''Vilakkuthoon police station'', Madurai - oldest in S. Tamil Nadu pulled down

 Time and again heritage structures across India face demolition because at one point of time they become too damaged, far beyond conservation. The main reasons  are: poor interest in heritage structures, official apathy and carelessness.  In the last decade an awareness has been created by the like-minded heritage lovers  across the country among the people to save  pretty old structures  for the next generation of people. 

Vilskkuthoon police station, madurai. de-de.facebook.com

Above image: Vilakkuthoon police station,   Kothaval chavadi Theru (street), Madurai city, TN. Oldest police station south of Tiruchi since the days of colonial rule 1840s. I understand the 250 plus year old building was  to be rebuilt. To be more friendly with the public and offer them better facilities all the 25 police stations including Avaviapuram, Teppakulam, Thirupramkundram, Vilakkuthoon and others.  in this sprawling city will have a spacious hall for the petitioners and and others. The decision as taken in August 2021. 

Vilakkuthoon Madurai in.pinterest.com

Madurai Vilakuthoon police station. placefinder.in

Several years ago an old  police station  in a small lane called  Kothaval chavadi Theru (street),  in  historical Vilakkuthoon  was set aside for demolition.   The name refers to  the Kotwal Chotwal Choultry or guard station which existed here once.   As 'kotwal' means  police guard,  it is quite obvious  that there existed on  the street  one of the earliest police stations  during the early colonial period when the British had established  the  police system.

Madurai city, TN .mapsofindia.com

According to local historian  the Chavadi would have come up in the 17th century after the Nayaks' rule.  Vilakkuthoon was  erected in 1840 in memory of the then Collector Blackburn.  Located at the junction of the S Masi Street and E Masi Street the light tower (VIlakkuthoon) both MMC and dept. of tourism repaired it in 2000. But in the later tears was left to rot. No upkeep whatsoever.

Besides Vilakkuthoon police station,   Vittavasal, the remnant of a Pandya fort; the old structure  housing the office of the Commissioner of Police and rampart (opposite across Periyar  bus stand) built during the Nayak period   required immediate attention. They were not yet  declared  as heritage structures by the state government. The decision  to pull down the 250 year old  site outraged the heritage lovers and conservationists.  

 From the plaque on its right compound wall that reads Cutwal's Choultry (kotwal chavadi) Police Main Guard, we understand that the old building  came up  when Madurai was ruled briefly  by the  Marathas from 1740 to 1743 or  may be a bit earlier.  In those days  there were  a number of choultries (way-side inn for rest and food) built by the Nayaks and others to serve the travelers between towns, etc.  

This  particular  choultry had been active as a police main guard since 1850 as per colonial records, but the  police station started functioning  from  9 July 1912 onward.  According to Court records (Court of Foujdaree Udalut, 1858, East India company) R.R. Cotton, acting Sessions Judge of Madura, presided over a  murder case  Government vs Nagalingum Asary Case.   Nagalingum on April 6, 1858,  himself went to the Cutwal's Choultry and confessed his act of crime. Su.Venkatesan, ahitya Akademi Award winner and novelist  said  the Kotwal Chavadi (Cutwal Choultry) police station at Vilakkuthoon (Light Tower) could be the earliest police station, south of Tiruchi in the then Madras Presidency. 

Kotwal Chavadi  had a dual functions  in the 1850 as a police station and tax collection point.  During the colonial rule, a part of Thirumalai Mahal served as  the district collectorate as well as Judiciary  courts.  The main hub was the East Masi Street. Between 1843 and  1845.  East Gate church was also built  to serve the Europeans and others in the city.   

In 1816 major police reforms came into being with the abolition of traditional  Kaval System and the police  had to serve under the direction of  Tahsildars, village heads, the Amins of Police and the Kotwals; the magistracy, but the control was vested with  the Zillah Judge to the Collector.

The old, heritage buildings should be saved at any cost and the govt. should not take a decision arbitrarily to demolish such structures. These buildings connect us with the past and are symbolic of our legacy and  history. Members of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH)  who have been active saving so many heritage structures across India and offering excellent conservation services   are of the opinion that  there is a need to stop  the demolition of  heritage sites  using  ''modernization''  as an excuse. But in the later years it was pulled down to make way way for a new building. Alas! People of Madurai lost yet another heritage building of historical value - first place in the southern part of Tamil  Nadu where  the first ever police station  was established to protect people nd cut down criminal activities._