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Last Updated Tuesday April 25 2017 05:56 PM IST

Monumental neglect: India’s first European construction is a waste dump

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The Pallipuram Fort The Pallipuram Fort built by Portuguese traders five years after Vasco da Gama found his way to Kappad near Kozhikode in 1498

The hexagon fort would have been a prize possession anywhere else in the world. In Kerala, however, this is just an old dilapidated building ideal to shoot a horror movie. The first structure built by European colonists in India is abandoned to rubbish heaps and graffiti at Pallipuram off mainland Kochi.

The Pallipuram Fort was built by Portuguese traders five years after Vasco da Gama found his way to Kappad near Kozhikode in 1498. The fort near Munambam on the northern tip of the Vypeen Island is a storehouse of history. The fort on the shore of the Kodungallur Lake has openings that stored cannons that protected the settlement, reminding the visitor of a strife-torn past and the significance of the fortification as an integral part of defense.

The heritage building and the picture-postcard area that surrounds it are enviable capital for Kerala Tourism. The building can be turned into a must-see destination on the way to the ancient trade town of Muziris.

Though the European settlers built hundreds of structures across the length and breadth of the country, the Pallipuram Fort has the distinction of being the first of its kind. The Portuguese fort was taken over by the Dutch in 1789 as per the diplomatic strategy of Diwan Raja Kesavadasan. The fort came to be known as Ayakotta in local parlance.

The fort was later bought by the Travancore princely state, which protected it as a monument since 1909.

The historical significance is eclipsed by monumental apathy. Banyan tree roots have penetrated the fort walls, which have withstood waves of domination. The plaster has come off at many places. The colonial fort has been reduced to a haven for anti-social elements.

The well that supplied drinking water to the entire settlement is now heaped with plastic and other waste. The Archaeological Department has proudly proclaimed the historical significance of the fort but has not even bothered to appoint a guard to keep away reckless visitors who scratch along the old walls.

The tourism department can take a leaf out of Europe, where any structure with a bit of historical association is turned into a showpiece on the traveler’s itinerary. The authorities can take necessary steps to repair the fort and clear the overgrowth around it.

A canteen and a souvenir shop can also be planned once the spot starts drawing visitors who take a boat ride towards Muziris. The place needs to flaunt its historical roots.

How to reach: The Pallipuram Fort is a 30-kilometer drive from Kochi. After you have crossed the third Goshree bridge, take a right turn. The area is called Pallipuram Port. You can spot the fort behind the government school in the area. 

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