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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XVIII No. 27, may 16-31, 2009
Wayside ‘inns’, headload rests need saving
(Courtesy: Newsletter, INTACH, Nagercoil Chapter)

One of the major achieve-ments of INTACH’s Nagercoil Chapter, only 4½ years old and now with 55 active members, has been the identifying and documenting of 60 wayside ‘inns’ (Vazhi Madam) in the Kanniyakumari District. The origin of some of them is as old as the early 15th Century. These ‘inns’ served as resting places for the travellers in those days.

The 475-year-old travellers’ ‘inn’ near Chungankadai was renovated by INTACH and has been converted into a reading room for the local people. The reading materials were donated by St. Xavier’s College, Chungankadai.

The Chapter has recommended that the roadside madams should be officially enumerated by the State Archaeological Department, renovated and protected under the Tamil Nadu Archaeological and Historical Remains Act, 1966. The local panchayat should also be held responsible for its maintenance, as such madam-s are our proud heritage.

The wayside ‘inns’ are a unique characteristic masonry construction in the district. The very fact that these structures have stood against the ­elements for about 500 years shows the technological skill development of the early day masons.

Some of these madam-s have sculptures depicting the events of the Ramayana. The madam in Kazhuvanthittai has such interesting sculptures. Unfortunately, this madam is on the verge of collapse due to the Railway line going near it. The District and State administration need to protect it.

Many madam-s are left to the mercy of the elements, resulting in the growth of trees, shrubs and grass in and on them.

Some of the wayside ‘inns’ have properties in their names to maintain them. Unfortunately these documents are hidden or even destroyed. Immediate action should be taken to save these ancient monuments. The State and the National Highway Departments should also be informed of the importance and the need to protect them.

Headload rests (Sumaithan­gi) are another heritage road-facility that was offered by the princely rulers of Travancore State to people carrying head­loads to the markets, for domestic purposes and to the palace. These structures are about 5 feet in height, 6-7 feet in length and have two or three supporting granite stones.

Some of them were donated by local philanthropists or made as means of thanksgiving for the safe delivery of a child or in memory of those died during childbirth.

Some of the headload rests are more than 150 years old. The headload rest near the old National Highway of the former Princely State of Travancore in Chungankadai was erected in 1860, as indicated by the inscription on it. Unfortunately the Highway Department plans to remove these heritage structures without knowing their importance and the message they carry. If the authorities find such structures obstructing the widening of roads, they can be relocated, not destroyed. Government should, therefore, stop the dismantling of headload rests.


In this issue

A scheme to green...
How about a master plan...
Wayside inns, headload rests...
Sponsorship that's...
Historic residences...
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