The Vellore district administration’s ambitious project to light up the historical 16th Century Vellore Fort has failed to conform to the Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) mandate to safeguard and preserve the historical monument.
Though historians and archaeologists have welcomed the project, they were unhappy over the construction of a new building on the premises of the fort, stating that it would affect its rich masonry.
The fort was built around 1566 by Chinna Bommi Nayak and Thimma Reddy Nayak, subordinate chieftains of Sadasiva Raya of the Vijayanagara Empire, in 136 acres of land.
However, the `90 lakh project under the Self Sufficiency Scheme has undone the importance of the ancient masonry. “The project has disturbed the originality of the fort and caused a permanent blemish with the construction of the new building on its western part after pulling down a temporary shed,” said a source.
Officials of the Public Works Department (PWD) have built a three-room building to house solar panels and battery back-up system. They have also constructed foundations on either side of the building to erect a windmill. The construction work was executed at a cost of `26 lakh.
The PWD began the construction work after obtaining the ASI’s approval for renovation of a temporary structure located inside the Police Training School. The construction began after a joint inspection by the officials of ASI and PWD in July. In gross violation of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act 2010, the PWD officials have constructed the building.
Officials attached to the Assistant Conservator of Vellore Sub-Circle located at the entrance of the fort had also failed to act promptly to keep the heritage site intact. “No construction work should be undertaken within a radius of 100 metres from an archaeological site. But, here a new building was constructed inside the archaeological site,” said an official.
On Sunday, Health Minister K C Veeramani inaugurated the lighting project, established with wind and solar energy, after rectifying some technical problems and relaying the wires. Collector P Sankar and project officer of DRDA N Srinivasan were also present.
The project, executed under the Self Sufficiency Scheme (SSS), was funded partly by the Power Grid Corporation of India’s contribution of `45 lakh and an equal amount from the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA). The lighting project aims at illuminating the fort with colourful LED focus lights using renewable energy.
Under the project, 20 mannequins dressed like soldiers from the Vijayanagar era were installed on the bastions along the lower rampart walls. “Each mannequin will be illuminated using two 30 watt multicolour LED lights and 15 3-watt spotlights. The battery backup unit has a total storage capacity of 76 KV of power.