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Unprotected Heritage of Travancore, Kerala

Unprotected Built heritage in Kerala and Tamilnadu within the political boundary of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore
Though the mother country of Travancore was the Mandala Kingdom Chera, during Kali Yuga, it was reduced to the erstwhile region of Travancore with its area of 66531/2 square miles situated between the 8th and 10th degree of North latitude. This 17th century Princely Kingdom lie in the geographical regions that extended from the present day Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu) in the South, to Cochin (Kerala) in the North. (for map refer Appendix A1 ).

A warm humidity is one of the special features of the climate of Travancore. The land is protected by the Western Ghats on the eastern side and the Arabian Sea on the western side and due to this peculiar geographical position external cultural invasions and influences did not really affect this narrow stretch of land (though there was transfer of knowledge), and remained comparatively pure in its culture.

Rich in timber, religious as well as domestic buildings were in wood; with granite/ laterite stone used minimally for plinths and selected walls. The land with buildings about one to five centuries old is characterized by superior quality of building skill and meticulous craftsmanship in timber, pertaining to the southern regional style. Constructed primarily of wood, these buildings are replete with exquisite ornamentation of a very functional nature. Religion has played a major role in the erection of a house or a temple, the selection of the site, the measurement systems followed, the date of commencement of the work, the materials employed, the orientation of the structure, its layout, and other factors which were associated with the religious dogmas, beliefs which it was believed that if overlooked, will displease the Gods and bring ill luck to the people residing in the building. They were erected with relatively strict adherence to the canons which were formulated over the years of experience obtained in building construction crystallized into a number of formulae governing proportions, dimensions, orientation, location and procedures thus creating a genetic code for architecture in Timber.
Travancore bears testimony of being the rich treasury of built and unbuilt heritage. The attempt undertaken through this research project is to identify, document and prepare a data base of unprotected built heritage existing in the expanse of the princely kingdom of Travancore.

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Unprotected Heritage of Travancore, Kerala

