It was either a Christmas miracle or sheer dumb luck that nobody got hurt when an old, enormous peepal tree (‘arayal’) on the Museum premises got uprooted and crashed to the ground on Monday.
Close to 2 pm, some snapping sounds of the roots were heard, so the few people who were around were forewarned and make their way to safety, according to Museum officials. The concrete seating platform around the tree was destroyed as well.
“This happened because its roots had decayed,” said G R Rajagopal, the Museum’s garden curator.
Being Monday, the Museum had been closed and there were also very few people in the gardens, he said. Thanks to this, there were no casualties.
The damage to property caused by the tree, which stood near the Museum Art Gallery and Band Stand area, was also minimal, officials said. “There were some lamps and a bit of fencing that need repairing, but other than that, no there is no major damage,” said Superintendent at the Natural History Museum S Abu. “Had the tree fallen in the other direction, probably the Art Gallery’s eastern portico may have been damaged,” he said.
Museum Director K Udayavarman, who not present when the incident happened, said that engineers from the Public Works Department were assessing the damage.
According to Rajagopal, the fallen peepal was the biggest on the Museum compound and also among the oldest.
“Seeing its size, I would say its age may be around 300 years or more,” said Rajagopal.
While the correct age of the tree has not been determined, another official felt that it was likely to be around 100 years or maybe as old as the public garden itself, which was sanctioned in 1859 by the then Maharaja - Uthram Thirunal Marthanda Varma.