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At Chennamangalam, a unique project under way

A. Srivathsan

17th century Paliyam Palace and Nalukettu are being restored

— PHOTO: A. SRIVATHSAN

Resurrecting history:The Dutch built this palace at Chennamangalam as a token of appreciation for Paliyat Achan, who helped the Dutch dislodge the Portuguese from the Malabar coast and secured their trading interests.

CHENNAMANGALAM (KERALA): A unique conservation project is under way at Chennamangalam, 40 km north of Kochi.

The 17th century Paliyam Palace, a landmark built by the Dutch East India Company, and the Nalukettu, the traditional mansion adjacent to it, are private property that were in need of attention.

The Kerala government has taken up their restoration with an understanding that the Paliyam Eswara Seva Trust, which owns the buildings, will keep it open to the public after restorationd and made into museums.

Two museums

The estimated project cost is Rs.1.87 crore. It includes the cost of designing two museums that will exhibit the history of the Kochi kingdom, the Paliyam family and its prominent members who served as the hereditary prime ministers to the Kochi kings.

The project will be completed in November.

“The Kerala government will bear the entire cost on a condition that the buildings be maintained as heritage structures and opened to the public. The revenue generated will go to the trust that owns the buildings for the upkeep of the proposed museums. Major maintenance works will be taken up by the government,” said Paliyam Eswara Seva Trust Manager Krishnabalan Paliath.

The Dutch built the palace for Paliyath Achan, a prominent member of the family, as a token of appreciation.

He helped the Dutch dislodge the Portuguese from the Malabar coast and secured their trading interests.

The Paliyam chiefs were influential in the region till the advent of the British.

“The architecture of the palace is distinctively different from the other buildings in this region. The Dutch influence on its design is evident. The building is not planned around an inner courtyard, the roof is unusually steep and the wooden beams are heavy. The use of sash windows is also unique to this building and so is its three-storey height,” said Benny Kuriakose, consultant to the project.

Traditional

The Nalukettu stands in contrast to the Dutch architectural style of the palace. It is built around a courtyard and contains many traditional elements such as the ‘Ara,' or the private strong room, and ‘Purathu Thalam' (entrance foyer). This building was mostly used by women and children.

“The damaged portions of both the buildings have been repaired. All later additions that are inconsistent with the original design will be removed. Small changes to the layout of the building are made to make it function as a better museum,” Mr. Kuraikose said.

Part of project

“This project is taken up as part of the larger Muziris Heritage Project, which has an outlay of Rs.140 crore. The two museums at Paliyam will be opened along with the two others at the Chennamangalam and Paravur synagogues,” said V.N. Sunil, special officer, Muziris Heritage Project.

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