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Old and intact

Vilakkuthoon Police Station hides a 200-year-old history

PHOTO: K. GANESAN

HERITAGE SITE Standing tall

Notoriously famous for traffic congestion, not many passing through the busy East Masi Street would have the patience to get thrilled about seeing a 200 years old police station. But for the inquisitive minds interested in history, the Vilakkuthoon Police Station is yet another pride of the city hidden and lost in mist of time.

A testimony

Tucked between a shopping complex and grocery market on the wide East Masi Street, the police station stands testimony to the effective policing that was in force some two centuries ago.

As you enter you can see a plaque (still preserved) on the right on the compound wall, which says that the place was the `Kotwal Chavadi' (inscribed in English as Cutwals Choultry), the Main Guard.

`Kotwal' is a marathi word and the place should have been in existence during the brief Maratha rule between 1740-1743 A.D. (or even before) when Morari Rao of Gooty was the governor in charge for both Madurai and Dindigul, after the decline of Nayak rule.

Nayak traits

Not many are sure about the exact date and year of construction. "Effective policing was in force even before the Nayak rule during the reign of Tamil Kings," says C. Santhalingam, Assistant Director, Department of Archaeology.

"In Chola period, there were two kinds of protection forces, `Nadu kaval' and `Padi kaval'. While military was in charge of the `Nadu kaval', the `Padi kaval' (for solving civil disputes and local issues) was left to the influential village heads or community leaders, who were paid by the Government. Later, Nayaks established `Ushavadis', a place where both the revenue officials and police officials conducted enquiries and settled all civil disputes. This `Ushavadi' later came to be known as `Chavadi' and the `Kotwal' Chavadi must have been an offshoot of this," explains Mr. Santhalingam.

Traits of Nayak architecture are visible inside the police station. It also houses a stable kind of thing, perhaps used for horses and camels those days. "All that is known about this place today is only through the word of mouth," says G. Arumugam, Head Constable and Station writer of the Vilakkuthoon Police Station.

"People say in the olden days, rulers and their trusted lieutenants visited the place to conduct enquiries and settle disputes. It was renovated during the British rule and the present police station came into being in 1912," says Mr. Arumugam.

This was not the only place for the law enforcing agencies, There were three more in Madurai started somewhere around early 19th Century during the British rule.

The Vilakkuthoon Police Station assumes significance, as it was the Main Guard, evident from inscriptions found on the plaque. Most of the renovations were carried out during the British rule.

The cash locker, lockups and the arms and ammunition stack room inside the Station are still intact. The locker is very unique as it is fixed inside the wall. Though the building has been refurbished many a times, it still has the remnants of the old glory.

"The architectural excellence of this place is such that there is good ventilation and you don't feel the heat even during peak summer time. The floor (constructed with stones) is maintained well," Mr. Arumugam beams with pride.

Considering the historical value of this place, the original structure has been retained.

Next time you are on East Masi Street don't miss to cast a glance at this heritage site.

T. SARAVANAN

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