KARNATAKA

Madikeri `palace' is in a shambles

The Madikeri Fort.

The Madikeri Fort.  

MADIKERI, JULY 6. The over 250-year-old Madikeri Fort, referred to as "palace", may cease to be a heritage site, if it is pillaged further. Built in 1735, the palace is the most ravaged spot as almost all government offices, including those of the Deputy Commissioner, exist in the complex.

The fort, a magnificent relic to showcase the glory of the past, is now in a shambles. It is said that the last major repair of the fort took place during the times of British when a steel roof was built at a cost of Rs. 80,000. Several spots of the fort roofs now leak when it rains. A portion of the wall near the Old Assembly Hall has come off.

After the British rule, the fort was the seat of power of the erstwhile Coorg Government, which had a Chief Minister. Portraits of late leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and others, and those of the members of the Coorg Legislative Council, still dot the walls of the Old Assembly Hall, along with the official emblem of the former Lingayat rulers of Kodagu.

The ground plan of the palace resembles an ancient Coorg House with a superstructure. Arches run along the bottom portion, with upper portions having a contiguous row of windows. The central window projects into a small balcony-like area supported from below by structures of two horses. There is a facade in front of this where Independence Day celebrations are held. No one cares for the history or elegance of the Fort. Many feel the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the custodian of the fort, is dilly-dallying on evicting the "encroachers". A composite court structure was built nside the monument in 1974. Leaking roofs of the court were repaired some time ago and mounds of debris were lying on the rear of the court complex. The ASI had said no construction would be allowed inside the fort since it was a heritage site.

The ASI has been serving notices to the Deputy Commissioner and other government departments in the fort to vacate the site. It wanted the Public Works Department, which has being storing materials such as PVC pipes, and steel, in a corner of the palace, to clear the place. The public toilet close to it is in a poor shape. The only visible work undertaken by the ASI in the recent years is the re-plastering of exteriors of the fort.

A museum now under the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Karnataka, situated inside the fort was burgled recently. The two rock-cut elephants located close to the ASI office cry for attention.

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