  1. 1. Unprotected Built heritage of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore, Kerala Dr. Binumol Tom
  2. 2. 2 South Western coast of the Indian subcontinent Area = 38, 863 sq. kms Travancore - This 17th century Princely Kingdom lie in the geographical regions that extended from the present day Marthandom (Tamil Nadu) in the South, to Cochin (Travancore) in the North. 6653.5 square miles situated between the 8th and 10th degree of North latitude. TRAVANCORE, KERALA - THE PLACE, PEOPLE, CULTURE
  3. 3. 3 TRAVANCORE, KERALA - THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE PLACE Comprises of temples and palace complexes along with tharavads (traditional houses) Unique wooden construction system of the region mostly High level of craftsmanship and building skill based on Tachusastra Climate - warm, humid - heavy rainfall dictated the form and layout of buildings.
  4. 4. Typology - Temples Economic Social support Social Issues –High revenue resources Destination points of hi- end tourism. A new surge of cosmopolitanism Economic issue – There exist war among corporate groups to spent money on decorating certain temples to please God Of course, such corporate magnanimity is reserved only for a few temples to the envy of 2,000 other struggling places of worship. Jiirrnnoddharana Sporadic repair works that occur on the wooden superstructure not confirming to conservation values Construction using modern materials Unsuccessful addition of new entrance gateways totally in contrast with the traditional character Degrade the ‘intactness and wholeness’ of the entire site destroying the intrinsic value uncontrolled development of their surroundings in concrete Increased Prosperity
  5. 5. Typology - Churches Economic Social support Social Issues –High revenue resources Destination points of hi- end tourism. A new surge of cosmopolitanism Economic issue Sporadic repair works that occur on the wooden superstructure not confirming to conservation values Lime plastered walls give way for cement plaster Unsuccessful addition of new entrance gateways totally in contrast with the traditional character Historic painting – are getting redone most unscientifically Demolition of the original and construction of new Uncontrolled development of their surroundings in concrete Increased Prosperity
  6. 6. Akkaramatha church, Kanjirapally in Kottayam
  7. 7. Typology - Masjids Economic Social support A new surge of cosmopolitanism Economic issue Sporadic repair works that occur on the wooden superstructure Unsuccessful addition of new elements totally in contrast with the traditional character Uncontrolled development of their surroundings in concrete Demolition of old and construction of new
  8. 8. Strategic historic location with ancient temples. Architectural character not totally lost. longest stretches of Agraharms Vulnerable to commercial ingression due to its location. Changing lifestyle and needs of present generation. Motor vehicle Revival of a Vedapadasala which existed centuries ago. Economic - tourism Establishing an organised community . Heritage tourism- walks Railway expansion in future. Insensitive modern constructions coming up in the vicinity TYPOLOGY - AGRAHARAMS
  9. 9. Architectural guidelines that may be proposed for agraharams: Row Housing concept to be strictly followed. If needed set backs can be provided but without affecting street character Full Verandah to be maintained (Could be enclosed for security reasons using grill doors/windows fully openable maintaining transparency) Existing street line to be maintained-Foot print of the street cannot be altered Multipurpose buildings within settlement to maintain same architectural vocabulary A building occupying multiple slots to maintain same character. No alteration creating void spaces Open Balconies, Terraces not to be allowed. Minimum doors/windows in facade Street Façade to be maintained. Softening measures to be done The total number of storeys including the existing, if any, shall not exceed two from the street level The overall height of the construction including the existing upto the topmost point of the proposed construction shall not exceed 9 metres. The slope of roof in facades shall be at an angle within the range 35-45 degrees from the horizontal. The roof in facade shall be finished with Mangalore Pattern (M.P) terracotta tiles. The sunshades in facades if any shall have the same slope and finish as that of the main roof
  10. 10. A genetic code for its architecture exists. (Guide for conservation) Strong indigenous character Vulnerable to commercial ingression due to its location. Demolition Road widening as most of them are abutting the streets- ribbon development. Changing lifestyle and needs of present generation. Motor vehicle Economic – tourism Open Books – for the eager learner of traditional architecture Sources of information which cannot be told by books Insensitive modern constructions coming up in the vicinity Insensitive planning policies TYPOLOGY – Residential Ekashalas, Dwishalas, Thrishalas
  11. 11. Typology – Public Buildings Landmarks Mostly under the Government control Used hence partially mintained Sporadic repair works that occur on the wooden superstructure Unskilled people work on such buildings PWD – does the maintenance (short term approach) Unsuccessful addition of new elements (toilet blocks, tiling etc) Uncontrolled development of their surroundings in concrete Demolition of old and construction of new
  12. 12. Post office housed in the extension of Sree Paadam palace, Trivandrum Fort area next to Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple
  13. 13. Typology – Heritage arte facts Un attended No awareness about its heritage value Insignificant in their surroundings Not listed, documented Tourism potential History study resource Dying heritage
  14. 14. What are the threats to the historic precincts? • Devastation by natural/ manmade factors • Old buildings – timber – deterioration/ fire • Increased prosperity • Abandoned buildings • Today, random demands imposed by modern life • Change in landuse • Lack of public facilities
  15. 15. What are the threats to the historic precincts? • Public services – water supply, sanitation, Hygiene • Private speculation • New families – new homes/ jobs • We expect a high standard of living • We have learned to swallow concrete happily…. Ugly Hoardings/ billboards • ABOVE ALL Motor vehicle…. Specific land use generate traffic A city for hoardings????
  16. 16. Broad recommendations Setting up an Advisory body Training planners, architects, urban administrators and public Listing, Grading Designation of heritage areas, linkages (in association with the Development authorities) Design guidelines and controls A step by step Guide/ Manual to conserving different typologies of buildings Upgrading infrastructural facilities Training craftsmen – initiative of HUDCO and COSTFORD Training building craftsmen – It is not just the historic buildings that are important, but even the historic ways of building these buildings are important (INTACH with the help of corporates) Developing a framework for Financial and other incentives Providing direct grant to the building owner Distributing Grants for preservation Providing Tax relief Taxing the beneficiaries – part of VAT collected can be used for conservation activities Aid in kind – labour and materials for the maintenance of listed buildings by local authorities financed by municipal taxes (material and resource pool formed by INTACH) Enforcement of Transfer of Development Right (TDR) Building owners – access to credit on easy terms Bringing in Cross subsidy
