Cheena Kottaram palace, Kollam built by Maharajah Rama Verma as a ''Rest House'' - deserves a heritage accreditation

Cheena Kottaram palace, Kollam

Cheena Kottaram palace, Kollam

Cheena Kottaram palace,

Cheena Kottaram (China palace), a  Rest House  adjacent to  Kollam railway station  built by Maharajah of Travancore   Mulam Thirunal Rama  Varma  (1885-1924) is  an  example of a  mixed architecture -  blend of Indo-Saracenic style  with elements of Moorish  design. Why is it called Cheena Kottaram? The  red-brick miniature  rail palace  palace  looks very much similar to  traditional Chinese buildings. Kollam  had  a flourishing seaport  and was a commercial hub next to Kochi. The city has many palaces built by the royal families and aristocratic people. 

Location map Kollam, Kerala.

A single story structure with no first floor,  it has 7 rooms with a veranda on the front and back, the varanda facing the Kollam traffic bridge is closed.  On the north side there is a single exit and entry point close to the railway platform. The  Maharajah accompanied by his attendants used to board his custom-made saloon  car  parked on the side  track and it  would  be attached to the Madras bound train. Many maharajahs   had this kind of facility and a separate custom  made saloon  car (bogie) with amenities for their  attendants  for their train travel. 

Baroda Maharajah's luxury coach, Baroda, India

Above image:  Maharajah Khaderao Gaekwad, the then ruler  of the Princely state of Baroda  had a private saloon in his royal railway coach  and it  was the talk of the town  then. The broad gauge  customized coach built in 1886   had two sections,  one for the royal members and the other for the attendants with mini kitchen.  The ruler had a permanent shed built near the  railway station close to the platform .( ........................ 


.Maharajah Mulum Thirunal Rama Verma, Kerala

Maharajah   Mulam Thirunal Rama Varma   used to come here to board the train for Madras, then the capital of Madras Presidency.  The meter gauge  train track  came up between  Kollam/Punalur to Senkottah  in 1904  connecting   Madras city.  Later railroad extending up to Thiruvananthapuram  was laid. The Palace was more or less  completed  coinciding with the commissioning of  Kollam -Shenkottah branch line. 

At Kollam station Maharajah had the rest house on purpose built close to the railway platform  for rest and  to access the train easily.  In the rest house he had facilities  for servants, personal assistants,  and others   who would  travel with him. They would prepare food, make bed, etc., for the royal members.

From a distance the Rest House  looks like a two-story building, but it has just only one floor. It  had flooring laid with venetian tiles, fine gothic arches in the central hall and stained glass windows.  The gently slanting tiled roof is supported by fine wooden frame with carvings.  Also included is  the emblem of Travancore  Princely state - granite conch on the walls. 

With the   ruler stopped visiting this place  for rest and to board the train,  Cheena Kottaram  fell into disuse. In the later years after independence , it  served as the office of Madurai Division of Southern  Railway. On account of habitual official  apathy, total negligence and lack of periodic repair,  this historic building had begun to disintegrate  and  lose its  value and glory. It became a sort of neglected site. and remained uncared for.   Subsequently some repairs and alterations were made by the railway, but they were not in sync with   the original  architecture of past era.  The original design was devoid of  wooden  false ceiling in the central hall. In the olden days, it is mentioned that one could  see  the top roof and sun light filtering  through the stained and translucent  glasses  above the the gothic arches   creating colorful gentle illumination which was impressive to look at. The original tiles  on the roof were replaced with ordinary tiles., a gross architectural  blunder. 

Quite deplorable is the loss of some heritage value of this structure on account of haphazard  repair work  done by  the railway contractors.  The building's verandas  with  with lattice windows and fine wood work were used as store rooms.  There is an urgent need to declare this place as a   protected National Heritage Monument. This accreditation will help the city a lot and also will bring in lots of travelers.   It is mentioned that  Indian railways has included  the  Cheena Kottaram  in its list of heritage structures to be conserved for posterity.  The Kollam city Corporation had a proposal to renovate the building and landscape the surrounding areas  and  it allotted  Rs. 40 lakhs  for renovation and conservation.  

The 100 plus year old   resting place of the erstwhile Travancore  royal family, Cheena  kottaram,  is often called ‘Rail Palace’. It is at the  ,Cheenakada end of Kollam Railway Station,  Considering its proximity  often it was mistaken for a warehouse by the  travelers.