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Crumbling ramparts in Srirangam

M. Balaganessin
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Centuries old huge stone boulders in the ramparts have started crumbling

Srirangam is noted for the seven stately enclosures of ramparts (Saptha prakaram) surrounding the presiding deity Sri Ranganathaswamy.

The grandeur of these huge stone boulders brought from distant places during the 17th century has been losing its structural stability in the last one decade as they had been crumbling at various places periodically, causing anxiety to residents.

The problem is more pronounced on the Chithra, Uthira, and Adayavalanjan streets. Of the seven enclosures, the fifth, sixth, and seventh “parakaram” have been badly damaged over the centuries. Thick growth of pupil trees, neem trees, and other vegetation has been posing a challenge to the residents.

Drain

Every rampart separates two enclosures and the old norms on construction of houses in Srirangam had stipulated a vacant space of six feet at the backyard of the house so that the ramparts were a bit away from the backyard. The six-foot space was used as a drainage channel.

Although the six-foot space is in tact in several areas such as Uthira Street and Chithra streets, it is not to be seen in a majority of houses on Adayavalanjan streets. In fact, the kitchen of a few houses had tinned roof close to the ramparts.

Residents heaved a sigh of relief when Chief Minister Jayalalithaa announced that the ramparts would be renovated and an official team from Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment inspected the extent of damage caused to ramparts in April and June.

Some work had been initiated on the rampart separating the South Chithra Street and Manickam Street.

The huge boulders were dismantled and the new boulders are being placed. Local residents refer to the marathon effort involved in demolishing sand clearing the old boulders. “Although machinery is being used, the work involves back-breaking exercise,” says N. Duraisamy, a former employee of Education Department.

He says although the work was taken up a year ago, it started gaining momentum only recently. The piling of old boulders in the middle of the road caused great difficulty for the movement of pedestrians, leave alone the case of patients and aged persons, he says.

The problem on the West Uthira Street is different. A 10-foot tall pupil tree has grown on the ramparts behind the residence of L. Shyam Sundar Gupta. “Snake menace has been a problem because of the thick vegetation all around. Whenever the root spreads stronger, the boulders come crushing”, he says.

He has to spend Rs. 600 to Rs. 700 regularly to prune the tree.

As the drainage channel runs all through at the backyard of the houses, mosquito menace has been a problem. Senior residents of the area recall the proper maintenance of the drainage channels by the then Srirangam municipality.

“Decades ago, instances of house burglary were reported in Srirangam and we used to keep a vigil by walking on the drainage at the backyard below the ramparts. It is too difficult to go there now because of dumping of waste material, deposit of sand following crumbling of boulders coupled with mosquito menace,” says S. Thiyagarajan, a former employee of BHEL.

They suggest that the maintenance of ramparts should be taken up on a war-footing simultaneously all around the temple. The Tiruchirapalli City Corporation at the end of renovation of the ramparts should immediately ensure provision of drainage facility.

N. Rangarajan, another resident, says health hazard posed a serious threat to residents. The renovation should aim at a relief on temporary and permanent basis. To start with, the branches of trees together with the roots should be destroyed using chemicals so as to check damage to the walls.

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