KOCHI: As the seat of all three imperial powers who ruled the area, the Bastion Bungalow in Fort Kochi enjoys a chequered history. Through centuries, the 450-year-old structure has weathered many storms, until it was declared as a protected monument by the State Archaeology Department in the 1990s. The long-standing decision to convert its halls into a museum has thus far faced inadvertent delay. However, the project is soon expected to see the light of the day with the government determined to speed things up in this regard.
“The tender process for the renovation of the Bungalow is currently underway and is expected to be completed by the end of this month. We are in the process of assessing from various accredited agencies under our wing to undertake the implementation. The government has sanctioned `2.4 crore in the first phase,” said Chandran Pillai, executive director, Kerala Museum, the official nodal agency entrusted for the project
Although the museum was previously supposed to be thrown open to the public in the months leading up to the fourth edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2018; the devastation caused by the flood that year put the project on the backburner given the financial stringency faced by the state. However, it now seems to be back on track. “We are trying to start the work as early as possible, the museum will most certainly be inaugurated before the Biennale starts towards the end of this year,” added Chandran.
“At a meeting held a couple of weeks back at the Cochin Chamber Of Commerce & Industry, Dr Venu V who is the principal secretary of Revenue, Archaeology, Archives and Museums noted that steps were being taken to speed up the completion of the museum,” said K J Sohan, former mayor of Kochi and convenor of the Kerala chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage.
Unlike other museums in the state that throw light on the princely history of Kerala, Bastion Bungalow is expected to narrate the yore of Fort Kochi through rare documents sourced from across the world. “This museum will be unique in the sense that prominence will be given to the chronicled records available rather than a display of artefacts. With the structure overlooking the sea, exhibiting antique objects would also prove imprudent as the salt content in the air would effectively damage priceless relics,” said Chandran.
Sohan says, “The Portuguese were very good at keeping records so there is a lot of literature on how the place evolved to become one of the first cosmopolitan cities in south Asia and provided shelter to multiple cultures. Fort Kochi is in itself a living repository of history, hence the upcoming museum should act as a knowledge hub.”
The revamping of the bungalow was initially handed over to the Lalitha Kala Akademi which undertook the beautification of the garden surrounding the structure by installing rock sculptures. The premises was partly thrown open to visitors in February 2016 while access inside the rooms is still restricted.
As the Lalitha Kala Akademi received significant backlash for their unscientific approach, the project was consigned to Kerala Museum post a shift in the government.
The museum was previously supposed to be thrown open to the public in the months leading up to the fourth edition of Biennale in 2018 but the devastation caused by the flood that yearput the project on the backburner given the financial stringency faced by the state.