A palace in Tiruvannamalai district, crying out for attention

The Poosi Forest Palace in Arni, is over 170 years old and an attraction for heritage enthusiasts, but is lately in bad shape and has become a meeting ground for anti-social elements, local residents say

December 13, 2020 05:14 pm | Updated 05:20 pm IST - TIRUVANNAMALAI

With the structure about to crumble, villagers and heritage enthusiasts want the government to maintain it, and Mohan Hariharan, an architect and a native of Arni, has started the ‘Save Arni Palace’ campaign

With the structure about to crumble, villagers and heritage enthusiasts want the government to maintain it, and Mohan Hariharan, an architect and a native of Arni, has started the ‘Save Arni Palace’ campaign

A winding lane, from Arni Road through a forest, leads to Poosimalai Kuppam, a village in Arni, which houses a dilapidated old British-style building -- the Poosi Forest Palace.

Located close to 35 km from Vellore, this structure, which is over 170 years old, is an attraction for many architects and heritage enthusiasts. However, the building is crying out for attention and has now become a haven for anti-social elements.

With a structure about to crumble, villagers and heritage enthusiasts want the government to maintain it. Mohan Hariharan, an architect and a native of Arni, has started a ‘Save Arni Palace’ campaign.

“This palace was built after 1850 by the 10th Arni Jagir, Srinivasa Rao Sahib. The architect was William Pogson, a Britisher who has constructed many famous buildings in the Madras Presidency including the Spencer’s showroom,” explains Mr. Hariharan. He said that Mr. Pogson had termed this palace the shooting box, as it is believed that the British friends of the Jagir used to stay here and hunt foxes and hogs. “There is a rumour that it is a French Castle that the then Jagir built for his French mistress. This is wrong,” he adds.

The palace has two bedrooms on the ground floor and two on the first floor with attached bathrooms. “This is probably one of the few palaces in the region with chimneys for a fireplace. Though it was not required in a place with a hot and humid climate, the Jagir was adamant about having British-style construction,” he says.

Mr. Hariharan said that another unique feature of the palace is that the ceiling is a form of Madras Terrace, but made with steel joists and brick jelly -- lime concrete. “It also has a structural steel pillar brought from Britain, which is also used for rain water disposal. Mr. Pogson seems to have incorporated South Indian style construction too, in the building as seen in certain parts of the palace.”

To save this palace from complete ruination, Mr. Hariharan started the campaign a few years ago. “I grew up in this place and have come for excursions to this palace during my school days. There used to be stained glass windows which earned the palace the name ‘Kannadi Maligai’,” he explains.

Mr. Hariharan has been bringing many heritage enthusiasts to this palace over the past many years. “There are two other buildings near the palace. One seems to be the kitchen and servant quarters and another circular structure, with many pots, seems to be for pigeons. They would have been used for hunting or for sending messages,” Mr. Hariharan said.

Residents want the palace saved

“This palace has become a hangout for anti-social elements. People drink here and create a ruckus. When we ask, they verbally abuse us,” said a resident of the Poomalai Kuppam village.

Krishnaveni Thangaraj, panchayat president, Poosimalaikuppam village, said that it would be helpful if the government makes it into a tourist attraction. “A lot of people come here. It is an ideal tourist spot as the palace is surrounded by forest,” she said.

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