ALAPPUZHA: Termites are eating into the wooden rafters. Tiles are falling off the roof. And the plaster is coming off the pillars. A treasure trove of knowledge, Ananthapuram Palace - once the residence of ‘Kerala Kalidasa’ Kerala Varma Valiya Koyithampuran - is screaming out for a saviour.
While the 18th-century palace with four courtyards (‘pathinaru kettu’) and conforming to the vasthu architecture of Travancore is rusting away, the state government is doing little to preserve the structure bearing a rich legacy in the evolution of Malayalam literature.
Located in Haripad, the palace had witnessed the birth of many Malayalam and Sanskrit works of Valiya Koyithampuran. Fifth generation descendants of the Thampuran are now living in the palace.
According to A R Rajaraja Varma, a senior member of the family, the palace is a rare one in the state’s topography.
“The structure is constructed in ‘surki,’ a mixture of lime and clay, and the roof in wood,” Varma told Express.
“Now, the roofing structure is facing termite attacks. The preservation of the palace is a costly affair. Without support from the government, we cannot preserve this grand old palace without losing its charm," he said.
But the state’s archaeology department maintains that it cannot intervene in the matter.
"The palace is a private property and we cannot carry out maintenance on such a structure," an officer said.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, the Haripad MLA, is seeking a solution with the aid of the Archaeological Survey of India.
“The palace will be referred to the ASI which has options to carry out repairs without taking it over,” Chennithala said.
Valiya Koyithampuran had stayed in the palace for more than five years after being placed under house arrest from 1875 to 1880 by Travancore king Ayilyam Thirunal.
Among the noted works he created during the time are ‘Kshamapana Sahasram,’ ‘Yamapranama Sathakam’ and ‘Visakha Vijayam’. The thread of his celebrated poem ‘Mayura Sandesam’ was also derived during his life in the palace.
Thampuran had married Rani Lakshmi Bayi of Travancore Palace in 1859 and later came to stay there. As he had no children, the building was handed over to his sisters. Their ancestors have been living there since.
“The library and books in various languages used by Thampuran are preserved here. Some of the books, including the manuscript of ‘Mayura Sandesam’ were handed over to the Kerala Sahithya Academy a few years ago,”Varma said.