  17. 17. In an ambitious project to protect grand old trees in public places, the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) has come out with a proposal to mark them with a "health-card. Giant trees - a score-sheet depicting its strength condition, risk factors and details of damage, along with other physical features. objective - to preserve as much heritage trees as possible by giving proper guidelines to authorities in maintaining them. pilot initiative - in the capital city Thiruvananthapuram to identify the strength of the trees which need to be cut down to identify those trees that need to be conserved It would also help to assess the damage of each tree, he said. Good initiatives
  18. 18. Criteria for sites selected in study areas 1.Typology wise categorization 2.Concentration of similar typologies creating character zones 3.Endangered ones 4.Uniqueness of sites 5.Historic/ Architectural/ Archaeological/ Documentary/ Social/ Spiritual values
  19. 19. Planning mechanism and legislations & integration of heritage assets in planning Legislative framework existing within the region • Development Controls around ASI Centrally Protected Monuments (1992 Notification) Effectiveness: Limitations in declaration of more monuments as Protected - mainly Fiscal. Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites And Remains Act of 1958 empowers Central Government to declare ancient monuments as having National Importance and notify as Protected. Till 2000, ASI had declared only 3606 monuments as Protected. Travancore’s Share was only 26 in number – a meagre 0.7%! Kerala Municipalities Act, 1994 (For Urban Local bodies) Section 383 Power for local bodies to notify an area to control new constructions and insist special architectural guidelines for such buildings  
  20. 20. Planning mechanism and legislations & integration of heritage assets in planning   Kerala Municipalities Act, 1994 (For Urban Local bodies) Section 383 Power for local bodies to notify an area to control new constructions and insist special architectural guidelines for such buildings   Kerala Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 (For Rural Local bodies) Section 235 C Power for local bodies to notify an area to control new constructions and insist special architectural guidelines for such buildings.   Municipality Building Rules 1999 Rules 154 & 155 • Constitution of an Art & Heritage Commission for advising the Government and local bodies on matters related to Heritage Conservation.  
  21. 21. Planning mechanism and legislations & integration of heritage assets in planning   Coastal Zone Regulations, 1992 Effectiveness: Prohibition/restriction on new constructions, uses, additions/alterations   Town & Country Planning Legislation Town Planning Act, 1108 ME Madras Town Planning Act 1920 . SCHEMES PREPARED UNDER TOWN PLANNING ACT& RULES • Identification of Heritage buildings to be conserved • Restrictions on Developments: • Limiting/prescribing Height, coverage, FAR, Building Line in the delineated environs • General landuse categorisation as applicable for other areas. • Permitting only Traditional Style Constructions or proposing construction-free / Restricted Development areas around (not specific). Effectiveness: Insufficient Guidelines - especially architectural and Poor Response wrt enforcement by LSGIs.
  22. 22. Technical capacity – Availability of Conservation architects (though few in number), Architect (many, but awareness and intensive courses are to be conducted) Public buildings – under the custodian ship of PWD and LSGD – hence training programmes are required to sensitize them Mistry/ skilled labour- can be identified and brought to main stream – resource bank has to be developed Engineers- need to be trained Community/ owners – there is awareness but lack of pride, heritage structure as a burden Documented traditional knowledge – based on the genetic code called Tachusastra, hence documented to some extend (written resources available- traditional treatises) Potential for capacity building within the area or a resource for other heritage areas- there is much potential ANALYSIS
  23. 23. Level of Heritage Awareness (sense of belonging/ involvement) Owners/ users – heritage- residential category - very rare, burden, religious category – aware, but growing demands of expansion, increased prosperity, trustees taking charge want to do things over night, tourism potential (chain of temples – renovated in a fast pace by the tourism sector without making any master plan) Community - yes Traditional knowledge/ protective measures Stakeholders' participation – very less Association (sacred/ revered/ etc.)- Temples strictly based on jiirnnodharana for the sacred containers, but ancillary structures undergo rapid changes Role of media, press activism – highly active, but only at the level of publicity Incentives for recognition – will work among the community Existing/ planned awareness initiatives like heritage walk, signage, etc – just one heritage in the historic city of Thiruvanathapuram ANALYSIS
  24. 24. Threats and Risks- mostly human induced in the name of modernization/ urbanization Pressures and impacts of development in the area – much pressure leading to destruction on account of Urbanization, Tourism pressures Socio-economic Issues and Reuse Potential Typology wise categorization Religious structures – high investment capacity towards conservation Potential for integrating community use within/ around heritage space Livelihood generation possibilities – identified (case of agraharams) Infrastructure required for improvement of living conditions – available, hence further requirement is not there. Financial Options- in the residential category – loans/ subsidies are required Incentives – as of now, nothing exists Community based recognitions can be mooted Technical incentives – can be tried out Out reach programmes with architecture schools as catalysts ANALYSIS
  25. 25. Identification of sites for Heritage at Risk register HIGH RISK AREAS Thazhathangadi, Kottayam Thirunakkara, Kottayam Canal Precinct, Alleppey Town centre, Harippad Chinnakada, Kollam Fort precincts, Trivandrum Karamana and chenthitta Agraharam area (18  agglomorations)  Palayam, Thiruvananthapuram  Attingal palace precincts, Attingal  Pandalam Palace precincts, Pandalam  Ribbon development pattern of Travancore – scattered  buildings with smaller community areas – makes it very  complex to limit the number of sites  
  26. 26. Thank you

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