KERALA

Tangasseri arch in a sorry state

: The historical arch erected in 1939 by the British at the entry point to Tangasseri is in a dilapidated state and faces the threat of collapse.

Though a government property now, the arch was neglected for years without any maintenance. The authorities are not sure whether the arch comes under the management of the Archaeological Survey of India, State government or the Kollam Corporation. The arch was erected after an Act was enacted in the British Parliament during the 1930s.

Tangasseri has a rich history. In 1505, it was leased by the native Rani to the Portuguese. The Portuguese fortified the area and built the San Thome Fort and several churches. In 1661, the Dutch defeated the Portuguese and took control of Tangasseri. In 1795, the enclave came under the control of the British.

During this period, the area outside Tangasseri was under the Travancore kingdom and the rulers of Travancore demanded that Tangasseri be handed over to them. But the British had demarcated Tangasseri in Tirunelveli district under Madras Presidency rule.

With the Travancore kingdom mounting pressure, the issue reached the House of Commons in 1934 for a comprehensive discussion. The members pointed out that the 2,000 inhabitants of the 99-acre Tangasseri were almost entirely Roman Catholics and for more than 400 years they had been under European rule. They also enjoyed the protection of the British for the past 140 years, it was pointed out. It was also brought to the attention of the House that the entire population of Tangasseri was opposed to the handing over of the enclave to the Travancore kingdom. Finally, through the enactment of the ad hoc Act, Tangasseri was transferred as a British territory.

Entry restricted

The British erected the arch at the entry point from Kollam town into the Tangasseri enclave. Entry to the enclave was also restricted. The people living inside the enclave were ruled by different laws.

The arch is now in a dilapidated stage. Plaster work has been flaking off periodically. The Tangassery arch is one among the very few surviving edifices of the 450-year European rule over Tangasseri. The only British structure of the enclave that continues to be maintained is the lighthouse built in 1902..