NAGERCOIL: Veli Hills have seen it all.
The 16th century CE marvel replete with wood carvings and ornate murals, Padmanabhapuram palace, stands tall on the foothills, ready to tell tales of valour and might of Venad and Travancore kings who ruled the region.
But the surrounding fort that is in a shambles with stones and laterite bricks jutting out and plants popping their head from the cracks, paints a picture in contrast.
Ask Nagercoil Chapter Convenor of Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage, RS Lal Mohan, he would blame the Tamil Nadu government for the sorry state of the Padmanabhapuram fort aka Kalkulam fort that is not so old as the palace.
“Kerala government is maintaining the palace well. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu government, which is responsible for maintaining the fort, is not doing anything to protect and preserve it,” he said.
As per the state reorganisation settlement of 1956, as many as 6.5 acres of Padmanabhapuram palace complex is retained under the custodianship of Kerala government while the fort comes under the purview of Tamil Nadu government.
Former BJP Councillor of Padmanabhapuram municipality, A Raja, said until a few decades ago, two employees of Tamil Nadu Public Works Department (PWD) had been maintaining the fort, sprawling an area of 186 acres.
“After they left, no maintenance work was carried out and plants started growing through the cracks, weakening the entire structure,” he said.
Terming it as a ticking time bomb, a resident, J Stella said last Sunday a portion of the fort collapsed and the bricks fell on a few houses.
“The authorities should take immediate steps to strengthen the structure, thereby saving the lives of scores of people living in the area,” she said.
Meanwhile, a senior official of Padmanabhapuram municipality said the civic body had removed the debris and placed a caution board to prevent people from going near it.
Former Deputy Collector H Mohamed Hyderali, who is carrying out research on historically important places, said Padmanabhapuram has been a fortified town since the 1600s.
“The first fort was built by Venad king Veera Ravi Varma alias Kulasekara. Then, Marthanda Varma, the ruler of Travancore kingdom, rebuilt it. The rebuilding works of the fort were completed in 1744,” he said, urging the authorities to strengthen the 275-year-old fort.
Padmanabhapuram Sub-Collector P Alarmelmangai told TNIE, PWD is preparing an estimate to strengthen the fort.
“After getting fund from the government, the department will start restoration works,” she added.