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Conservation of Kerala’s heritage

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The Government of Kerala’s Rs140 crore conservation and tourism project, the Muziris Heritage Project (MHP) aims to retrieve the lost historical heritage of the ancient Muziris Port and related sites. renu ramanath reports.

The Government of Kerala has launched a heritage conservation and tourism project called the Muziris Heritage Project (MHP) to retrieve the lost historical heritage of the ancient Muziris Port and related sites. The project, with an estimated outlay of Rs140 crore, will cover seven panchayats and two municipalities spread across Thrissur and Ernakulam districts.

Muziris, which finds mention in the ancient Roman naturalist, philosopher and author, Pliny the Elder’s writings, is believed to have existed at Kodungallur, a small town between Kochi and Thrissur near the Arabian Sea. The town now exists away from the coastal stretch. Recent excavations done at Pattanam, a nearby village, show valuable evidence of the existence of a busy port town in the area roughly till the 10thC AD.

MHP was conceived by the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR), which has undertaken the Pattanam Excavations. Dr PJ Cheriyan, director, KCHR, said that the KCHR will be providing academic guidance, as the nodal agency to the project.

Chennai-based architect Benny Kuriakose, who specialises in heritage conservation, is the chief consultant of the project.

The monuments that need conservation include two European forts at Pallippuram and Kottapuram; two synagogues; the Vypeenkotta Seminary, which is the first Christian Seminary in Kerala; Kottayil Kovilakam (royal house), which houses a number of historical buildings; Paliam Palace (built by the Dutch); Paliam Naalukettu at Chennamangalam, which belonged to the Paliath family who were the ministers of the erstwhile rulers of Kochi; the Cheraman Juma Masjid, considered India’s first mosque; Cheraman Parambu (grounds), believed to be the seat of the Cheraman Perumals, the Chera Dynasty kings who ruled Kerala during the 9thC to 11thC AD; temples including Kodungallur Bhagavathi temple, Thiruvanchikkulam Mahadeva temple, Keezhthali Siva temple; and 100-year-old churches besides other heritage structures.

A series of ‘live museums’, including a coir museum, an aquatic museum and a museum of fishing tools, will be part of the circuit. The residence of Kodungallur Kunjikuttan Thampuran, a Malayalam and Sanskrit scholar of late 19thC, and that of Mohammed Abdu Rahiman Saheb, a freedom fighter, will be converted into museums of literature and freedom struggle.

The weekly market at Kottappuram, near North Paravur in Ernakulam district, may be revived. A three-tier organisation structure has been formed for the project implementation, headed by ministers.

Text: Renu Ramanath

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