Thrissur: The Erattachira Kovilakam, which once stood tall during the reign of the Kochi rulers, is a pale shadow of its glorious past due to poor maintenance of the historical building. The ancestral palace has a place in history as it was venue to the coronation ceremonies (Ariyittu Vazhcha) of the kings of the erstwhile Kochi kingdom.
Sadly, the 300-year-old structure is in a state of dilapidation after the Archaeological department took possession of the heritage palace three years ago.
As per the historical records, the kovilakam belongs to the wife of Rama Varma Kunjipilla Thampuran (popularly known as Shaktan Thampuran). The Erattachira Kovilakam was built in the 17th century, and got its name as there are two (eratta) waterbodies (chiras) in front of the ancestral palace.
Though the structure can’t boast of any architectural pre-eminence, the 6,000 sq ft building could be converted into a museum or art gallery as part of the conservation process.
K V Saji – the savior
The State Health Department saved the kovilakam from being razed to the ground. The first DMO office was situated in this building, and later the space was used for stocking medicines for the Medical Service Corporation. At that time, there was a suggestion to construct a new building in place of the old structure.
It was K V Saji, the Medical Service Corporation manager, who after realizing the historical importance of the kovilakam wrote a letter to the Health Department officials requesting to restore the old structure where the landmark coronation ceremonies of the Kochi kings were held.
The Health Department decided not to bulldoze the structure, and later the Archaeology Department took possession of the age-old ancestral palace on the condition that the Health Department can continue its office on the ground floor of the building.
The Health Department stopped maintaining the structure after the Archaeology Department took over the heritage building about three years ago. The roof started to leak as the Archaeology Department didn’t carry out any repair or maintenance work. The roof tiles have not been changed for a while, and during rainy season water seeps through the wooden roof deck and flows onto the floor.
Meanwhile, a ceremony, which later turned out to be a sham, was held to dedicate the kovilakam to the nation on February 26, 2016. A plaque was also installed on the wall of the structure to commemorate the occasion. Interestingly, no funds were earmarked for the upkeep of the kovilakam, and later the Archaeology Department officials never paid any attention to the historical building.
It is alleged that the structure started showing signs of decay after the Archaeology Department took over the ancestral palace.