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Mughal-era fort, Dutch tombs damaged

By T. Ramakrishnan

CHENNAI, JAN. 6. Five important monuments of the State Archaeological Department have been damaged in the recent tsunami.

They are the 16th century Alamparai fort (about 100 km from Chennai) in Kancheepuram district, the Dutch tombs in Nagapattinam district, the two-century-old "Manora" tower in Thanjavur district, a portion of the Danish fort at Tarangambadi and a museum at Poompuhar, both in Nagapattinam district.

Sources in the department say the cost of repair works has been estimated at Rs. 1 crore.

Constructed during the Mughal era, the Alamparai fort once had a 100-metre long dockyard stretching into the sea, from which zari cloth, salt and ghee were exported. The British destroyed a major portion of the fort around 1760.

The Dutch tombs were built when Nagpattinam had Dutch settlements during the 16th and 17th centuries. The Poompuhar museum was built about 35 years ago to highlight the importance of the ancient town of Kaveripoompattinam (another name for Poompuhar).

The State Archaeological department looks after some 90 monuments in the State.

The 75-feet-tall "Manora" tower was built at Sarabendrajapattinam by the Maratha king of Thanjavur, Serfoji II (1777-1832), in 1814-15 to mark the successful advance of the British-led coalition against Napoleon. In 2003, the restoration and conservation of the monument was completed .

While the structure of the Danish fort was not disturbed, its interiors were flooded when tidal waves hit the Tarangambadi coast. A couple of years back, some parts of the fort were taken up for restoration. Last year, Rs. 35 lakhs was spent on renovating the monument, which enabled the fort to escape the tsunami's fury.

The sources said the extent of the damage had been assessed on the basis of a preliminary study and that Rs. 1 crore would be required for the repair work.

A spokesman for the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which looks after some 160 monuments in the State, said that except at Mamallapuram, none of the monuments along the State's coast had been damaged. At least half-a-dozen important monuments lie very close to the coast, such as the 17th-century Dutch cemetery at Pulicat on the northern fringes of the city, the excavated site of the Buddha Vihara at Poompuhar and the over 300-year-old "Vattakottai" in Kanyakumari district. It could cost Rs. 10 lakhs to repair the damage to the Shore Temple at Mamallapuram where the foundation of the "bali peetam" (sacrificial altar) was dislocated by the tsunami.

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