Rains leave Punganur palace in state of ruin

We can’t protect structure as it is a private property: official

The heavy rains triggered by the depression over the Bay of Bengal has the structure of the darbar-hall of the 200-year-old zamindari palace in Punganur municipality and the adjoining walls crumbling, while the grandeur of the regal frame too has suffered the fury of the incessant rains.

The iconic palace has been the landmark of Punganur since generations. After the abolition of the Zamindar system in 1950, the glory of the palace started waning. Tough times had prompted the members of royal families to migrate to erstwhile Madras and Bangalore in search of greener pastures.

However, the Punganur palace comes alive for a week in a year during the celebration of the annual ‘Suguturu Ganga Jatara’ in March. The event sees a gathering of over three lakh people from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh. The very next day, the palace slips into silence and darkness for the rest of the year, with none to take care of its maintenance. But, this Punganur festival heralds the ‘Ganga Jatara season’ in Chittoor district, temple after temple celebrating the mass events.

Though the monument is slowly crumbling, the municipal authorities express their inability to protect the structure, which is a private property. In the last one hundred years, the valuable artefacts have found their way to the museums and royal palaces elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

The history of the palace dates back to 1801 when the British took control of the erstwhile Kolar province (now in Karnataka). The construction plan of the palace suffered a setback but was later resumed in 1866 by the Zamindars of the Chikkathimmaraya family.

The palace’s representation of the glory of Kannada land came to an end after the Independence, followed by the abolition of the zamindari system and merger of Punganur with Andhra Pradesh, after delinking it from Kolar region, then part of the Madras province. Historians believe that the region of Punganur had trading links with the Mediterranean empires during the times of emperor Ashoka. In the early 16th Century, when the Penukonda region came under the attack of the invaders, the local rulers of Punganur were said to have assisted emperor Sri Krishna Devaraya to fight against it.

As a gesture, the Vijayanagara emperor had donated the Kolar and Suguturu regions to the Punganur rulers, which eventually led to the birth of the zamindari pattern of administration.

Speaking to The Hindu, Municipal Commissioner (Punganur) K. Lokeswara Varma said that some focal portions of the palace had collapsed due to the impact of the recent rains. “Some construction in the backyard had crumbled in the past. I have appealed to the present owners of the palace to come forward to bring back its lost glory. As it is a private property, we can’t right away decide to protect the palace. I have mooted the idea of its protection by pooling donations from the public and affluent sections having connections with Punganur legacy,” Mr. Varma said.

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