, coconut groves and a village where the employees of the palace once resided. The thickness of the fort wall was three feet. The fort could not be destroyed even when the British invaded Travancore through the Aralvoimozhi pass at the time of Velu Thampi Thalavai (1765-1809 AD).

Though the fort was one of the biggest in the region, the Government had not declared it a protected monument under the Tamil Nadu Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites Act, 1966, or the Archaeological Protection Act, he said. No funds had been allotted for maintenance. As a result, shrubs and bushes had grown in the crevices.

Even trees had grown on the wall. Furthermore, signboards and advertisements had been put up on the wall. Many houses were allowed to be built near the wall. Hence, Mr. Lal Mohan said, the district administration should take action to remove the trees and the advertisements and ban construction of buildings within a 50-meter radius.