Less-known facts are now emerging about a well-planned fort that was designed to be part of Farokhabad, the capital of Malabar at Feroke near Kozhikode, as envisioned by the Mysore king Tipu Sultan.
These are coming to light in the course of the excavations by the Kerala State Archaeological Department in the area. Historical documents such as William Logan’s Malabar Manual, the Joint Commissioner’s ‘Report on Malabar’, and Mohibbul Hassan’s A History of Tipu Sultan say that Tipu planned to build the fort on the south bank of the Chaliyar river between 1786 and 1790. But its construction could not be completed. A report by the department says that this was the only fort in Kerala built entirely by Tipu.
“The main structures found inside the fort earlier were a bungalow built by the Basel Mission, a laterite chamber, a helical step-well and a rock-cut cave of the early Iron Age. Through systematic exploration, we have now uncovered bastions, ramparts, moats, arsenal remains, and ditch wells,” K. Krishnaraj, field survey assistant who is heading the excavations, told The Hindu.
The fort was situated on a strategic location on a hillock with the Arabian Sea on one side and the Chaliyar river on the other to keep an eye on military movements from both sides. The defence wall on the western side was built on a laterite foundation. The bastions are a two-tier structure similar to the one at Tipu's fort in Palakkad. “There was no well on the northern side of the structure, indicating that it must have been the entrance to the fort,” Mr. Krishnaraj said.
The excavations have also led to the discovery of copper coins and coin pellet moulds, hinting at a possibility of minting on the premises, probably in the laterite chamber. Musket balls and gun flints are among the other relics excavated from the area, indicating the presence of an armoury. Shards of ceramic collections, such as Celadon ware, Chinese blue and white, Gray wares, and Staffordshire pottery too have been found.
The excavation work began in April this year and the third level of work will conclude on Friday. The department had conducted a preliminary study in October 2020 and a field survey in the area. Over 300 spots with the presence of archaeological elements were identified in the survey using ground penetrating radars. This followed a Kerala High Court directive to take steps to protect the fort and avoid further deterioration of the monument. The court had also dismissed a writ petition by the owners of the property adjacent to the monument who challenged the declaration of their property as a protected monument in 1991.
According to historical records, the structure fell into oblivion after the conquest of Malabar by the British and the Srirangapatna Treaty in 1792. The property was later owned by Hoffman, a general agent and then the Basel Mission. After the First World World broke out in 1914, the British confiscated the Mission’s properties and handed it over to the Commonwealth Trust. T.P. Mohammed bought it from the Trust, and from him the property reached its present owners.